NORTH PERTH – Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen prefaced the notice of motion she brought forward on July 5, requesting North Perth to adopt an Indigenous land acknowledgement, noting its sensitive nature.
“It requires us to look deeply into how we as a council need to lead reconciliation and lead our community with an equity lens,” she said.
The notice of motion requested the Municipality of North Perth adopt an Indigenous land acknowledgement consistent with other government authorities in the region for all formal municipal meetings, committee meetings and staff meetings and that the municipality provides professional development to support teams and committees in using this land acknowledgement.
“We acknowledge that we are on the traditional land of the Anishinaabe people. We wish to recognize the long history of the Indigenous people of Canada and show our respect to them today. We recognize their stewardship of the land, may we all live with respect on this land and live in peace and friendship.”
“Council I know that through some of your minds and perhaps through some feedback from our community the question could be – is this the right timing?” said Andriessen. “Is this just on the heels of a national media frenzy? Frankly, it should be and it’s time for us here at North Perth to move forward.”
She said she wishes it had already been done.
“I believe that waiting any longer would be disrespectful to Indigenous families in our area,” said Andriessen. “Waiting any longer would show our continued lack of training, understanding and education of what is required to be a part and a start of reconciliation so actually it is time.” She said territorial land acknowledgements show recognition to Indigenous people for the long history of settlement that has happened in this country.
“This recognition is a small part of reconciliation efforts with Indigenous people to restore supportive relationships with this culture and the community,” said Andriessen. “We, North Perth, have families who identify as Indigenous and we owe it to them to show our respect and our recognition of what they have gone through collectively as a culture. The Truth and Reconciliation Report produced 94 calls to action which were released in 2015.”
Land acknowledgements are an act of reconciliation.
“They are a necessary first step towards honouring the original occupants of a place,” she said. “They also help Canadians recognize and respect Indigenous peoples’ inherent kinship beliefs when it comes to the land especially since those beliefs were restricted for so long. Here in North Perth, it has been challenging to identify groups of Indigenous people who did live on this land and the challenge has caused some delays over time.”
In consultation with local Indigenous people, it has been determined that the land in North Perth was used for hunting purposes and was celebrated as such.
“Local Indigenous groups contributed to crafting the current land acknowledgement that is now being used at the Avon Maitland District School Board,” said Andriessen. “This statement is very well crafted because it honours relationships to the land with people of the land and calls us to all act in peace and friendship. It is what I want for all families in our community.”
In her experience working in education and attending conferences as a councillor, land acknowledgements are now the norm.
“These calls to action were released in 2015 and it’s already 2021,” said Andriessen. “We are… gaining more perspective of the maltreatment of Indigenous people in our country based on more evidence that continues to come to light with the genocide of Indigenous children in residential schools over multiple generations.”
“So why are we honouring and reconciling with Indigenous people and why are we not recognizing the contributions of all cultures – like Irish, British, European settlers, and now settlers from Afghanistan, India, Africa and other countries?” Andriessen asked. “Well, ultimately from the training that I received – Indigenous people were here first. The first settlers were part of colonization that did not respect the needs and cultures of Indigenous people. Indigenous families lost their children, they lost their traditions, their language and so much more throughout many generations.”
She said that as this region continues to develop, change and welcome new people, nobody would want to be treated the way Indigenous people have been treated in Canada.
“We would never want to see that treatment continue,” said Andriessen. “We need to learn from this history and set the stage for all communities to work with all cultures with a lens of equity, we can all co-exist peacefully.”
Coun. Allan Rothwell thanked Andriessen for bringing the motion forward.
“Certainly it’s a recognition of a long history as well as those within our community today,” he said. “I’ll be in support.”
The vote was unanimous for council members in attendance.
“We will begin with that at our next meeting and I believe that staff will take the necessary actions around brief training interventions for our boards and committees,” said Mayor Todd Kasenberg.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner