Perth County to implement Land Acknowledgement plan

PERTH COUNTY – At the Nov. 3 Perth County council meeting, a report titled “Perth County Land Acknowledgement” was presented to council. The report establishes a Land Acknowledgement for use by Perth County and provides a three- phase implementation plan to be led by Corporate Communications.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission made 94 Calls to Action in its report, which include a wide variety of actions for individual, communities, organizations and governments, created to “redress the legacy of residential school and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation,” stated the Truth and Reconciliation Report from 2015.

“Although the development of Land and Territorial Acknowledgements is not overtly identified within the document, their development and inclusion has become an important act towards reconciliation for organizations and municipalities across the country,” stated the Perth County Land Acknowledgement Report.

These Land Acknowledgements are meant to honour the land as well as raise awareness and demonstrate respect for Indigenous presence in the past, present and future. They are a way for individuals to pause and reflect as well as purposefully acknowledge the land and territories of the Indigenous people prior to the arrival of colonial settlers.

These acknowledgements recognize historic territorial treaties and aim to inspire further education on the history of colonialism and the residential school system in Canada.

Back in 2021, council approved a new Diversity, Equity and Anti-Racism Charter for Perth County. As part of the charter, staff recommended that Perth County adopt the following Land Acknowledgement statement and the implementation plan outlined below.

The Land Acknowledgement reads as follows:

“We acknowledge that Perth County is situated on the traditional land of the Anishinaabe peoples who have a longstanding relationship with the land and water throughout the region. We honour and respect the history, languages, and culture of the diverse Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit people who call this territory home. As a county we have a responsibility for reconciliation and the continued stewardship of the land on which we live and work.”

The implementation of the Acknowledgement will work in three phases. Phase 1 being initial implementation, Phase 2 being staff and council education and guideline development, and Phase 3 being public education implementation.

The first phase, initial implementation, sees communications staff take immediate action for the incorporation of the Land Acknowledgement into county programs and activities, such as council meetings, Perth County’s website, etc.

“Implementation will require both education and collaboration with all divisions to achieve consistency and also to identify additional opportunities where the Land Acknowledgement may be used,” stated the report.

The second phase, staff and council education and guideline development, looks to develop guidelines to assist staff and council in the use of the Land Acknowledgement in regular activities. It will also aim to provide education regarding the history of colonialism on Indigenious populations as well as understanding the purpose of the Land Acknowledgement in working toward Truth and Reconciliation.

The final phase, public education implementation, provides an opportunity to educate and raise awareness to the public. It provides an additional important opportunity to educate on the land and governing treaties. The primary outlets for this education phase will be the Perth County website and social media platforms.

The report also looks at going beyond the three phases, as the plan is an immediate course of action.

“The impact of the Land Acknowledgement does not end there. As this is integrated into the county’s regular practices, it is anticipated that further opportunities for use of the Land Acknowledgement will be identified. The work of the principles and values set out by The Charter and the work of reconciliation will remain an ongoing effort,” as stated in the report.

Two council members had issues with the Land Acknowledgement report. Coun. Daryl Herlick and Coun. Hugh McDermid, both stated their concerns regarding the report and voiced their opposition to adopting the Land Acknowledgement.

“(The Land Acknowledgement) is kind of to make people feel good and appease people, and I don’t think that’s part of my job. There are consequences to this, and one of them is, basically what you are saying is the land I have isn’t mine. Because this is a Land acknowledgement, so you are acknowledging that somebody else owns my land,” stated McDermid.

The Land Acknowledgement report was ultimately received, and the majority voted in favour of directing staff to go ahead with the implementation plan outlined above.

The Land Acknowledgement will start at the inaugural council meeting on Dec. 1; the guidelines are to come as best practices by other municipalities and organizations, and are being currently researched and translated into how they can apply to Perth County council.

Melissa Dunphy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner