Trent Lakes council seeks to include Indigenous rights in municipal oath of office

Trent Lakes council, urged by Coun. Peter Franzen, is asking the provincial government to amend the Ontario municipal oath of office to include a reference to the treaty rights of Indigenous people.

At a recent council meeting, Franzen presented a motion that council ask the Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark to make changes to the oath that would say: “I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles III and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including the constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.”

The proposed amendment would acknowledge Indigenous rights when new municipal councillors are sworn into office.

Call to Action 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called upon the government of Canada to replace the wording of the oath of citizenship to include the recognition of the laws of Canada including treaties with Indigenous peoples, Franzen noted, and he said most municipalities in Ontario have an Indigenous land acknowledgment in their opening ceremony and a clear reference to the rights of Indigenous people is the aim of advancing truth and reconciliation.

Alice Williams, chair of Kawartha Truth and Reconciliation Support Group, said the move, while symbolic, is a step in the right direction on the road toward reconciliation.

She does, however, think the wording could be revisited.

“I find it difficult to accept the fact that we have to pledge allegiance to the Crown,” Williams told The Examiner.

But at the same time, Williams understands that for many Anishinaabe people, it’s important to maintain their relationship with the Crown, so that treaty rights are respected.

While Williams believes the passed motion is a positive step forward, she wants to see more action-oriented progress — aside from symbolic gestures — locally and across Canada.

Williams said acknowledging and respecting Indigenous language is a big piece of the puzzle.

Locally, signage and political settings should recognize Anishinaabe territory by including Anishinaabe language.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission also outlines specific calls to action for municipal governments in Canada to act on, including education and collaboration, Franzen continued.

Copies of the motion will be sent to local provincial and federal politicians, Premier Doug Ford, other Ontario municipalities and Curve Lake First Nation.

Franzen also said he would like the Municipality of Trent Lakes to recognize Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which occurs each year on Sept. 30. The township has, so far, not done so.

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner