City of Fernie. Free Press/File

City of Fernie advances truth and reconciliation initiatives

The City of Fernie has taken steps towards advancing reconciliation through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. This could include several initiatives such as cultural training, land acknowledgements, a review of the Ghostrider logo, and inclusion of Ktunaxa language in City signage.

Council passed a resolution during their regular meeting of council on Monday, August 12, supporting the Calls to Action report, released in 2015, which contains 94 calls to action. Sixteen of these are actions specific to local government.

These Calls to Action resulted from six years of hearings and testimony conducted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.”

Over the past several years, City of Fernie council and staff have discussed the role of local government in advancing reconciliation.

Since 2017, members of staff and Council have participated in several programs around the Elk Valley, and taken part in conversations with local First Nations to discuss common goals and opportunities for joint action.

“As the order of government that most directly impacts the daily lives of community members, local government plays a key role in reconciliation,” read the July 15 report by City of Fernie community engagement coordinator, Alycia McLeod.

“By starting the journey of responding and implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, we look to build a more inclusive and diverse community. By committing to the TRC Calls to Action, the City of Fernie hopes to open the opportunities for creating strong relationships with the Ktunaxa Nation, and continue to work towards creating renewed relationships with Indigenous Peoples.”

Staff proposed to incorporate organization-wide cultural training opportunities related to First Nations, the TRC Calls to Action, and “perhaps specifically to the Ktunaxa Nation”.

Staff also proposed to host a Community to Community (C2C) forum in Fernie with the Ktunaxa Nation to, “further strengthen local relationships and build collaborative opportunities that address the Calls to Action”.

Staff further proposed the review of the usage of the Ghostrider logo, collaboratively with the Ktunaxa, as part of a corporate rebranding strategy, and look to include and incorporate Ktunaxa language in City signage, public spaces and communities facilities.

This is in addition to the practice of a land acknowledgement statement as a standard introduction at all council meetings and municipal functions and events: “I (we) wish to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is within the Ktunaxa ?amaki?is, the homeland of the Ktunaxa people.”

According to the report, these initiatives can be further discussed through the City’s Strategic Planning , Service Level Review and Budget Process. Council supported this report unanimously.

“We know from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada that reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships, and thus it is very important for us to involve the Ktuanaxa while we move through our calls to actions,” said Mayor Ange Qualizza in an email.

She explained that the City is currently amending their Council Procedure Bylaw to include a land acknowledgment statement, and that she has already had discussions about traditional place names, and the Ghostrider logo, with Chief Joe Pierre.

“The United Nations has declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages, and I can’t feel that there is a more appropriate time for us to start thinking about what that means for Fernie,” she said.

The mayor explained that cultural training and applying to host a Community to Community forum will come through their service level review, where they will be able to add those projects to the 2020 strategic plan.

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