The region sends messages of solidarity with indigenous peoples

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The Regional Council unanimously voted to recognize September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by sharing the stories of residential school survivors, their families and their communities.

Regional President Jim Bradley told council that next Thursday will be an opportunity for all Canadians to recognize the devastating effects of the residential school system and to reflect on ways to advance reconciliation efforts.

“I think September 30 is a chance for all of us to show solidarity with Indigenous people across the country,” Bradley told the board. “The motion before us will ensure that the region takes action to share and learn the stories of residential school survivors, their families and their communities.” “

A staff report says the region will mark the day by offering staff education and training sessions on Niagara’s Indigenous history and the legacy of the residential school system.

Councilors also approved an updated land recognition developed in consultation with local indigenous communities.

Cassandra Ogunniyi, the health equity strategic initiatives coordinator, said staff have been working on updating the land recognition for more than six months.

Ogunniyi said he consulted with members of the Niagara Indigenous community and organizations such as Friendship Centers, Six Nations of the Grand River and the elected Chief and Knowledge Keeper of the Mississauga of the Credit First Nation.

Ogunniyi said research and awareness shows that the Indigenous history of Niagara is complex, with diverse perspectives surrounding the region’s treaties.

“I want to note that it is very difficult to get consensus on the language and the wording is the best we can do at the moment,” Ogunniyi said.

The area now has long and short versions of the Land Acknowledgment Statement, which Bradley reads at the start of council meetings. The Council motion also promises to revise and update the statement in response to new information and changing circumstances.

The report includes links for staff to assist with the pronunciation of the statement, which reads:

“The Niagara region is located on treaty land. This land is steeped in the rich history of First Nations such as the Hatiwendaronk (Hat-i-wen-DA-ronk), the Haudenosaunee (Hoe-den-no-SHOW-nee) and the Anishinaabe (Ah-nish- ih- NAH-bey), including the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people of Turtle Island live and work in Niagara today. The Regional Municipality of Niagara stands with all Indigenous peoples, past and present, in promoting wise stewardship of the lands on which we live.

The longest statement is available in the staff report.

St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik said his city’s experience has shown that a rote reading of recognition quickly loses its meaning.

“We’ve been working with the Niagara Region Native Center for several years on recognizing our land, and we’ve learned that the person has to personalize it.

“As we move forward and become more comfortable with land reconnaissance, I strongly encourage advisors and staff to add their own thinking.”


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