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City Council to sign Truth and Reconcilation agreement

Agreement will also be signed by Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
06-24-2020 Civic Centre 2
Re-cladding work continues on Sault Ste. Marie's Civic Centre on June 16, 2020. David Helwig, SooToday

Sault Ste. Marie City Council will hold a special meeting Monday to deal with two matters.

One is a resolution allowing the option of electronic participation in meetings of City Council and its boards and committees, even after the provincial COVID-19 emergency is lifted.

The other is the signing of the following agreement with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres:

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Declaration of Mutual Commitment and Friendship: Improving the Quality of Life of Indigenous People across Ontario's Municipalities

Mover: Councillor L. Vezeau-Allen
Seconder: Councillor M. Bruni

Whereas in Ontario, over 85 percent of Indigenous people live in municipalities; and

Whereas the growing percentage of Indigenous people living in municipalities and the Friendship Centres that serve them participate in and contribute to municipal community life; and

Whereas the Friendship Centres have existed in Ontario municipalities for over half a century and have vital roles to play in community development, social cohesion, and improving the quality of life for Indigenous people living in urban and rural areas; and

Whereas the Friendship Centres receive their mandate from their communities and are inclusive of all Indigenous people; and

Whereas municipal governments have a growing and critical role in human and social services and community development and many have shown leadership in working in partnership with Indigenous organizations; and

Whereas the Truth and Reconciliation Commission defines reconciliation as “an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships”; and

Whereas strengthening relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is essential to municipal governments, Friendship Centres, and communities across Ontario; and

Whereas municipal governments play an important role in providing and delivering valuable programs and services to meet the needs of their residents, as well as being responsible, in all or some part, for over two hundred and eighty (280) pieces of provincial legislation that impact daily life of all who live in Ontario; and

Whereas many municipal governments and Friendship Centres have taken up the responsibility to collaborate on a variety of initiatives that improve Indigenous quality of life and have had tangible community impacts; and

Whereas municipal governments are on the front-lines working directly with all individuals to support and determine social determinants of health, demonstrating a notion of direct responsibility contributing to community wellbeing and prosperity; and

Whereas the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has developed the Indigenous Relations Task Force to advise the AMO Board of Directors on municipal-Indigenous relationship building; and

Whereas the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) was founded in 1971 and works to support, advocate for and build the capacity of member Friendship Centres across Ontario; and

Whereas the Friendship Centre Movement is the largest Indigenous service network in the province supporting the vibrant and quickly growing Indigenous population through programming, research, education, and policy advocacy; and

Whereas AMO and OFIFC are partnering on a variety of initiatives to improve collaboration and information sharing amongst our membership, not limited to the work of the AMO-OFIFC Indigenous Relations Working Group and an AMO – OFIFC Memorandum of Understanding; and

Whereas this declaration is a living document that municipal governments and Friendship Centres can sign onto or use as a framework for the development of local or regional declarations that can be addended to this declaration;

Now Therefore Be it Resolve that the Council of the City of Sault Ste. Marie recognizes:

  • that Indigenous people reside and build community and resilience in municipalities across Ontario;
  • the value of Indigenous knowledge and expertise to design, plan, implement, and evaluate public policy and programs that impact the wellbeing of Indigenous people is paramount;
  • the responsibility taken up by Indigenous Friendship Centres to meet Indigenous community need;
  • the value of building relationships and partnerships with Friendship Centres to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people in their municipality; and
  • that the exchange of information and skills within and between municipal governments and related associations contribute to improved understanding in the area of Indigenous relations

That signatory Ontario Indigenous Friendship Centres recognize:

  • that they are and have been leaders in urban Indigenous community development and in reflecting and responding to the needs of Indigenous people in municipalities for over half a century;
  • hat they are engaged in local and regional affairs and that they contribute to municipal life and that they lead the Indigenous social, community, economic, and cultural development of municipalities across Ontario;
  • the responsibility taken up by municipal governments to meet and serve Indigenous communities
  • that municipal governments provide essential services that Friendship Centre community members rely on to thrive;
  • that municipal governments are leaders in Ontario in meeting community needs through local programs, services and community development, be they in human and social services, public safety or public works/infrastructure, and are integral to community well-being and the social determinants of health;
  • that the development and maintenance of good relationships and partnerships with municipal governments is essential to achieving long-term positive impact on Indigenous communities; and
  • that Friendship Centres acknowledge that they operate in a municipal landscape and rely on municipal governments.

And that all signatories recognize:

  1. that we are uniquely positioned to improve community-wellbeing through local policy development, programs and services as we are well-equipped to be responsive to community needs;
  2. that community-identified needs and priorities should provide the basis for policy and program development, and that we are uniquely positioned to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people living in municipalities;
  3. that mutual respect, responsibility, trust, transparency and collaboration to meet common community priorities are key principles of relationship building between non-Indigenous and Indigenous organizations;
  4. that the Friendship Centres and municipal governments play key roles in working against racism, inequality, discrimination, and stigma within and between communities;
  5. that the goal of this declaration is to provide municipal governments and Friendship Centres with a framework for relationship-building to advance reconciliation in communities across Ontario;
  6. that the goal of this declaration is to enhance social cohesion between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and support closer cultural, social and civic ties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people;
  7. that we can play a leadership role and set a standard by advancing reconciliation locally and regionally through partnerships and collaboration;
  8. that fostering local and regional partnerships is integral to improving the quality of life for all communities; and
  9. that we establish and maintain an ongoing dialogue and working relationships at the local and provincial orders

David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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