Truth and Reconciliation
What is happening?
During my life I have come to embrace history understanding it is “Knowledge.” I will always quote the statement: “Those who do not know history will undoubtedly repeat it.”
While in service for my country, which spanned 3 decades, I have seen the outcome of what bad governance and leadership can do to populations and countries. It causes catastrophic damage to lives and can last generations.
We as refugees, immigrants, and aboriginal people have one major thing that binds us together and that is our home which we call Calgary (Mohkinstsis). Our collective moral obligation is to educate the children about our country’s history, be it good or bad.
Seven generations of Indigenous children (150,000) were removed from their families and forced into the Indian residential school system. This occurred predominantly in the western and northern parts of Canada.
Children were taught that their lives were not as respected as the lives of non-Indigenous people, their languages and cultures were irrelevant, that their people and their ancestors were pagans, heathens and uncivilized and that they needed to be assimilated.
The government implemented policies that resulted in hunger, disease, and poverty. The federal government failed to meet its obligations to Aboriginal people. It is a fact that the policy was dedicated to eliminating Aboriginal peoples as distinct political and cultural entities.
Every policy has a direction and it is obvious that the aim of the federal government was one of cultural genocide. One of these residential schools was discovered in Ogden. In total 10 residential schools around Calgary housed Indigenous children who were taken from their families over a period of 111 years. The last of these schools remained under government control till 1975.
In March of 2014, the Mayor issued a Proclamation for Reconciliation. This Proclamation was issued as a direct result of detailed content revealed within the White Goose Flying Report which the council received in 2016. If you are not familiar with this report, I strongly encourage you to read it. Our city stands on the “ancestral meeting place of the treaty 7 peoples”.
This treaty was signed on 22 September 1877 and that treaty is what binds us all together to this day in this place known as Calgary (Mohkinstsis). Yet ironically when entering our city from any direction there is zero recognition of this fact. All we see is signs that say “Welcome to Calgary be part of the energy”, I find this to be very disappointing and unacceptable.
This past council has gone through the motions to move forward on this topic but we have seen no real action.
Immigrants, refugees and aboriginal populations of Calgary have a meaningful role within our community as full and equal participants in our city’s quality of life. It is essential that all Calgary citizens walk a shared path paved with opportunity, and recognize that we are connected to one another and to this City we call home.
Our city has over 500 spaces dedicated as spiritual and culture gathering spaces. These gathering spaces can shape our civic identity, such as the Saddledome on our city’s skyline. Our city and council should have been doing much more for the spiritual wellbeing of our urban indigenous population.
44% of our indigenous population are under the age of 25 and having a meeting place, a location in our city, which caters to the mental health and community webbing of both youth and elders is vital to our cities unity and inclusion.
A place where all indigenous nations in our city can gather for ceremonial and cultural activities, a place to tell stories, tell songs and to be together. Our city should have had an Indigenous Gathering Place many years ago. It would be a welcome addition for tourism and it would have added to our city’s diversity and unity.
We talk the talk about being an all-inclusive society, catering for so many diverse cultures but are we walking the walk? I am a man of my word, a man of action and this topic needs to become a reality within the next 4 years.
What should be happening?
How are we going to make that happen?
The elections that will take place on the 18th of October could be a very worrying time for our city as the new council will move into governance and not knowing their motivations or direction can be frustrating and concerning.
I say this to all of our indigenous urban citizens, I will continue to work on completing the items in the White Goose Flying Report with your new council, and promote efforts of reconciliation with Calgary’s indigenous residents.
I will be advising our city council that we need to move ahead much quicker with identifying land in our city for a gathering place to be located, which is both easily accessible for our citizens by transit and logistically located for our tourism industry.
We need to now embrace our history and culture and move forward and should I become your next Mayor I will work relentlessly to make this project of bringing an Indigenous Gathering Place to our city a reality. There are two other topic I also intend to bring before your new council:-
One is to replace all the signs that indicate the entrance to our city limits and have stone Inukshuk built at each entrance, signage will read:
The ancestral meeting place
Of the treaty 7 people’s
The other project I’d like to see our city develop over the next 4 years is the conversion of the blue ring into the largest dreamcatcher in Alberta. I have a vision of a crescent moon and a large feather in the middle that rotates in the wind capturing the dreams of a city’s future that unites people and cultures.