London, Ont. and Oneida councils meet, first time in Forest City’s history

Chief Todd Corneilus presented a Haudenosaunee Confederacy belt, which represents the five nations, to London City Council. Ben Harrietha/980 CFPL

For the first time in the city’s history, London city councillors have met with a local first nation’s council, the Oneida Nation of the Thames.

The joint meeting, which took place at the Oneida Community Centre on Wednesday evening, is the first time both councils have met for an official meeting.

The meeting focused on issues both communities face, like economic development, housing, and the environment, with leaders pledging to develop a working relationship between the two communities.

“This is the first of many,” says Oneida Nation of the Thames Chief Todd Corneilus. “We’re trying to build a relationship in regards to municipalities that are kilometres away from our nation on the Thames.”

The meeting came to be thanks to some hard work between the two councils and a wish for indigenous voices to be heard at city hall, he said.

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“A lot of our Haudenosaunee and Oneida people are living in the city. We want to make sure their voices are heard too.”

A request for permanent office space in London was made by the Oneida council, with services including band representatives, wills, and estates. The idea was well-received by London councillors, with the possibility of interim space for Oneida representatives proposed while a more formal agreement is worked on.

Oneida Nation of the Thames Councillor Brandon Doxtator speaks about economic development opportunities. Ben Harrietha/980 CFPL

While no major motions came out of the meeting, both communities agreed to lobby the ministry of municipal affairs and housing to make meetings like this one easier under the municipal act.

London Mayor Josh Morgan says that before there could be an opportunity for the two councils to officially meet, there were “a number of hoops we had to jump through.”

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“The municipal act contemplates meetings between municipalities but does not contemplate meetings between municipalities and Indigenous nations,” Morgan said.

“I think the municipal act can be designed not only to make this easier, but actually encourage these meetings where there are two willing partners who want to get together and have a meeting and discuss issues.”

Both leaders say they came away from the meeting with a better understanding of their shared issues and the beginnings of a new partnership.

“We’ll take it back to the community and discuss in regard to educating one another with the items they’re facing and in regard to the items that we’re facing,” Corneilus said.

“In regard to a partnership, we’re moving forward in a good way.”

Morgan said the budding partnership is thanks to the willingness of the chief and council to meet and participate in a council meeting.

“For both of our councils, to sit together, to call our meetings together and then to share an open dialogue, sitting as both of our governing bodies is not only that foundation, but also a clear statement about our willingness to partner and tackle tough issues together,” Morgan said.

Both councils made commitments for more open communication going forward, with future council to council meetings planned later this year.


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