It’s been two years since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report, which raises the question – what actions have been taken so far in Saskatoon and the province?
According to Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron, Saskatoon deserves high praise.
“This city, we’re leading the way when it comes to implementation of TRC,” Cameron said.
Despite the kind words, reconciliation is a topic Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark doesn’t take lightly.
“We know we have a ways to go,” Clark said, “and we need to take that seriously.”
Saskatoon’s reconciliation initiative began in the summer of 2015 when the city declared a year of reconciliation. Since then, the 58 organizations have jumped on board; partnerships Clark feels are necessary to move ahead with reconciliation.
“We need to constantly be recognizing there’s new ways to do things and think about things,” Clark said. “It’s been great to take that time and build those relationships.”
While policy has yet to be put in place, the city says its long-term focus is on economic development within the Indigenous community, through employment opportunities and civic programs.
“The graduation rates remain lower than in the non-Indigenous community, youth unemployment in the Aboriginal community is still high,” Clark said. “If we can create the conditions in the city for those young people to be supported to succeed, in the same way my children are, we’re all going to benefit in the long run.”
Meanwhile at the provincial level, the government claims to have moved forward with 26 of the 34 calls to action aimed at provinces and territories in the Truth and Reconciliation report, including implementing mandatory treaty education in the kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum and awareness training for public servants.
“The Government of Saskatchewan has several major inter-ministry strategies aligned to the Calls to Action,” read a statement to Global News. “We continue to work with First Nations and Métis communities and representative organizations in the areas of education, poverty reduction, disabilities, child welfare, and mental health and addictions.”
But Cameron believes there should be significant focus on Indigenous and First Nations housing in the years to come.
“We need serious investment when it comes to the treaty right to shelter, the shortage of housing is massive,” Cameron said.
Back here in Saskatoon, the short-term focus remains on events like the Rock Your Roots walk, and participating in Indigenous traditions and ceremonies – acts that are tailored for the next generation.
“The children are seeing and they’re understanding and they’re asking questions – ‘well how did it come to be, why are you doing this?'” Cameron said. “It inspires children to be fully involved and to respect.”
But if there’s one thing all sides agree on, it’s that reconciliation won’t happen overnight.