Community leaders gather at Saskatoon city hall to raise reconciliation flag

A Reconciliation flag is raised to honour victims and survivors of the ’60s Scoop and residential schools. Adam MacVicar / Global News

For the third consecutive year, a reconciliation flag is flying at Saskatoon city hall.

Several First Nations representatives and community leaders gathered with city officials Tuesday to raise the flag.

According to Reconciliation Saskatoon, the ceremony was to honour those who survived residential schools and the ’60s Scoop, as well as the lives lost.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes within my time, and this is one of them; reconciliation. I think it’s probably the best that I’ve seen happening.” Frank Badger, a residential school survivor and speaker at the ceremony, said.

For many in attendance, the occasion marks much more than hoisting a flag up a mast.

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“It’s an opportunity to talk about diversity and how we need to work together and be together as one,” Central Urban Métis Federation president Shirley Isbister said.

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The flag raising has become an annual event since the City of Saskatoon responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action in 2015. Since then, Saskatoon has been referred to as “ground zero” for reconciliation in the country.

“I believe in Saskatoon,” Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand said. “We are setting a standard for every other municipality, city, province, and region to stand up and show what we’re doing.”

The flag raising comes a day after Alberta’s provincial government formally apologized to ’60s Scoop survivors. A formal apology hasn’t happened yet in Saskatchewan, but the provincial government is taking steps toward engaging survivors; an apology could still be more than two years away.

“What’s wrong with saying you’re sorry? Everybody makes mistakes and as long as we work together, it will be a better outcome for everybody,” Arcand said.

“I think that an apology will take place, I think we should’ve been one of the first provinces to do that, but apparently with the changeovers of premier, we weren’t ready,” Isbister said. “Hopefully one will come soon.”

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The ceremony also included a surprise announcement from the Saskatoon Community Foundation, unveiling the first round of grants in the community fund for reconciliation. The fund was created in 2017, with grants totalling $100,000. Nine projects that focus on partnerships and leadership from Indigenous people and organizations are receiving funding.

The flag raising ceremony is part of a month-long series of events aimed at promoting reconciliation in Saskatoon and across the province.

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