The next time you’re at a bus stop in the Greater Toronto Area, you may see a sign asking you to commit to a promise to Toronto‘s Indigenous communities.
The new ‘land acknowledgement’ signs spread across approximately 160 bus shelters are aimed at starting a dialogue about Indigenous peoples.
“The idea is that you actually walk up to the poster and you put your hand on it,” said Selina Young with the City of Toronto Indigenous Affairs Office.
“You think about the words, what it means, and you take a photo.”
The middle of the poster, where the public is asked to place their hand, reads, “My TkaRonto land acknowledgement.” TkaRonto is the original name of Toronto. The poster also promotes the hashtag #TkarontoForAll and encourages people to share an image of the acknowledgement on social media.
“Using that transit system that so many Torontonians access across the city from north to south to east to west was a great way to get the message out there.” Young said.
The signs contains the following passage, “I acknowledge the land I am standing on today is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.”
It goes on to read, “By personally making a land acknowledgement you are taking part in an act of reconciliation, honouring the land and Indigenous heritage, which dates back over 10,000 years.”
“It’s peeling back the concrete from the city and looking at the history. It’s asking people to understand the history,” said Todd Ross with the Toronto and York Region Metis Council.
“It starts a dialogue and you start to question, ‘What’s my relationship with First Nation, with Metis, with Inuit’ and ‘What can I do more? What can I learn more?'”
This awareness campaign is all part of the ‘Toronto For All’ initiative by the City of Toronto. The goal every year is to openly discuss issues of intolerance and hate. In the past, it’s tackled anti-Black racism, Islamophobia and homelessness.
This year, the City of Toronto’s budget is $100,000 for the bus shelter signs and wanted to open a dialogue on its Indigenous communities during National Indigenous Peoples Day.
“There are definitely issues that exist in the community, poverty, housing, drug addiction,” said Stephanie Pangowish, who was consulted on the ‘Land Acknowledgement’ project.
“But there’s also a lot of resiliency and people working to revitalize our culture.”
The signs will be on bus shelters until July 15.