The City of Montreal unveiled its “2020-2025 Strategy for Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples” on Wednesday.
The strategy, a first for a Quebec municipality, aims to recognize the history of Indigenous people in Montreal and highlight current contributions.
Marie-Eve Bordeleau, commissioner for relations with Indigenous Peoples for the city of Montreal, worked for two years on the project and consulted more than 30 Indigenous organizations.
Bordeleau said she endeavoured to incorporate the recommendations and calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Viens Commission and a report by Montreal’s public consultation office into racism and systemic discrimination.
“We, Indigenous people, are well aware of the effects of assimilation policies, colonization, racism and systemic discrimination,” Bordeleau said. “Because we are still living the consequences (of those policies) every day. This strategy is, in my opinion, a first step towards healing, towards reconciliation.”
The five-year plan includes 125 commitments with seven overarching themes including supporting the economic and cultural development of Indigenous Peoples, as well as developing government-to-government relations.
Chief Gina Deer of Mohawk Council of Kahnawake welcomed the news, recognizing the need for stronger ties.
“We have been coexisting for many years, living side-by-side but with very little interaction between the two communities at the political level,” she said.
Deer also acknowledged past efforts by the city to move towards reconciliation such as adding the “Tree of Peace” or white pine to the city flag and the renaming of Amherst to Atateken Street which means “brothers and sisters” in the Mohawk language.
“I look at the different things that have been done over time that shows true reconciliation wants to take place,” she said. “Today is another step. We need to ensure that in the future we will have that trust that will build over time and then we can, through that trust, build a true relationship that will last.”
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Another key objective outlined in the city’s strategy is the need to make First Nations and Inuit people feel safer in the city by focusing in on four areas including: security and prevention, homelessness, the police department and the municipal court.
It includes plans for a pilot project that would see the creation of a culturally adapted team of first responders to respond to calls when police are not necessary.
“When it comes to dealing with issues some Aboriginal people are facing, there might be a lack of knowledge or tools,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
Plante said she hopes the plan will profoundly change the lives of Montreal’s Indigenous people for the better.
“To me this hope, it’s more of a policy than an action plan,” she said. “This is not a report we’ll put on a shelf, it’s about orienting what needs to be done.”
Wednesday’s announcement, made on Zoom, was also attended by Ghislain Picard chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, and Philippe Meilleur president of the Quebec Association of Native Friendship Centres.
They, along with Deer, agree the plan is a step in the right direction.
“This framework gives us a backbone, gives us something to negotiate with,” Meilleur said.
Picard said the City of Montreal is sending a “strong message” and hopes the city’s willingness to move forward will spur other municipalities to take action.
“I hope the initiative will inspire others to follow suit,” he said.
— With files from Global News’ Dan Spector