The City of Calgary has made some progress towards its commitments to truth and reconciliation, but work still remains to be done under the calls to action in the White Goose Flying Report.
Named for Jack White Goose Flying, a 17-year-old from the Piikani Nation who died at Calgary’s only residential school, the 2016 report looked at the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliations Commission (TRC) and which calls to action could be addressed by the city.
Tuesday, the city’s priorities and finance committee heard an update on the 18 calls to action the city could directly act on.
Dr. Terry Poucette of the Stoney Nakoda said the city marked eight milestones in reconciliation that resulted from the report.
The establishment of the Calgary Indigenous Relations office came from a recommendation by the Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee, but funding was cut in 2019, “to meet corporate reduction targets,” Poucette said.
Poucette said the office originally had a $1.1-million budget in 2018 and it was cut by $482,000 in 2019. When the office finally opened in early 2020, its operations were almost immediately disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poucette also hailed early efforts of the Affordable Housing Urban Indigenous Engagement Project.
“What is unique about this project was that the governance model was created that honors Indigenous and non-Indigenous approaches to engagement,” Poucette told the committee.
“It parallels Indigenous processes and worldviews in the engagement strategy, creating an ethical space for the city and Indigenous stakeholders to work collaboratively.”
But work remains on educating city staff on the calls to action.
The committee heard that education on the TRC calls to action is not mandatory, but voluntary, and those business units who reached out to the Indigenous relations office are “early adopters.”
“We’ve done training in ‘Indigenous 101,’ just to give the basic facts, amongst city staff,” Poucette said. “We’ve done training with Indigenous engagement. We’ve arranged meetings between different business units to spend an afternoon with elders and learn about Indigenous cultures and worldviews and protocols.
“But what I would like to see during my tenure at the City of Calgary would be to develop a suite of Indigenous relations curriculum, whether that is basic knowledge, cultural knowledge, Indigenous engagement and consultation.”
Justin Jimmy of the Onion Lake Cree Nation characterized staff education as the most important reconciliation piece for the city to act on.
“Referring to the quote by the honorable Murray Sinclair: ‘Education got us into this mess and education is the only way to get us out of this mess,’” Jimmy said.
The update comes after the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children were found near the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Jimmy said the recent discovery “has served as a stark reminder of Canada’s violent colonial history against indigenous people, and has led to a national recognition of the need for sincere and in-depth reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.”
The committee recommended city council have city officials establish annual reporting of the city’s fulfillment of the White Goose Flying Report calls to action, increase the budget for the Indigenous relations office, and prioritize more calls to action from the TRC and White Goose Flying reports.