Calgary begins consultation for Indigenous Relations Office
Officials are meeting with traditional knowledge keepers to determine who should be consulted for the project
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The City of Calgary says it’s making progress on establishing an Indigenous Relations Office (IRO), but cautions it will take time because it’s committed to a respectful and meaningful process.
City officials met last week to develop milestones for the project, set in motion by the 2016 White Goose Flying Report which looked at how the City of Calgary could implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s recommendations for municipalities.
“Milestone number one is to understand what the city currently does,” said Cathie Christenson, lead with Calgary Neighbourhoods, which includes the city’s Indigenous strategy portfolio.
“With a corporation this size, there’s a lot of contact points.”
She said there are still a lot of questions about the full breadth of the impact an IRO would have on city administration.
Earlier this month, the project team met with Blackfoot cultural and spiritual advisor Reg Crowshoe, former chief of the Piikani Nation in southern Alberta, to discuss the next steps.
“His advice was to develop our project plan as we would in our western culture, and then we would engage with people identified by the Indigenous community to translate that project plan into an Indigenous one that fits their traditions, their culture and their way of communicating,” Christenson said, emphasizing the city is committed to a culturally respectful process.
“When we start to look at making this culturally appropriate, it can’t be that we tell the Indigenous community what it looks like,” she said.
Christenson said they will make budget recommendations for the project to city council in the summer. Then, the engagement process will begin.
The city is also currently seeking advice from local elders to determine who should be brought together for consultations, such as the Indigenous nations in Treaty 7.
Christenson said public consultations likely wouldn’t begin until late 2018 or possibly 2019.
“We want this to be meaningful and respectful consultation … we don’t want to rush it, because it is about relationships and that does take time,” she said.
Michelle Robinson, who was born in Calgary and is of the Slavey Dene First Nation, said she’s glad to hear progress is being made to establish an IRO, even if it’s going to take some time.
“We’ve needed this for well over a hundred years – if Calgary was founded in 1875 we should have had this in 1875 – so without a doubt, this is a positive step in the right direction, one of many that needs to be taken,” Robinson said.
She said in her opinion, the number one thing the IRO should be responsible for is educating Calgarians about Indigenous issues and history.
“And obviously we need a bigger mandate than that,”said Robinson, who ran for ward 10 councillor in the 2017 municipal election.
“I would like to see any community development always have Indigenous consultation, and we have many recommendations, and the TRC’s calls to action – all of these need to be implemented, and we need an agency or department that’s willing to do that work so those recommendations can be implemented.”