Toronto's Indigenous consultant resigns, files human rights complaint
Lindsay Kretschmer, a Mohawk Wolf Clan member, says the city violated her right to practice smudging, an Indigenous ceremony that involves burning sacred medicines.
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The woman hired to help city hall improve its relations with Indigenous communities has resigned and filed a human-rights complaint against the city, Metro has learned.
Lindsay Kretschmer, a Mohawk Wolf Clan member, was hired last March as a full-time Indigenous-affairs consultant in the city's Equity, Diversity and Human Rights division. Part of her job was to liaise with local Indigenous communities and provide the city with expert policy advice, in line with the city's efforts to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
But her stint was short-lived. In early July, Kretschmer tendered her resignation over what she calls "disrespectful" treatment of the Indigenous file. She has since filed a complaint at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, claiming the city violated her right to practise smudging, an Indigenous ceremony that involves burning sacred medicines.
"I waited for three months but I was never allowed to smudge in that building," she said. She wanted Indigenous people to have a specific room at city hall where smudging can be performed, like the prayer/meditation room where members of any religion can pray.
City spokesperson Wynna Brown did not discuss specifics of the case with Metro but wrote in an email that the city has responded to Kretschmer's application and "looks forward to the opportunity to present its case through the tribunal process."
Kretschmer said she was later told she could smudge inside one of the managers' offices — a response she regarded as "not dignified" because of the lack of privacy and personal space. One colleague even suggested she smudge outside.
"In 2017 you're forbidding me from practising my culture. That's essentially a repeat of colonization behaviour," she said. "It's just really bad to work there as an Indigenous person."
Mayor John Tory has committed to increasing Indigenous presence at city hall, and the hiring of Kretchmer was seen as the first step. The city recently started acknowledging Toronto's position on traditional Indigenous land at council and committee meetings. Indigenous flags fly on a permanent basis, and there's a plan to give councillors and staff cultural competency training.
Tory's spokesperson Don Peat referred Metro to strategic communications for answers on the case, adding the mayor "is committed to continuing to build positive relationships with Toronto's Indigenous communities. He recognizes there is still much work to be done."
At its meeting next Monday, the Aboriginal Affairs Committee will discuss the recruitment of a new consultant as they continue to work on the creation of an Aboriginal Office at city hall.
Kretschmer now believes that's all "glamour" because there's no concrete plan to promote Indigenous communities across the city. She says her hiring was just for show.
"It was a token position to make themselves look good, but they are doing nothing on the Indigenous file," she said, adding there's no Indigenous employment strategy and no budget to train staff.
"They are very far behind on that file. People are very upset with them. They've failed in so many ways it's not even funny."