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'Stuck in the dark age': Advocates demand more on Indigenous file at Toronto City Hall

Jane Harrison, whose group has worked with various institutions across the city to create safe spaces for Indigenous cultural practices, said she's never heard of places where smudging is prohibited.

Indigenous flags from five First Nations in front of city hall mark National Aboriginal Day and permanently commemorate Toronto's location on Indigenous traditional land. While flags are nice, city hall needs more Indigenous voices, advocates say.

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Indigenous flags from five First Nations in front of city hall mark National Aboriginal Day and permanently commemorate Toronto's location on Indigenous traditional land. While flags are nice, city hall needs more Indigenous voices, advocates say.

Jane Harrison has spent the past 20 years helping promote Indigenous practices across Toronto. So it came as a shock that the city's former Indigenous consultant said the city did not provide her a space for smudging.

"Wow. I can't find any base for this issue," said Harrison, manager at the Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a group that provides traditional healing to Indigenous people. "It's 2017, and this development of spiritual space and cultural awareness and acceptance shouldn't be a discussion."

Lindsay Kretschmer, a Mohawk, Wolf Clan who was brought in last March as a consultant on Indigenous issues, resigned four months into the post, Metro reported Friday. She has also filed a human-rights complaint, saying she was denied the space to smudge at city hall.

A spokesperson for the city told Metro last week that the case is before the tribunal and did not address the specifics of Kretschmer's case.

Harrison, whose group has worked with various institutions, high schools and universities across the city to create safe spaces for Indigenous cultural practices, said she's never heard of places where smudging is prohibited.

"Personally, I think (people at city hall) are stuck in the dark age," she said. She also dismissed any safety concerns, explaining the smudging practice only involves lighting a little bit of medicine and that the whole process is contained in a small bowl.

Queen's Park has two specific rooms called the Gathering Place where Indigenous art and culture is showcased and smudging can be performed. Other institutions, like Ryerson University, University of Toronto and CAMH have smudging rooms too.

"This shows we are not embracing Indigenous people enough," said Harrison.

It's also an indication that voices of Indigenous people are still limited, despite having been on the land long before colonial laws and structures came into place, said Sam Mukwa Kloetstra, a Toronto Anishinaabe youth.

"No amount of Indigenous flags being raised, plaques being made or unrehearsed land acknowledgements can replace Indigenous people actively working in senior positions at city hall," he said.

This story has been updated from a previous version.

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