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Toronto a step closer to getting an Indigenous Affairs office

Staff are recommending establishment of five person office.

Sam Mukwa Kloetstra hopes the proposed Indigenous Affairs office can be more than tokenistic.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

Sam Mukwa Kloetstra hopes the proposed Indigenous Affairs office can be more than tokenistic.

The city is one step closer to getting an Indigenous Affairs Office, after its consultant on Indigenous issues resigned and filed a human-rights complaint this September.

In a report going before the Aboriginal Affairs Committee this week, city staff recommend establishing the office alongside $520,000 in new funding in the 2018 budget and four new staff members. Among its duties: tracking and reporting the city's Truth and Reconciliation progress, helping strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities and training city staff.

Sam Mukwa Kloetstra, a Toronto Anishinaabe young leader, said it's something advocates have been seeking for two decades. But he hopes it will move beyond "an office of tokenization" for the city's First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

"We don't want them to be like, 'Hey, we have a plaque, and we want to you to smudge while we give this plaque away.' That's not what this needs to be," he said.

"It needs to be something that's actually meaningful and real and going to have impact."

Asked if Mayor Tory would support the new office, spokesperson Don Peat wrote in an email the mayor has "long been supportive of the examination of a much broader Indigenous office."

"He looks forward to the city manager's report, which he voted to request earlier this year, being discussed by the Aboriginal Affairs committee later this week," Peat added.

The report also calls for the position of Indigenous consultant to be maintained.

As Metro first reported, the city's former Indigenous consultant Lindsay Kretschmer resigned earlier this year and filed a human-rights complaint. Kretschmer, a Mohawk Wolf Clan member, said she was denied room to perform a smudging ceremony and called the city's moves to raise the Indigenous profile at city hall, including permanent First Nations flags, "all glamour."

Coun. Mike Layton, co-chair of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee, said they'll get an update on the hiring of a new Indigenous consultant this week and that smudging is now taking place at city hall.

He said the office is the city's opportunity to lead on reconciliation.

"If we were going to give it a task, it would be to indigenize Toronto City Council and Toronto in general," he said.

If the Aboriginal Affairs Committee endorses the report on Friday, it will go to the Executive Committee on Nov. 29 and then full council on Dec. 6.

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