By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on May 16, 2018.
It’s symbolic – but it’s another step forward.
This week, Mayor Chris Spearman opened city council’s regular meeting with a statement recognizing that Lethbridge was built in traditional Blackfoot territory.
That formal acknowledgement has become a part of many gatherings in southern Alberta, similar to declarations in other Canadian cities recognizing the First Nations territory on which they stand.
It points to the fact that European settlers – and labourers they brought from Asia – were by no means the first people to inhabit this part of the world. And that it was the overwhelming power of the colonial army and police that forced aboriginal peoples across Canada to surrender so much of their land.
Equally important, it fosters public recognition of Canada’s sad history of dealing with the people who made their living on this land for thousands of years, as an essential part of our nation’s Truth and Reconciliation process.
So many Canadians have yet to admit the reality of the atrocities inflicted upon aboriginal people in the name of “opening the West” for farming, church and empire. Starvation, military might, disregarded treaties and the all-powerful Indian Act were among the earlier weapons, followed by the residential schools, the “Sixties Scoop” and our continuing failure to provide such a basic safeguard as clean water.
So much awareness and education are needed. Fortunately, community groups across the land are acting on recommendations from the national Truth and Reconciliation report.
Here in Lethbridge, community and civic representatives prepared an action plan which was subsequently adopted by city council. Local branches of national organizations like the Canadian Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination have taken a lead.
Some churches, service clubs and social agencies are also playing an important role in our community. And now the Allied Arts Council has stepped up, booking Calgary-based Quest Theatre for a June 1 presentation of “We Are All Treaty People,” a learning experience for all ages.
Much more should be done in response to local and Canada-wide recommendations. It’s clear that the truth must be recognized before real reconciliation can begin. And that will take time; injustices can’t be addressed and settled suddenly.
In Lethbridge, we can hope for the same kind of planning and delivery that saw some symbolic but important events take place last year. Those steps forward should now be followed up.
City council’s formal recognition this week is certainly a positive initiative. We trust there will soon be more.
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