During its regular meeting on May 2, Airdrie City council heard a presentation regarding the City’s latest efforts to build and foster relationships with the local Indigenous community.
They also endorsed a proposal to develop strategies towards further engagement as part of the municipality’s commitment to truth and reconciliation.
Previously, council and the Community Services Advisory Board (CSAB) supported the advancement of truth and reconciliation actions by adding to the budget access to Indigenous wisdom through the guidance and knowledge of elders.
According to Jennifer Lutz, team leader of community development at the City, the “path forward” would ensure the City of Airdrie is working toward meaningful and productive relationships with Indigenous leaders through various consultations and cultural initiatives. In March, the City of Airdrie hosted a traditional pipe ceremony in front of City Hall featuring regional Indigenous leaders and members of the First Nations community.
Lutz said approaching truth and reconciliation at a municipal level is increasingly important as Canada and Airdrie’s Indigenous population continues to grow (five and six per cent respectively), with record numbers migrating to urban city centres.
“We’ve seen a big draw of Indigenous people moving into urban municipalities,” Lutz said. “Fifty per cent of Indigenous people live in urban areas, and the number is also increasing.”
She added having worked for other municipalities including Red Deer and Calgary, she was surprised to see Airdrie’s Indigenous population is higher than other Alberta communities.
“With that, it’s a good consideration when we’re looking at cultural events, public art, tourism, performing arts, economic development, social services, all the things that we do.”
Currently, the community development team is working to consult with Indigenous leaders regarding the ongoing cultural planning for Airdrie's new multi-use facility and public library. Consultations with the Indigenous community for the new library and multi-use facility will begin this month.
Lutz said the team is hoping to leverage this relationship-building process to further advance truth and reconciliation efforts in the city, adding the relationship-building will help to ensure Airdrie’s vision to be recognized by local Indigenous communities as an ally and supporter in the truth and reconciliation process.
Further consultations with Indigenous leaders will help the City in their mandate to provide council with calls to action, subject matter expertise on cultural awareness, effective and informed protocol guidelines, guidance on municipal art projects, and support for Indigenous events.
“What we’d like to suggest to you is that we focus on the library consultation, we leverage that a bit, start building more relationships,” Lutz said. “It’s really important the Indigenous people want this, so we want to make sure they see it as part of their truth and reconciliation journey.”
Additionally, the community development team is seeking to support the Indigenous community with National Indigenous People’s Day activities on June 21, and commemorations for the new national holiday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.
She added other initiatives include various Indigenous public art projects, helping with grant applications to support Indigenous activities and projects, making connections within and outside of the community, and working with internal groups to support Indigenous awareness.
“I think that is just all building to support a strategy to moving forward [toward truth and reconciliation],” she said. “Through these initiatives, people in Airdrie will start seeing some action [being taken].”
Community events in the coming months include cultural events at Nose Creek Regional Park, a Colouring it Forward art exhibit in Genesis Place Recreation Centre next month, and cultural events during Métis Week in mid-November.
Previously, councillors voted to look at the feasibility of adding a number of flags at City Hall and in other areas locally to recognize the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3, and the eight bands that make up Treaty 7. Lutz said this may be a tenuous process that involves further relationship-building.
“Just having those conversations and building the supports that we do have a plan in place and that we do have actions [will lead the way],” she said. “It’s going to take some commitment to make sure we are doing it in a culturally informed way.”
Following the presentation, Coun. Ron Chapman said he is happy to see consultations beginning with the Indigenous community regarding the new library and multi-use facility.
“It’s very exciting times for this council and the City of Airdrie, so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming forward with the multi-use building.”
Coun. Tina Petrow said she is also happy to see the “path forward” come to fruition.
“I love seeing the actions we have started on and where we’re going in the future,” she said. “It is a very long process to really solidify those good relationships.”