Barrie Canada Day celebrations expand to embrace Indigenous culture, history, truth and reconciliation

  • A Closer Look
Future Canada Day celebrations in Barrie will evolve to embrace local First Nations, their history and culture, and committee set the City on a path to implement parts of the Truth and Reconciliation process that relate to municipalities.

Barrie residents worried that traditional Canada Day festivities might be canceled in the wake of widespread revulsion over revelations of unmarked graves of thousands of Indigenous children at residential schools can relax.
The next July 1, in Barrie at least, will remain a celebration of the country, as much as COVID-19 allows, complete, one assumes, with fireworks and other patriotic displays. 
And for those demanding that municipalities join other levels of government to not only acknowledge the tragedy of those unmarked graves, along with what can only be called a systemic disregard of Indigenous concerns, but also take action to rectify those issues, they can be comforted by the positive, healing even, steps taken by general committee on Monday.
Future Canada Day celebrations in Barrie will evolve to embrace local First Nations, their history and culture, and committee set the City on a path to implement parts of the Truth and Reconciliation process that relate to municipalities.
“This is not about canceling the celebrations of Canada Day, this is about adding context and educational elements as we did to great success this past July 1. It was really incredible to see the amount of people who came out to the sacred fire who were learning about the history of colonization and the ongoing acts of colonization on this land. That is something we can continue,” said Ward 2 councillor Keenan Alywin, who, along with Ward 6’s Natalie Harris, moved a multi-part motion, that ended up, after amendments, including:
• Staff in the recreation and culture department consult on a annual basis with local First Nations to explore and implement July 1 activities reflective of Indigenous history and culture, and provide educational engagement on systemic issues
• That City departments, and the Barrie Police Service, report by summer of 2022 on initiatives designed to increase hiring from the Indigenous community
• That the Downtown BIA be asked to include Indigenous history, acknowledgement, and education as part of any application for Canada Day funding from government sources
• That the general manager of community and corporate services and staff in the human resources department engage with local Indigenous peoples and First Nations on the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action that fall under municipal responsibility, namely sections 43, 47 and 57, and report back to committee by end of year
The three calls to action relating to municipal governments are:
• Section 43 calls on all levels of governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations’ declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples as the framework for reconciliation
• Section 47 calls for the repudiation of concepts used to justify European sovereignty over indigenous peoples and lands … and to reform the laws, policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on these policies
• Section 57 calls on all levels of government to provide skills-based training in inter-cultural competencies, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism to all public servants 
The last one will come with a cost, but one “well worth paying,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. The City has already been studying training avenues, said Dawn McAlpine, general manager of community and corporate services. 
“Now is a good time to start this work. I think it is critical that we engage with local Indigenous peoples, organizations and nations … and that we get the ball rolling,” said Alywin.
The recent Canada Day celebrations included many of the aspects now being formalized, including the aforementioned sacred fire. No doubt the heavy lifting of the Truth and Reconciliation process will be carried by the other, more senior levels of government, but municipalities have a part to play. On Monday, this particular municipality took a step in the right direction.

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