By Rob Houle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – On September 15, 2021, following the announcement and celebration of a renewed Memorandum of Dialogue and Collaboration between the City of Edmonton and Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 First Nations, Mayor Don Iveson took time to make another announcement.
Following weeks of public pressure, including advocacy from other members of City Council, the Mayor, in collaboration with City Manager Andre Corbould and Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee, announced that the City would be recognizing September 30, 2021 as a new holiday. Seemingly altering the previous trajectory of not allowing staff time-off work to reflect on the history of Residential Schools.
In an official release, City Manager Andre Corbould stated “Our commitment to the Indigenous community we share these lands with is to continue to work with, understand, and grow as we recognize past wrongs and build bridges to the future.” In the same release, Chief McFee added, “…the Edmonton Police Service is honoured to have this opportunity to reflect on our shared history and the impacts on Indigenous communities.”
During his comments in City Hall, Mayor Iveson was clear to highlight the importance of the day and the role of reflection in Truth and Reconciliation. He furthered this reflection, “…this is the truth we all acknowledge, a truth that spurs us on to a renewed reckoning with our history, a deeper understanding of who we are meant to be as Treaty people…”
Incumbent Councillor Aaron Paquette supports this positive change by stating, “This is a positive move and really reflects the stated priorities of Edmontonians – in fact they are asking; why isn’t the Province following the example of Alberta’s big cities.”
Councillor Paquette was making reference to the fact that the City of Calgary announced, on September 8, 2021, that the day would be recognized as a holiday, with special events also being held. These realities, once again reflect the important role Municipal governments have played regarding leadership during this time of COVID-19.
Taken as a whole, the entire process of people recognizing and reflecting on the Residential School system, its ramifications and being away from work may be a welcome reprieve as the 4th wave of COVID-19 ravages the province. Once again serving as an example of Indigenous perseverance and practice providing mainstream society the tools necessary to survive through dark times.
Although a positive step forward, it is also important for Edmontonians to question why a simple action required so much pressure. There is no doubt that the current storm of election cycles has begun to drain people’s patience. Coupled with the rise and visibility of right wing beliefs, it becomes very risky for people to want to do the right thing. Especially when the right thing involves minorities and the re-examination of Canada’s shared history.