COUNTY OF WELLINGTON - The county's Indigenous Advisory Committee chair is recommending a land acknowledgement should be delivered every other year.
The update was delivered by the Indigenous Advisory Committee chair at the county council’s final meeting of 2021 on Thursday.
At the Sept. 30 meeting, county council directed staff to create an update report on the county's land acknowledgement work before deciding what they should do with land acknowledgements.
Colleen Brunelle, Fergus programme manager and chair of the Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC), explained that county staff need to be further educated and aware of Indigenous issues before land acknowledgements can be delivered at every county meeting.
As such, Brunelle recommended to deliver land acknowledgements every other year.
“As a manager in self services, I’ve gone to different functions where I listened to land acknowledgements being read from a piece of paper and mispronounced and it all goes out the window; the intentions are lost,” said Brunelle.
“I value the county; I value my employer and I didn’t want to see that happen, and I share the sentiments of IAC on the fact that we don’t want to put the county at risk.”
The IAC agreed that county land acknowledgement would need to be delivered in a manner that was genuine, sincere and meaningful. A failure to focus on these basic elements could result in a perception of tokenism and subsequent criticism.
In order to effectively achieve a genuine land acknowledgement, the IAC determined that education and cultural awareness of Indigenous issues by county staff would need to first occur.
The IAC has created a 2021 Land Acknowledgement for County Council, which reads:
“The County of Wellington is unique in that it has multiple treaties that sit in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe people. Throughout time this land has been, or continues to be, inhabited by other nations including the Attawandaron, Haudenosaunee, Métis, Inuit, and many other First Nations. We acknowledge that we are not the original stewards of these lands, but now have the responsibility of not only taking care of the land and its people, but ensuring that future generations are able to thrive here. The County is committed to a better understanding of past, present and future as a gesture of our commitment to the process of reconciliation.”
“From my perspective, Wellington County through the great efforts of the Indigenous advisory committee are addressing the issues of land acknowledgements through these projects,” said county CAO Scott Wilson.
“We need to continue to educate ourselves, train our staff and raise awareness of the Indigenous issues. The land acknowledgement you find in the report is something the council would be wise to continue to use every other year.”
All councillors were impressed with the report, however, councillors Diane Ballantyne and Mary Lloyd were unimpressed with the recommendations brought by the IAC and the CAO.
“It’s certainly important for us to continue our learning but it’s also exceptionally important for us to model truth and reconciliation by providing land acknowledgement at each county council meeting, not as an extra add-on every two years,” said Ballantyne.
Lloyd echoed Ballantyne’s sentiment regarding the two year delivery of land acknowledgements, noting that “it’s a good way to have a gentle reminder that we weren’t here first; someone else came before us and we should recognize that at each and every meeting.”
Brunelle explained that the IAC did not want to rush the process and education of Indigenous history and issues.
“One of the things we know through Indigenous ways is to not rush things, so this is why we weren’t rushing it and we wanted to get it right and we certainly want to provide staff education. Do I feel that we’re at the position to do land acknowledgements every time we have a meeting? I don’t think we’re there yet,” stated Brunelle.