A Thompson-Nicola Regional District director wants to see the board acknowledge Aboriginal land upon which it is gathering prior to each of its board meetings.
The move follows a similar motion defeated last month by Surrey council.
Electoral Area E (Bonaparte Plateau) director Sally Watson has put forward the motion.
“This is a practice at nearly every meeting I go to and every group I go to, except for the TNRD,” Watson said during the TNRD’s Feb. 18 board meeting.
The motion, however, was tabled by the board.
Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden suggested consultation with local Indigenous groups to ensure proper wording of such recognition prior to implementation.
Electoral Area B (Thompson Headwaters) director Stephen Quinn noted several First Nations throughout the regional district and questioned how that would be addressed. Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine suggested legal advice on the matter. Kamloops Coun. Arjun Singh spoke against motions made on the fly, without notice.
“There’s some rich discussion that has to happen,” Singh said.
Tk’emlups te Secwépmec acting chief Katy Gottfriedson (filling in for Rosanne Casimir, who remains ill with COVID-19) said the band would support the initiative. She called it an “important step” in fostering relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
“Certainly we’re in support of that,” Gottfriedson told KTW. “I think hearing that the TNRD is wanting to speak with the Indigenous communities is extremely important as well because it’s just good to ensure that you’re getting appropriate and accurate information when you do these things. Very much in support.”
Gottfriedson said it is customary when starting any kind of gathering to recognize traditional territories on which business is being conducted.
Thompson Rivers University, schools and event organizers throughout the city routinely recognize First Nations lands.
Some have criticized such openings as more symbolic than productive when it comes to reconciliation efforts. Gottfriedson said it entirely depends on who is uttering the words and whether the gesture is authentic. She said the recognition has to ultimately be meaningful to the person saying it.
Gottfriedson cited Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian for authenticity, noting “his heart is in the right place.”
“That’s the kind of example that I like to see,” she said, noting the City of Kamloops and Tk’emlups te Secweepemc have a working relationship that has come a long way. The City of Kamloops does not currently recognize First Nations lands before city council meetings, but the initiative is under consideration.
City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said information about what other communities are doing was recently forwarded to the mayor for review. Trawin said the city’s corporate officer usually reads a non-denominational quote or saying, with relevance to news of the day, at the beginning of a council meeting.
Acknowledging First Nations land has never been done at city council meetings in Kamloops. Trawin said each municipality has the ability to choose such an initiative. For example, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps apparently acknowledges First Nations land in her email signature.
Last month, Surrey city council came under fire for rejecting a motion to acknowledge Aboriginal lands at the start of its meetings.
— with a file from the Vancouver Sun