London creates Indigenous working group - with no Indigenous members for now

A former First Nations chief is praising city councillors for introducing a working group meant to strengthen the city’s relationship with neighbouring Indigenous communities. But the group has no Indigenous members, at least not yet.

Group would look at ways to implement recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report

(Chris Ensing/CBC)

A former First Nations chief is praising London city councillors for working to strengthen the city's relationship with neighbouring Indigenous communities.

But the group, the first of its kind in the city, will have no Indigenous representation, at least for now. 

At first, it will be made up of the mayor and six city councillors -- none of them Indigenous. 

Eventually, the group would have Indigenous members, the city's strategic and policy committee heard Monday afternoon. 

The goal is to work with the region's Indigenous communities to implement recommendations set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

Leslee Whiteye, former Chief of Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, said it's important to include Indigenous voices at the decision making table.

"It sends a big message that there are other community leaders that are Indigenous that should be part of the problem solving," she said. "There's this trust piece. We have created a comfortable space that we can talk about things that are uncomfortable and then that leads to problem solving."

Whiteye said some of the discussions should focus on modern-day ignorance of Indigenous history and life.

Group to 'engage Indigenous communities' 

London is nestled between several First Nations communities in southwestern Ontario including Oneida Nation of the Thames, Munsee Delaware Nation and Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. 

Coun. Josh Morgan, proposed the idea of a working group along with another councillor.

"The purpose of working group is to have subset of council … trying to figure out and engage on what the best way to engage and collaborate with our Indigenous communities," said Morgan. "It is meant to figure out how we structure ourselves to do our work and I hope they have a discussion about having a representative community with diverse voices at the table."

Full council will vote on the implementation of the working group on Tuesday.