Edmonton

Indigenous voices in decision-making seen as vital to Edmonton's reconciliation efforts

Members of Edmonton's Indigenous community say the road to reconciliation must extend beyond one week of programming.

'If we only listen to one group, we can't include everyone that lives in our city'

Miranda Jimmy hopes to win a seat on city council during the upcoming municipal election. (CBC)

Members of Edmonton's Indigenous community say the road to reconciliation must extend beyond one week of programming.

Miranda Jimmy, co-founder of Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton, thinks the city has not done enough to include Indigenous voices at the decision-making table.

"The city's programming affects the lives of all Edmontonians," she said. "If we only listen to one group, we can't include everyone that lives in our city."

Edmonton's second-annual Reconciliation Week kicked off Sunday. Events this year include movie screenings, foot races and storytelling, organized by local Indigenous groups to mark the second anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Edmonton has the second-largest Indigenous population in the country, behind only Winnipeg.

Don Langford, executive director of Métis Child and Family Services, said the city's priority should be to create more intercultural programs.

"The only way that we learn to get along is if we understand each other's cultures and we're all together," he said.

The emphasis should be on getting children of all races and ethnicities in the same room, Langford said, because they have no concept of culture "until they get a fair bit older."

Education was the top priority identified in the city's 2010 Urban Aboriginal Peoples study.

In 2016, the city partnered with the public and Catholic school boards to host 700 youth — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — at a leadership conference. A report tabled by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said the initiative met the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendation to improve education about residential schools and Indigenous cultural practices.

City spokesperson Mike Chow said the city is also working to educate its 10,000 employees about the history of residential schools.

But he acknowledged more work is needed to ensure that the voices of Indigenous people are heard.

"These are small steps, few steps, but hopefully in a positive direction to restore our foundational relationship," Chow said.

Jimmy said Reconciliation Week can serve as a reminder to include Indigenous voices in all planning going forward.

Reconciliation Week programs continue until June 3.