Manitoba

Better tools needed to ease tensions between Winnipeg's immigrant, Indigenous communities, report says

Indigenous people should have more influence when it comes to helping newcomers learn about Canadian culture, says a report released Wednesday morning that examines relationship-building between immigrants and Indigenous communities in Winnipeg.

Xenophobia, racism, negative perceptions, misinformation are problems due to lack of knowledge: report

Showing immigrants where and how Indigenous Peoples occupy land, oral storytelling of each other's histories and meeting Indigenous role models in the community could help bridge the divide between the communities, a new report says. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Indigenous people should have more influence when it comes to helping newcomers learn about Canadian culture, says a report released Wednesday morning that examines relationship-building between immigrants and Indigenous communities in Winnipeg.

Fostering Safe Spaces for Dialogue and Relationship-Building Between Newcomers and Indigenous Peoples, created by the Immigration Partnership Winnipeg with the Winnipeg Foundation, tries to find solutions to rising tensions between the communities, said Jenna Wirch, a research assistant for the report.

"The presence of racist attitudes and apathy on both sides are due to a lack of knowledge and understanding about each other," the report says.

Although there has been progress in Indigenous relations, xenophobia, racism, negative perceptions and misinformation are still strong between the communities, the report says.

The report suggests ways to eliminate negative impressions that would also help build relationships between the two communities, including showing immigrants where and how Indigenous Peoples occupy land, oral storytelling of each other's histories and meeting Indigenous role models in the community.

A report examining how to build relationships between immigrant and Indigenous communities recommends developing a new orientation tool kit for newcomers that would contain information about Indigenous history, culture and treaties. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

But the main recommendation is to provide an orientation tool kit that contains information about Indigenous history and culture, and treaties, while facilitating discussions about stereotypes, telling positive stories about Indigenous communities and listing relevant resources for newcomers.

"A newcomer person or family, once they arrive here, instead of seeing negative images or hearing bad stories about Indigenous people, they would be given a full orientation on the concept of land and treaties," said Haniataan Al-Ubeady, a lead co-ordinator of the report.

"They would be educated about that. They would see the bright side of the Indigenous traditions and cultures. They will be exposed to the Indigenous traditions and cultures and people, through the appropriate resources of information," Al-Ubeady said.

The tool kit should become a "living document" that gets updated and explains how historical events have led to contemporary issues in a way that's easy to understand, the report says.

"We hope [this report] will equip newcomers to play an important role in shaping and contributing to the future of Canada; a future that embodies social and environmental justice, healing, and reconciliation," the document says.

Indigenous history prioritized

The tool kit should be given to immigrants (including international students), says the report, referring to it as "territorientation."

"Instead of getting an orientation in the old-school ways, they get a welcoming from our Indigenous communities," Wirch said, and that orientation would start before immigrants arrive in Canada.

Jenna Wirch says the report was needed as part of an effort to try to ease tensions between the newcomer and Indigenous communities in Winnipeg. (John Einarson/CBC)

Newcomers would learn about the treaty territory they are moving to and what nation comes from that area, she said.

A significant part of the orientation involves delving into the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, pre- and post-colonization, as well as the impact colonization has had and how it pertains to current issues.

The tool kit should contain terms about Indigenous cultures, information about Indigenous life before settlers arrived, such as how different nations organized themselves, and their beliefs and values, the report says.

It also should detail the violence and strategy involved in colonization, including information about the systematic removal of Indigenous Peoples, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, the history of treaty making and the Indian Act.

Residential schools were created by the Canadian government and Christian churches to educate and convert Indigenous youth and to assimilate them. The last residential school closed in 1996. (The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate )

Contemporary issues also should be covered, the report says, with information about child welfare systems, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and challenges faced by people living on reserves.

Aside from history, the report recommends setting up safe spaces to openly discuss common stereotypes about both immigrant and Indigenous communities, which should be followed by telling stories of both communities working together.

The tool kit should also have a list of resources that people in both communities can consult, featuring community leaders, key institutions, organizations or community groups, and informational resources, the report says.

The next step to help build mutual understanding and knowledge between communities will be developing an orientation package that will help Indigenous people learn more about immigrants, Al-Ubeady said.

With files from Cory Funk and Erin Brohman