FSIN signs agreement with Elbow, Sask., pledging to eliminate racism in area

The mayor of Elbow, Sask., Rob Hundeby, has teamed up with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations for a memorandum of understanding which pledges to eliminate racism and educate people on Indigenous relations.

Mayor met with FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron during February SUMA convention, where he asked for forgiveness

Hundeby said he hopes a new memorandum of understanding will have a 'domino effect' on other rural municipalities. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC)

The mayor of Elbow, Sask. says he hopes an agreement signed with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations will have a domino effect, prompting other municipalities to join their efforts. 

On Tuesday, mayor Rob Hundeby signed a memorandum of understanding with FSIN chief Bobby Cameron which pledges to eliminate racism through educational initiatives. Cameron said this is the first agreement of its kind, to the best of his knowledge. 

The two met after Cameron spoke about reconciliation at the annual Saskatchewan Urban Municipality Association convention in February, which Hundeby said "moved" him.

"I apologize to you, Chief Cameron, and to the FSIN, for any racist thoughts, comments or actions that I've had during my life and I hope you accept my apology," he said.

Hundeby said Cameron's talk was a turning point for him, prompting him to reflect on Cameron's words and their truths.

"Even though there are no reserves or First Nations people near the village of Elbow, while I was growing up, the ideology of what an Indigenous person represents — or the stereotypes — became very clear," Hundeby said.
Rob Hundeby said he was moved by Cameron's speech at February's SUMA convention. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

He called on Canada to own up to its mistakes and move toward reconciliation. 

The Elbow mayor listed off misconceptions."'First Nations people are lazy, they don't pay taxes, they're alcoholics, they can't hold a job, they don't even want to work,'" he said.

"I was wrong."

Cameron praised Hundeby, saying it takes a lot of "heart" and "courage" to make the comments he did.

Hundeby said the community lacked the details of what it was like to grow up on reserve, what it was like to be denied a job based on race and the trauma of residential schools.

"We must focus on the reality of what the root of the problem is," Hundeby said. 

He called on SUMA, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, Premier Brad Wall and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provide "meaningful dialogue" to end racism. ​

Cameron said people have to work together for a better future.

"We all have to accept one another for who we are," Cameron said.
Acceptance and forgiveness lead to healing, Cameron said. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Hundeby said there are no specifics yet about just how these educational initiatives will unfold. As of now, it's a work in progress. 

"It's going to be a learning curve for both of us but we are excited about that," Hundeby said of the agreement, adding it was unanimously supported by Elbow councillors.

"We as First Nations, as treaty people of these lands, and the non-First Nations people in this province, none of us are going anywhere," Cameron said.

"But our children and grandchildren are going to live here. What kind of legacy and foundation do we want to leave behind for our children?"

With files from Jennifer Quesnel