Mayor of Elbow, Sask., won't bend on his promise to work on reconciliation

Just over a year ago, the mayor of Elbow, Sask., signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. Today, reconciliation remains a priority for Rob Hundeby.

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron says steps continue to be taken toward reconciliation

Hundeby said he was moved by FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron's speech at last February's SUMA convention. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Just over a year ago, the mayor of Elbow, Sask., signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. Today, reconciliation remains a priority for Rob Hundeby.

Over the past year Hundeby said he's made an effort to delve deeper into reconciliation, involving schools, libraries and community centres in surrounding rural municipalities.

He boasted that each elected official and full-time staff member on his team has read the treaty implementation principles and the Truth and Reconciliation's 94 Calls to Action. 

In response to the community's efforts, Hundeby said he has received messages from people in England and Norway, in addition to being acknowledged by the United Nations. He considers that "quite a feather in our cap for a small community like Elbow."

Issuing an apology

In February 2017, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron spoke at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention in Saskatoon about reconciliation.

I remember him putting his hands on my shoulders and just saying 'thank you.'- Rob Hundeby, mayor of Elbow

Hundeby said he never considered himself a "severe" racist, but after hearing Cameron's speech, he felt guilty for some of his past thoughts and actions.

"I probably had stereotypical view that First Nations people were lazy or they don't pay taxes," he said.

He felt compelled to personally apologize to Cameron.

"I remember him putting his hands on my shoulders and just saying 'thank you,'" he said. "It's obviously something that doesn't happen very often a lot, especially for an elected official to come up and make a statement like that."

Hundeby, left, said he hopes the MOU will have a 'domino effect' on other rural municipalities. He's pictured here with Cameron. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC)

Cameron said he remembers the day fondly.

"Rob is one mighty fine man," said Cameron. "To hear him still on that path, as I still am on a path, and as many are in terms of eliminating some of the racism, curbing it and addressing it — it's a good start." 

The memorandum acted as a promise to help eliminate racism, but it came with pushback from some village residents.

"Some people who you thought were your friends kind of questioned what I was doing, but the fact is I would do it again in a heart beat," said Hundeby.

He said some people took it as a personal attack, but instead he meant it as a statement that racism can happen anywhere.

A bright future

Cameron said since Hundeby signed the memorandum, Regina's Mayor Michael Fougere has also signed on to a similar agreement. Cameron said Prince Albert isn't far behind.

Cameron said has also met with Premier Scott Moe to discuss the idea of a joint task force to combat racism, although the idea is still in the works.

Cameron said he's encouraged to see Hundeby addressing racism. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

When asked if he believes reconciliation can move forward, Hundeby responded "without a doubt," and Cameron agrees.

Hundeby said he hopes to continue hosting events in Elbow and surrounding areas, which will promote forgiveness and healing through reconciliation.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition