Thunder Bay

2017 a 'year of truth and reconciliation' in Sioux Lookout, Ont.

The town of Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario, has proclaimed 2017 to be a "year of truth and reconciliation."
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance says the municipality is taking steps to follow the recommendations of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (Submitted by Doug Lawrance)

The town of Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario, has proclaimed 2017 to be a "year of truth and reconciliation."

The proclamation is an indication of the town's commitment to do what it can to honour the 94 calls to action  issued by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance. 

"Sioux Lookout's a unique community in Canada with our relationship with First Nations as a hub community to about 30 First Nation communities," he said.

"So of all communities in Canada, we felt — the council here — that we should be at the forefront of reconciliation."

The Mayor's Committee on Truth and Reconciliation has been meeting regularly to discuss how Sioux Lookout, and the neighbouring community of Lac Seul First Nation, can work together to plan events that will unfold over the year, he said. 

On Thursday, the town held a screening of Gord Downie's Secret Path, as a kickoff event.

An emotional screening of Gord Downie's music and film project Secret Path was shown in Sioux Lookout this month, as part of the municipality's year of truth and reconciliation, said Lac Seul Chief Clifford Bull. (Jeff Lemire/Secret Path)

The screening was "very emotional," said Clifford Bull, the Chief of Lac Seul First Nation, and a residential school survivor.

"I think we need to understand the legacy of residential schools. As Canadians, we need to all understand it and accept the history, and to begin to heal all the pain and sorrow that has come out of this legacy" said Bull, who is also a member of the Mayor's Committee on Truth and Reconciliation. 

Attendance at the Secret Path screening was one indication that people in the community are willing to be part of that process, he said. 

(Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

Other events throughout the year will include commemorations, joint council meetings between Lac Seul First Nation and Sioux Lookout, and a special National Aboriginal Day celebration, said Lawrance. The committee will meet regularly to come up with other ideas.

While the official proclamation denotes 2017 as a year of reconciliation, there is an acknowledgment of a much longer commitment, he said. 

"Reconciliation doesn't happen from one year," said Lawrance, "reconciliation is a process and the process is ongoing. It'll have to go on for many, many generations."