Indigenous Affairs Office coming to Toronto city hall

An honour song rang out in the city council chambers moments before councillors unanimously approved the creation of an Indigenous Affairs Office.

City to spend some $500K to open office aimed at improving relationship with Indigenous people

Toronto hosted the 2017 North American Indigenous Games this summer. Now, city council has approved the creation of an Indigenous Affairs Office. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press)

An honour song rang out in the city council chambers moments before councillors unanimously approved the creation of an Indigenous Affairs Office.

The city plans to spend $520,000 to create the four-person office, which will be attached to the city manager's office. That money will still need to be added to the 2018 budget. 

City Manager Peter Wallace told councillors this is an important part of the reconciliation process and his hope and expectation is that it will improve the relationship between the city and the some 35,000 Indigenous people who live here.

A report on the new office notes a number of divisions have initiatives related to indigenous engagement, but this will be a centralized place.

Mayor John Tory, welcoming a group of drummers to the council floor, said the creation of this office is "long overdue" in his view and that he supports finding the money to put it in the budget.

Tory said if Toronto wants to boast about its multicultural and accepting background, creating this office is a "necessary prerequisite."

'This is an act of justice'

Coun. John Campbell questioned whether this is a "public relations exercise," and criticized the lack of information in the staff report recommending it. He said because he doesn't understand how the employees will spend their days, he has a hard time supporting the new hires.

Coun. James Pasternak asked whether the federal government would send the city money to support this project.

But Coun. Mike Layton said while he doesn't know what reconciliation will look like for the city of Toronto, it has an obligation to do this. 

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam says the office has the potential to be "transformative," noting it will bring Indigenous voices into the city bureaucracy so policies can be better informed.

"This is not an act of charity, this is an act of justice," said Coun. Neethan Shan. 

About the Author

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.