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Mulmur Examines Municipal Truth & Reconciliation Actions

Mulmur Examines Municipal Truth & Reconciliation Actions

Councillors in rural Dufferin are looking to take tangible steps to advance the calls to action directed to municipalities listed in the Truth & Reconciliation Commission report.

In July, Mulmur council unanimously decided to refer the calls to action to staff for a report with details on implementing them locally. This followed Shelburne Council passing a motion to direct the calls to action to its diversity, equity, and inclusion advisory committee to perform similar duties. Unlike several municipalities in Dufferin County, Mulmur does not have a diversity, equity, and inclusion advisory committee. Township staff reported back in September with recommendations for enacting thirteen of the ninety-four calls to action. Several proposals include making calls to other levels of government to support Indigenous peoples and residential school survivors in a variety of ways, such as ensuring the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities. Another was to call on all levels of government, in collaboration with Indigenous people, to create adequately funded and accessible Aboriginal-specific programs and services with appropriate evaluation mechanisms. Councillors were still looking to do more while also looking for more education.

“It’s very ‘you oughtta’, and I’d like to know what we can do,” remarked Councillor Shirley Boxem. “Do we have a plan to engage Indigenous residents of Mulmur, or connect with them in some way?”

Councillor Patricia Clark agreed, noting that many of the recommendations consisted of sending a letter to other levels of government, asking them to act. Although likening it to ‘lip service,’ Councillor Clark did note that if most, or all, municipalities sent letters to higher levels of government, it would increase the likelihood of action being taken.

“I do understand that from a municipal perspective we are limited in what we can do,” stated Councillor Clark. “I guess I’m looking to see if there is anything else we can actually do as opposed to just writing a letter.”

Roseann Knechtel, Deputy Clerk for Mulmur Township, who composed the report on implementing the calls to action, also iterated that municipalities lack the authority to perform many of the calls directly and that the recommendations would charge those with the power to enact the changes.

“This is our way of doing something, instead of just saying ‘Oh we don’t look after healthcare here, we’re not doing anything,'” told Knechtel. “Although it may look like lip service, that was the intention behind putting those motions forward to the people who actually do have control.”

The report included other recommendations beyond writing letters to different levels of government. This includes amending the Community Grant Policy to include a section to assist in growing and developing Aboriginal athletics and to support the North American Indigenous Games. Another tactic was for Mulmur council to provide skills-based training and information sessions, including but not limited to intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism, in June for all elected officials and staff in recognition of National Indigenous History Month. The document outlined a proposal that involved permanently waiving all administrative fees related to name changes and revisions of official documents for residential school survivors, including but not limited to commissioning, faxing, and photocopying. Although commissioning services are free to residents, there are charges applied to faxing and photocopying.

One recommendation that could significantly impact Mulmur residents was for the Township to initiate discussions with the Metis Nation of Ontario to develop a protocol for consultation on proposed or pending acquisitions or dispositions of land. This would include details such as establishing preferred communication practices and determining which land would be appropriate for consultation. Staff highlighted scenarios where the town is acquiring and disposing of small parcels of land for road allowances.

“What’s being proposed in this policy is that we figure out how they want us to consult with them because maybe they don’t care about our scraps of road allowance; maybe they care more about the county forest,” said Mulmur’s Chief Administrative Officer, Clerk, and Planner Tracey Atkinson. “Let’s figure out what they want so that we can tailor our consultation to meet their needs, desires, and best form of communication.”

Councillor Ken Cufaro communicated that his understanding was that the Indigenous signed treaties related to the land and asked staff if they were saying that those treaties were invalid. Staff responded by saying that these recommendations are not insinuating that ‘at all.’

“I just think you have to look into this, because I’m not adverse to giving properties to Indigenous people if they’re entitled to it,” expressed Councillor Cufaro. “But if there is a treaty that states they agreed that for this amount of money that the government of the time could take over those lands, and unless it’s in dispute, regardless of what the federal government is saying they’re entitled to, that is our land.”

Councillor Cufaro stated that if the treaties were considered valid, his feelings were that if Mulmur were going to make that offer to the Indigenous, they’d have to make it to the public as well.

“We are not offering land to the Indigenous community,” responded Knechtel. “We would be reaching out for consultation.”

Councillor Cufaro conveyed that he understood that but needed more information about how reaching out to the Indigenous regarding land consultations fell within the context of the Truth and Reconciliation discussion.

“What I’m asking is how does that fall within the parameters of the issues that we’re talking about,” explained Councillor Cufaro. “If it’s not legal, in other words, if the treaty is in dispute, then maybe we’re talking about something else.”

Councillor Cufaro suggested the Township get legal advice before implementing the calls to action and requested more details on how Mulmur and its residents would be impacted if the council did follow through on the recommendations.

“I think there are some experts that aren’t us, and I would like to hear from them before put forward this package,” declared Mayor Janet Horner. “I think the biggest thing we can do is get ourselves educated.”

Mulmur council resolved to defer the recommended calls to action and directed staff to return with more information, with the possibility of a presentation from an expert in Indigenous issues.

East Garafraxa council has examined the report that came out of Mulmur and is also looking to implement the calls to action. Like Mulmur, East Garafraxa councillors felt like they needed to do more while requiring more information before acting.

“I have looked at it thoroughly several times,” voiced East Garafraxa Councillor Frances Pinkney, who articulated that she would require more information on several points before supporting. “One I think we could support in East Gary is education, and not only for our staff, but for ourselves as well, because I do feel ill-informed on some of these issues.”

Councillor Pinkney highlighted that although a lot of information is available, it can be conflicting.

“I want to do something with it, I’m just struggling to know how to break it down at the moment and how to move it forward,” agreed Deputy Mayor John Stirk, saying he’d like to keep the topic on the agenda going forward.

East Garafraxa staff told council that they were currently exploring ways the Township could implement the calls to action and the associated financial implications to the municipality. It was noted that this information would be reported by staff at a future meeting. Like Mulmur, East Garafraxa does not have a diversity, equity, and inclusion community advisory committee.

References – Mulmur Examines Municipal Truth & Reconciliation Actions

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