The City of Red Deer and the urban aboriginal community marked National Aboriginal Day with a new relationship — a formalized protocol agreement — during a special meeting of city council on Wednesday.
The governance agreement, between the Red Deer Urban Aboriginal Voices Society and the city, will guide the two groups with the principles of equity, leadership, collaborative action and participation and diversity when making decisions, developing plans and implementing actions.
Mayor Tara Veer called the agreement “groundbreaking” and said that June 21, 2017, would prove to be a historic day in the community in the spirit of the truth and reconciliation.
When Elder Lynn Jonasson approached the podium to speak, to the delight of the crowd in council chambers, he started with a strong “Right on!”
“My heart is filled with joy and I know everybody in the room feels like that today.”
Veer said a few years ago the city established a common ground protocol with the Red Deer Native Friendship Society to begin to establish a new relationship with the urban aboriginal community. The intent was to eventually elevate that protocol to a governance-to-governance protocol and an agreement with Urban Aboriginal Voices Society.
Acting on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, the city formalized the agreement.
“It’s been a wonderful journey … to make this day possible,” said Jonasson. He took a moment at the beginning of the meeting to acknowledge Tuesday’s windstorm, which resulted in the city declaring a state of emergency.
“It’s hard for a lot of people today … so our prayers are going out to all the city workers.”
“The protocol agreement is something that’s really going to make our community a lot stronger … It brings a sense of peace and a sense of belonging … that many of our people are looking for. To belong. So thank you for that,” said Jonasson.
Members of the aboriginal community and city council each took turns at reading paragraphs of the agreement, and then members of council each spoke briefly.
Coun. Ken Johnston said there’s some history that causes “sorrow and destruction”… but some that creates joy and triumph, as we do today. Today Madam Mayor, let us celebrate a stronger union, a stronger city, indeed, a stronger province and a stronger nation.”
After Jonasson read the last line, which was “Agreed to the 21st day of June 2017,” he gave a loud “Yeehaw!”
The agreement was unanimously adopted by city council.
After the signing of the agreement, Jonasson said there’s still a lot of work to do to help aboriginal people that are in care, incarcerated, homeless, and on the streets. “It’s a way to move forward.”
For the signing, he wore a blue ribbon shirt that honoured his mother, who was Cree and his father, who was Icelandic.
“Today is a historic moment in truth and reconciliation, but I think the most important thing is how our community is coming together to take leadership on issues that they feel are important for the betterment of the quality of life for our people, and it’s wonderful to see so many people engaged,” said Tanya Schur, who works with the Urban Aboriginal Voices Society.
“When we look at the United Nations declaration of indigenous people we see that it’s really clear that indigenous people are the ones best able to create reconciliation, to move that healing journey forward, and so I think that what we’re seeing marked here is aboriginal leadership in the city of Red Deer.”
The event was followed with a pipe ceremony and later a blanket ceremony to mark the signing of the agreement.