‘Canada can learn’ from City of Yellowknife’s TRC commitment

Bill Erasmus
Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus.
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The Dene Nation believes the City of Yellowknife’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations is an example to others.

This week, city councillors voted unanimously to adopt six of the commission’s 94 recommendations. Each of the six relates specifically to municipalities.

“It’s welcome news. There’s a huge responsibility there to work with the original people – they’re in the homeland of the Yellowknives Dene,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus.

“Along with cities like Edmonton, they are realizing it’s really important that the original peoples be recognized, honoured and dealt with accordingly. I’m really happy about that.

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“I think it’s hard for Canada because they’re a population based on a party system and have a hard time being one people. But if they follow our lead – we’re a collective, regardless of our language, dialect, customs or where we come from – they certainly can learn.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported back in June, having spent years examining the impact of Canadian residential schools.

In full: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 recommendations

Mayor Mark Heyck led discussion of the six recommendations adopted during Monday’s council meeting. Those recommendations are:

Article 43: We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

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Article 47: We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.

Article 57: We call upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal -Crown relations. This will required skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism.

Article 75: We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal government, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenances, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.

Article 76: We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles:

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i. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies.

ii. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies.

iii. Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.

Article 77: We call upon provincial, territorial, municipal, and community archives to work collaboratively with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to identify and collect copies of all records relevant to the history and legacy of the residential school system, and to provide these to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

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