Good afternoon “Day Star” and other members of Edmonton City Council. My name is Miranda Jimmy and I am a proud member of Thunderchild First Nation who has made my home in Edmonton for nearly 20 years. I sit before you has a partner, committed to fulfilling the Treaty Six relationship. I also want to acknowledge Heather Shillinglaw, a local Métis visual artist and arts educator, who has joined me here today.
On August 9th – the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I sent a letter to each of you expressing my concerns over the lack of commitment from both the City of Edmonton and it’s agencies and boards to the needs of Indigenous Peoples and the cause of reconciliation in our city.
Last month, despite concerns raised by myself and other leaders in the Indigenous community, you chose to approve, by consensus, the new 10-year Arts and Heritage Plan for the city that lacked meaningful Indigenous involvement in it’s creation – not even including the Edmonton Arts Council’s own Indigenous Advisory Committee which I was a member of. The plan contains no actionable commitments to serve Edmonton’s Indigenous peoples or organizations for the next ten years. In approving the plan without debate, you have set a precedent of lip service leadership for others in our city to follow in serving the Indigenous community. I have shared with you a letter this afternoon from Marilyn Dumont, renowned Métis poet, who was unable to be here this afternoon but also wanted to share her concerns.
Earlier this month, many of you joined members of the Métis community right behind you in the City Room to declare it Métis Week in the city of Edmonton. You spoke about the importance of this relationship in both Edmonton’s past and future. But words have to be backed up by action and resources to support that action.
2019 will mark five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada held its final national event down the street at the Shaw Conference Centre. Mayor Iveson – you were an honorary witness to the testimony of hundreds of survivors of the Indian Residential Schools system. You heard how that experience, along with the other colonial systems and systemic racism, has impacted the rest of their lives. A year later, here in Council Chambers, we streamed the TRC closing events from Ottawa and gathered by the sacred fire outside City Hall to reflect on the impact this testimony would have on us as a city and a nation.
Since then, eagle feathers have been given and gifts exchanged. You have all had the opportunity to attend sweat ceremonies and pipe ceremonies with the Elders of Treaty Six. You have committed to that Treaty relationship both in your words and with your spirit. But reconciliation is not measured by the words that were said and the commitments that were made but on your ability to deliver on them.
In the coming weeks, you will be making funding decisions on behalf of the citizens of our city for the next four years. You will also be providing funding to agencies that will provide services to the people of Edmonton. You hold a lot of power in improving the lives of the most marginalized in our city without ever hearing from them directly in Council Chambers. I am hear to provide you with wake up call.
As a city administration and as a Council, you continually speak about reconciliation. In order for Indigenous people like me to believe your words, you must start to prove it through the funding allocations you approve. There has to be accountability and long term change for Indigenous peoples to begin to take you at your word.
I want to see direct investments in the lives of Indigenous peoples in our city. I want to see changes to the systems that were created to keep Indigenous peoples excluded and on the margins of society. I want to see how the training you are implementing for city employees is changing the way you meet the needs of Indigenous peoples. And most of all, I want more ways for Indigenous peoples to be involved with and leading these conversations.
Three years ago at budget time, fellow members of my organization RISE – Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton made this same request to the then City Council. Since then, there has been ample opportunity for you to show your commitment through multi-year funding. There has also been an opportunity for you to expect demonstrated commitments from your agencies and boards to put in place plans to include Indigenous perspectives at every level of their organization and find tangible ways to support reconciliation.
Stop throwing around buzzwords like inclusion and reconciliation and treaty if you are not willing to make every decision through these lenses. Indigenous people need allies in leadership who are willing to stand up for their needs and make decisions for us, with us. I know this is a tough budget cycle and you will be forced to make some hard decisions. My only request is that you start putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to Indigenous peoples.
This conversation is not going away. Until you begin to show accountability to the Indigenous community, I will continue to speak up. As always, I am happy to provide you with tangible examples on how you can do this and who can help make this happen. I look forward to answering your questions today and am also willing to speak one-on-one as well.
The preceding speech was shared at Edmonton’s City Council 2019-2022 Budget Public Hearing on November 28, 2018. A video recording of the proceedings can be found online here.