Regional Council Statement to Address Systemic Anti-Indigenous Racism and Discrimination

Regional councilors will be asked to endorse a public statement and commitment to address systemic discrimination and anti-Indigenous racism later this week.

The statement is part of Niagara Region’s adoption of a Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan last year and includes recommendations from the Mno Bmaadziwin (Living the Good and Healthy Life) Indigenous Engagement Report. It’s on the agenda for the full council meeting on Thursday.

“As an organization, we recognize that we have work to do to continue to address systemic anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination,” Chief Executive Ron Tripp wrote in a report to councilors.

“We are committed to taking specific, measurable and continuous action by implementing the recommendations of the Mno Bmaadziwin report.”

One of the report’s first recommendations is the creation of a joint roundtable to build lasting relationships between local and urban Indigenous and regional leaders.

The Roundtable was established in late 2021 with representatives from Niagara Indigenous Community (NICE) executives and business leaders from across the region, including the Niagara Regional Police. Three meetings have been held to focus on building these relationships and establishing a framework for the co-development of an Indigenous Action Plan before the end of this year.

The plan will promote reconciliation between Niagara Region and First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. It will include identifying activities to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry’s Calls to Justice, which fall within municipal jurisdiction.

The second recommendation of the Mno Bmaadziwin report calls for a public statement from the region about its intention to address systemic racism in all of its systems as it relates to Indigenous peoples.

“With the work of the Joint Roundtable and progress being made in developing an Indigenous Action Plan, the organization is better positioned to support a public statement that includes a commitment to action,” Tripp wrote. .

The proposed public statement has been reviewed by area business leaders and members of NICE, which includes the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, Niagara Regional Native Centre, Niagara Chapter Native Women, Ohsto: Seri Urban Aboriginal Homes, Oonuhseh Niagara Native Homes Inc., Niagara Region Métis Council and De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre.

The statement would affirm the Region’s commitment to addressing systemic discrimination and anti-Indigenous racism “within its institution” and recommended wording is found in the report.

“The Niagara Region is committed to addressing anti-Indigenous racism and working towards reconciliation. Municipal governments, along with other levels of government in Canada, share responsibility and have an important role to play in eradicating anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination and promoting fairness and respect for all,” reads part of the motion.

“Niagara Region recognizes that colonialism and past actions and inactions at all levels of government have created discriminatory policies and practices against Indigenous peoples.

“This has had direct, widespread and devastating effects on the health and well-being of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Recognizing this reality is key to changing it.

The region’s overarching goal is to develop responsive and inclusive policies, programs and services to meet the needs of off-reserve Indigenous communities and organizations and to identify ways to make the spaces and buildings in the region welcoming and safe for Indigenous peoples, the report says.

It also commits the region to identify the barriers that prevent indigenous people from obtaining employment within the municipality and to create career development opportunities for indigenous employees.

Elna M. Lemons