L&A County council may acknowledge First Nations peoples before meetings

Staff directed to research options for statement and report to council

Adam Bramburger
Beaver Staff

Lennox and Addington County council may soon begin its meetings by acknowledging First Nations peoples who once resided in the area.

At Wednesday’s regular meeting, council approved a report on the issue from chief administrative officer Brenda Orchard and directed staff to provide more information for consideration.

Earlier this month, Orchard received correspondence from Napanee resident Tom da Silva urging council to consider the practice. He indicated he had been at a Community Foundations of Canada conference in Ottawa earlier this year, which examined the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“Acknowledging territory shows recognition of and respect for our Indigenous Peoples,” da Silva wrote, while suggesting L&A County begin the practice at its inaugural meeting Dec. 13.

He said he spent time researching on the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte web site, at the County Museum and Archives, and elsewhere online. Through that work, da Silva said he found the county is in the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. He also sought a declaration that would recognize the Confederacy and  its member nations: the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca.

Councillor Eric Smith asked Orchard if any other municipalities were already following the practice.

“I did check with some other CAOs. Renfrew County does it. Hastings and Frontenac have not been asked yet,” Orchard responded. “I put a broader request out to our Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus CAOs and other than Renfrew, I haven’t been told there are any others. I know the City of Kingston does it. I think it’s just a matter of time before people get asked. It just happens to be we have a resident who brought it to our attention.”

Councillor John Wise suggested consulting the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte for wording choices. Orchard suggested the County’s museum staff should research wording and bring about a suitable recommendation.

“There’s some question of whether we should only recognize pre-settlement Indigenous people versus others that have come after settlement,” she said. “We want to show a proper sign of respect.”

Councillor Ric Bresee added that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has struck a committee to study the issue and to develop structure for forms of consultation with First Nations. He is among the people appointed to that committee and he said he’d volunteer information and research from its findings.

Councillor Helen Yanch suggested the County take a broad approach in formulating the statement.

“I think we should be very inclusive and not exclusive,” she said. “There’s Metis and Iroquois and numerous other groups.”

Councillor Marg Isbester supported the work, stating it’s “extremely important” and “something we should be acknowledging.” She shared her hopes that the County control the process itself.

“I would rather see us start something like this and research it on our own, rather than having it either forced on us or being told that we shouldn’t be doing something by somebody,” she said.

Isbester added she would have liked to see council still be able to recite the Lord’s Prayer before meetings as well.

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