City Council unanimously supported a motion to advance the recommendations and Calls to Action embedded within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. From there, an extensive public engagement strategy was launched and Reconciliation Regina was formed. But talk is cheap and it’s time for action.
Most of the Calls to Action focus on provincial and federal levels of government, but there is a lot of meaningful change for us to work on at the municipal level. We also need to ensure that Reconciliation Regina doesn’t possess a monopoly on providing recommendations, especially if it’s slow to act. Here are some meaningful ways for us to proceed. Keep in mind that on-going engagement with Indigenous peoples in the community is crucial. I’ll offer my thoughts based on what I’ve heard so far.
No, the City doesn’t control education in Regina, but Councillors and staff do work with counterparts in the separate and public school systems, so there’s space for dialogue and collaboration. That means addressing educational and employment gaps where our resources and jurisdictions permit. We can also work together to make sure kids can get to school. How about free transit for primary and secondary students? That’s a general benefit for the community at large. During COVID, staff helped to coordinate food delivery programs so that marginalized communities had access to meals that were otherwise provided in schools. We shouldn’t let the end of the pandemic stop that important work. That means getting food to kids so they can learn on full stomachs. We should also talk about proper ceremonial spaces on school property as the City and school boards work together to build new schools in the municipality.
Language and Culture
While this recommendation falls outside the scope of the TRC’s specific Calls to Action, language and culture can and should be represented on street names and signs, park spaces, and on civic buildings.
Health care delivery is a provincial responsibility, but the City’s Official Community Plan speaks to health and wellness. We can start by showing leadership on food security programs and by working with experts, users, community organizations, and the health authority to craft a city-wide addictions strategy. All of this involves partnerships with other levels of government and community members.
Justice and policing are not the same, but at the municipal level this means working with the Regina Police Service and the City to build a comprehensive strategy that takes seriously the findings from the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. That means reflecting on existing policing practices and initiatives. It also means pressuring the province to invest in a meaningful civilian police oversight body, and by reserving more seats on the Board of Police Commissioner for Indigenous residents.
Professional development and training for public servants
Education and training initiatives have already commenced within the City, but we need to make sure that the curriculum is adaptive and reviewed by Indigenous organizations. It’s not enough to learn about colonialism and generational harm; we must act on it and make changes in how we deliver public services and interact with residents.
Youth programs & Sports and Reconciliation
This squarely fits within the municipal jurisdiction. Our Recreation Master Plan even points to the need for Indigenous programming and amenities that represent the people they ostensibly serve. Recreation spaces and services must be reflective of the spirit of the TRC’s Calls to Action. Let’s become a training ground for Aboriginal athletes and athletic programs.
Missing Children and Burial Information
The City has a role to play in acknowledging the Regina Indian Industrial School site and in helping to support the construction of a proper memorial space.
Business and Reconciliation
This is low hanging fruit. For starters, develop a recruitment and retention program that doubles our existing targets for Indigenous City employees. We can also craft a Social Procurement Program that includes, for starters, benchmarks for acquiring goods and services from Indigenous-owned and operated businesses in Regina. This involves partnerships with the Regina Chamber of Commerce, FNUC, the University of Regina, and Indigenous organizations in our community to boost labour market participation rates and empowers the creation of new Urban Reserves. The City of Regina should set benchmarks that Crown Corporations are inspired to follow. Reconciliation Regina should be used as a platform on which to create an Indigenous Consulting Service that works with local businesses to recruit, train, and empower Indigenous youth who are often excluded from employment opportunities because of race. We can use existing grant programs and civic policies to advance such initiatives.
Newcomers to Canada
The City works closely with many newcomer agencies. Let’s ensure that immigrants and migrant workers learn about the history of colonialism and, most importantly, ways for citizens, newcomers, and Indigenous peoples to chart a better path for our city.