The recent discovery in Kamloops of a mass grave holding the bodies of 215 Indigenous children has renewed calls for governments to take substantive action on the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.
Lethbridge City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to advance the Indigenous Place-making Strategy a year ahead of its originally-scheduled start to now begin work in 2021. Council had previously approved this Strategy – that includes a review and audit of the public spaces, markers and language used by the City – as part of the 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program (CIP). A minimum two-thirds vote was required to re-open the CIP.
The City of Lethbridge is responsible for the public spaces in our community, such as City-owned parks, neighbourhoods and facilities, certain historical markers, as well as the naming of public infrastructure and spaces.
"Residents are looking to their local governments for change," says Councillor Jeff Coffman, who proposed the resolution. "Undertaking an audit of our public spaces, done through the lenses of Truth and Reconciliation and Inclusion, would allow our community to have a conversation around place-making and possibly determine outcomes where public spaces can further define us as a community."
"The Public Realm in Lethbridge currently lacks a reflection of Blackfoot and other Indigenous peoples' culture," says Perry Stein, Indigenous Relations Advisor. "This represents an opportunity to approach Reconciliation from a different perspective and one that will reach new audiences and meaningfully contribute to the City's social, economic and environmental fabric."
In order to advance the Indigenous Place-making Strategy, Council had to amend the June 1, 2021 Regular Meeting of Council decision on the Indigenous Place-making Strategy – Section D, page 17 of the 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program. The full details can be found on page 117 here.
As part of the resolution, Council voted to revise the funding source for the Indigenous Place-making Strategy to Major Capital Projects Reserve from the Community Project Unfunded Section. As well, the City Manager is to include regular updates on the work of the Indigenous Place-making Strategy as part of City Council's Work Plan and present City Council with the findings of the public spaces audit and recommendations for further action, no later than February 28, 2022.