The city is planning on moving forward with reconciliation efforts this year after a presentation was heard at council’s government and priorities committee on April 6.

Yellowknife city council conducted business via videoconference during the April 6 government and priorities committee meeting.

Senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett presented a list of items proposed for the municipality to move forward with reconciliation, which include the creation of signs in the downtown core that would include the Wilideh Yati language.

During budget discussion last December, council decided not to extend the city’s federally-funded Indigenous relations adviser position held by Maggie Mercredi. Her last day of work was on Feb. 21.

City councillor Stacie Smith had attempted to save the position in December, however, her efforts didn’t receive enough of council’s support.

Bassi-Kellett said $50,000 has been budgeted for 2020 to support reconciliation efforts that include upgraded signage, an Elder-in-residence and the creation of an intercultural plan to recognize Indigenous history and significance.

The city’s proposals will be voted on during the next regular council meeting, scheduled for April 14.

Signage with Indigenous language was among the noted items by council during the committee meeting. Bassi-Kellett said it’s an idea the city is excited about and credited the public works department for coming up with it.

“We are proposing to start to do this in core areas of downtown to start with and then Old Town and Ndilo and look at spreading out elsewhere,” Bassi-Kellett told council. “Our priority areas are downtown, where most people come and see the stop signs and make the connection.”

Bassi-Kellett said the city is working with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation for correct spellings and history.

The city is also looking at hiring a strategic adviser on reconciliation matters at city hall – to work about 10 days a year and establish an internal committee comprising at least 50 per cent Indigenous municipal staff to help implement the city’s reconciliation plan.

Bassi-Kellett said a number of details are yet to be worked out on the issue of having reconciliation advisers.

Coun. Julian Morse, who chairs the city’s Heritage Committee, said there is plenty of work the city has been doing to advance reconciliation that should be considered “precedent setting.”

“I think there was a little bit of perception when the funding ran out for the relations adviser that the city was abandoning reconciliation,” Morse said, noting that there are partnership efforts with the YKDFN, which has had a membership seat on the city’s heritage committee for five years. “So there are lots of cases where we’re moving reconciliation forward in different ways — and I think ways that (they) could be considered precedent-setting for communities in Canada such as doing the boundary change that the city did with YKDFN.”

Mayor Rebecca Alty said in an interview last week that while the city’s reconciliation plan is to be presented in June, the city wants partner with Indigenous groups in the city like the YKDFN and the North Slave Metis Alliance to implement projects that could show the city’s commitment to reconciliation as per the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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