By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Lethbridge County Council has established a committee which will be tasked with bringing forward options for Indigenous land acknowledgement statements which would be read at the start of future council meetings.
The agenda report noted, “most councils throughout the province do some form of land acknowledgement within their municipality.”
Reeve Tory Campbell noted during the March 2 council meeting, “I think that there is tremendous opportunity that lies here in southern Alberta that transcends what we are talking about today. The Blood have a tremendous opportunity in front of them as far as agriculture goes.”
He added, “I think if we look at our strategic plan and how it speaks to good governance, region, and prosperity, there is opportunity in front of us. I think a big piece of that moving forward is that reconciliation piece. Having said that I think having discussions with council we want to make sure we are all on board with this and we are all understand our role.”
Coun. Lorne Hickey spoke in agreement to form a Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee noting, “I think it is an excellent opportunity to have dialogue with our neighbours which we have not done a very good job of in the past.”
The agenda item was outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee Bylaw #23-007.
Following some discussion, Coun. Eric Van Essen said, “I don’t feel that this is following the intent of what was discussed, and also that this is much larger than the intention of what we do for a land acknowledgment and if we do (a land acknowledgement). I would not be able to support it as it is.”
Council discussed the possibility of adopting a land acknowledgement similar to one recently read by Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, the Honourable Salma Lakhani. Deputy Reeve John Kuerbis paraphrased Lakhani’s address as follows:
“In the true spirit of reconciliation we recognize all those that call this land home now and for the thousands (of years) in the past and may we respect each other and find understanding together.”
Coun. Klaas VanderVeen sponsored a motion to implement the statement iterated by Kuerbis moments earlier.
Reeve Campbell spoke in opposition to adopting any statement at that time noting, “I can’t support that because I think it is important that we have a discussion of what that land acknowledgement is.”
Council eventually passed a motion to strike a committee with three council members and two administrative staff and have them bring back a potential land acknowledgement statement for council’s consideration.
The original committee structure as outlined in the draft proposal included two members from the community at large as well. However, the motion to form a committee to discuss the matter was amended to only include County council members and administration.