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FORUM (JULY 2017): Recognize and reconcile Canada at 150

August 1st, 2017 · 1 Comment

Take personal actions to work towards reconciliation

By Mike Layton

As festivities wind down from Canada’s 150th birthday, we are granted an important opportunity to look back at where we have been as a nation and chart our course for the nation we want to become.

Many of the Canada 150 celebrations focused on the most recent history of our nation, but missed the opportunity to recognize the inhabitants of Canada prior to colonization and confederation, especially what has happened to Canada’s Indigenous people in the 150 years we are celebrating. We missed a key learning moment in our nation’s history.

“One step that city council can take is the establishment of the Aboriginal Affairs Office.”

Don’t let Canada 150 pass by without seizing this opportunity to learn about the Indigenous people who lived here in the thousands of years before colonization, and the impact of colonization on the Aboriginal people who live in our city and across our country.

In Toronto, we often isolate ourselves from Indigenous issues. It’s too often assumed that the intergenerational trauma that is the legacy of the residential school system, the lack of safe drinking water, and other pressing issues are only felt on reserves, away from our city.

With more than 60,000 Aboriginal people living in Toronto, the issues are very real and we have unique opportunities to participate in the reconciliation effort. We have a duty to future generations to begin the process of reconciliation, first by learning, and then by taking action.

On June 21 at the annual sunrise ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square, the City of Toronto ceremonially unfurled the flags of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Huron Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Metis, and the Inuit. A symbolic gesture, but a meaningful one — these flags will remain, permanently.

These flags, along with other ceremonial changes Toronto City Council has made in recent years, show a willingness to change and a desire to learn, but where we have failed is in our commitment to take concrete steps along the road to reconciliation and to fund real action.

One step that city council can take is the establishment of the Aboriginal Affairs Office. The Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee, of which I have the honour of serving as co-chair, has repeatedly made this request. An Aboriginal Affairs Office would provide a resource to the Aboriginal community, Aboriginal organizations and city divisions, and would assist in addressing issues facing the Aboriginal community and implementing the reconciliation agenda. City council will vote on this issue in the fall.

As individuals, we can also take personal actions to work towards reconciliation.

Take every opportunity to learn about Canada’s Indigenous communities. Join one of the many Aboriginal organizations across Toronto working on reconciliation events and programs, or attend any one of the many Aboriginal events this summer.

Support Aboriginal businesses large and small, including some of the great new Aboriginal restaurants in Toronto like Nish Dish at Clinton and Bloor streets.

Overcoming the intergenerational trauma that is the result of the residential school system and working toward shared prosperity begins with learning and a shared understanding of our common history, but moves forward with meaningful actions made by each of us individually and together as a society.

Mike Layton is the councillor for Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina.



ARTS: Examining pre-Confederation treaties (May 2017)

NEWS: Reclaiming the Anishinaabe past (April 2017)

LIFE: Indigenous Games coming in July (March 2017)

NEWS: Building a stronger relationship (February 2017)

FOCUS ON EDUCATION: Decolonizing our schools (December 2016)

FOCUS ON EDUCATION: Building a respectful future (November 2016)

HISTORY: Honouring those who honour history (October 2016)

NEWS: U of T committee tasked with responding to Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivers interim report (August 2016)

ON THE COVER: Tracking history in the Annex (April 2016)



FORUM: San Francisco a model to follow (April 2017)

FORUM: Tolls, taxes, and Toronto (February 2017)

FORUM: Seeing our neighbourhood through new eyes (December 2016)

Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion

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