GUELPH – Warden Kelly Linton reflected on the significance of Canada’s first National Truth and Reconciliation Day as he opened the Sept. 30 Wellington County council meeting.
The meeting was held in person in the council chambers at the county’s administration centre in Guelph for the first time in months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On this day, we reflect on the devastating damage residential schools have caused to many Indigenous children and their families. It also reaffirms the universal truth that every child matters,” said Linton.
He laid out a series of actions the county has taken recently to “honour our unique Indigenous roots here in Wellington.”
He began by thanking members of the county’s Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) – Tammy Basetien, Colleen Brunelle, Amber Holmes, Gayle Lambercy and Jennie Matthews – “for all the important work” they have done to explore and promote the county’s Indigenous history and culture.
The warden also thanked the IAC for creating a T-shirt design in recognition of Every Child Matters, and county council members and staff for purchasing and taking photos in the shirts prior to the council meeting “to demonstrate our support for reconciliation efforts.”
All funds raised from the sale of the shirts will be donated to the Anishnabeg Outreach Healing Lodge and Wellness Program, which provides counselling support services for residential school survivors, the warden noted.
Pointing to a newly-installed bronze plaque in the council chamber, Linton stated, “This plaque commemorates the Indigenous Land and Acknowledgement Ceremony held on December 11, 2020. This plaque was smudged by our Indigenous Advisory Committee yesterday.”
Other actions undertaken by the IAC, Linton noted, include creation of a bi-monthly newsletter highlighting National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and making education resources available for county employees.
The warden pointed out a virtual Lunch and Learn session for staff, hosted by the IAC focusing on stories from residential school survivors, was set for that day.
Ten copies of Gord Downie’s Secret Path will be given away to county employees in a draw during the session.
Linton also noted that IAC has promoted Indigenous Canada training to all County of Wellington employees. The free training is offered online through the University of Alberta.
“In addition, in recognition of the important work of the IAC members and supporting their further development, the county is investing in the members by allowing them the opportunity to enrol in an online training bundle through Indigenous Corporate Training,” said Linton.
Topics to be covered include Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Consultation and Engagement, Indigenous Employment, How to Negotiate with Indigenous Peoples as well as Working with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“The county’s actions are not just symbolic gestures,” said Linton.
“They are real, they are authentic, and they are meaningful.”
In addition to thanking the IAC members, Linton also acknowledged CAO Scott Wilson for his leadership on the project and human resources director Susan Farrelly “for your oversight and direction.”
“It’s hard not to be emotional on a day like today,” said Brunelle, as she thanked county officials, “for having the vision to allow us to get this work done.
“We are united in the thought that we never thought we’d see this in this lifetime. Our parents didn’t and neither did our grandparents.”
Brunelle continued, “For the fact that leadership of the County of Wellington has allowed us the time and energy to dedicate to this really important work that we’re doing, we can’t thank you enough.
“Today’s an important day. We’ll be dealing with some tough issues to talk about in our lunch and learn today.
“But we are encouraged that we have saved space for all staff to ask questions as we go through it, because first and foremost we want to ensure that people have a right to ask questions, because that’s the only way they’ll learn and that’s our path to reconciliation.”