Ottawa reconciliation plan to include non-voting elder on council

The City of Ottawa is moving ahead with its five-year reconciliation plan with the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation which will include the addition of a First Nation elder on council.

Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Dylan Whiteduck says having an elder sit as an advisor on city council is a major step forward.

“Although this individual won’t have a voting power or a vote, this is still a very positive step to have someone that we could call and ask what is going on in the City of Ottawa and for that vice-versa,” he says.

Last week, city council voted in favour of implementing the reconciliation plan which will run from this year until 2026.

Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation Chief Wendy Jocko agrees the addition of an elder on council builds upon the relationship between her community and the city.

“I feel that Mayor (Jim) Watson and his council clearly recognize the voice and the presence of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation in the City of Ottawa and recognize the Algonquins as the host nation,” she says.

“So, the appointment of the elder and the ex-officio or the non-voting member certainly is a great step forward.”

Whiteduck says the agreement will also mean the Algonquin Nation has a seat at the table when it comes to development projects.

He says in the past his First Nation has sometimes been kept in the dark on developments such as the proposed Tewin housing project southeast of the city.

“In my opinion, there were some back deals that happened with the City of Ottawa and developers. And we were pushed to the sideline but now that we have a voice and we have someone that’s going to be there to listen about all the ongoing stuff that’s going to be happening with the city, we won’t be blindsided by stuff like this anymore.”

The reconciliation plan has been in the works since 2012 and City of Ottawa official Natali Zuniga acknowledges it has taken time to get it right.

“The host nation put forward certain principles and certain commitments that we need to take into consideration in order to develop this relationship and this collaboration with them,” she says. “And for the city it is important to hear and follow these recommendations.”

The plan will also include the removal of Indigenous-themed mascots and symbols from non-Indigenous city teams and the inclusion of the Anishinabemowin Algonquin language in municipal buildings.

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