By Debbi Christinck
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Pikwakanagan- Ottawa City council created a seat for an Anishinabe Algonquin elder last week, which should be filled in the next term of council, and Chief Wendy Jocko is pleased Indigenous people will have a seat at the table.
“The constitution makes room for inclusion,” she noted. “Mayor (Jim) Watson has taken these positive measures to be inclusive.”
The protocol has been under consideration for over a decade, beginning in 2010, she said.
“Now it is approved by city council,” she said.
Ottawa City council voted unanimously last week to create the seat for the elder to consult and be part of the discussions. The elder will act as an “honourary adviser” with a “symbolic presence” on matters that concern the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation.
However, at this point, they will not have a vote.
Mayor Watson was quoted as saying this is a step to “bridge the divide between First Nations and other residents in our community; we live and serve on their land and I think it would be very helpful to have their perspective at council meetings and perhaps committee meetings.”
The logistics of how the elder is chosen are still being determined and will likely be finalized by the new council voted in this fall. For Chief Jocko, it is important to continue to have Pikwakanagan as a presence in discussion and considerations.
She said it is important to note former Chief Kirby Whiteduck played an important role in working on the relationship with the city and the specific protocols. The fruition of his hard work is very evident, she added.
“So, it is a good thing to see it happen, but we want to ensure Pikwakanagan’s voice continues to be heard,” she said.
Having a seat at the table is important for First Nations people, the chief said.
“Indigenous people have had a difficult history in Canada, and I think it’s time that we do take a seat at the table,” she said.
“Intergenerational trauma has lasting impacts, including on someone’s ability to run for council. Barriers are still very much present; it can be such an intimidating system.”
She pointed out the Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, guarantees the protection of “Aboriginal and treaty rights” for the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples of Canada.
“The visionaries who framed the Constitution, particularly this provision, sought to create a real commitment that Canada would collaborate with the Indigenous peoples,” she said. “They intended that Canada would make substantial efforts for inclusion rather than confining itself to a legacy of empty rhetoric and a few words strung together in a constitutional document.”
Chief Jocko said many of the great political minds advocate a proportional representation system and the newly approved City of Ottawa, Algonquin Anishinabe Nation Civic Cultural Protocol and Implementation Plan is committed to respectful inclusion and collaboration.
“Mayor Watson and his council clearly recognize the voice and presence of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation as the Indigenous Host Nation in Ottawa,” she said.
The appointment of an Algonquin Anishinabe Nation Elder to sit as an ex-officio City Council member is a positive step and she looks forward to seeing how it is implemented, Chief Jocko said.
Debbi Christinck is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of THE EGANVILLE LEADER . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI government funding.