June marks National Indigenous History Month. It’s a time to highlight the incredible contributions, varied cultures, and distinct heritage of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, while paying tribute to them as an integral part of Canadian society. Kitchener rests on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Neutral peoples. Each group has a distinct culture, language, and traditions, which have been an essential part of this land for countless generations. 

At the City of Kitchener, Council members and staff are committed to furthering our understanding of the history and current reality of Indigenous peoples and addressing the deep-rooted, systemic anti-Indigenous racism that exists today. The work of reconciliation is complicated, challenging and requires a critical eye on how power is distributed in organizations and embedded within structures. 

In 2019, we committed ourselves to responding to Call to Action #57 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which began with the launch of intercultural competency training focusing on history, treaties, legislation and impact on First Nations, Metis and Inuit. In addition to classroom training, we have launched programming around days of significance, such as the development of learning toolkits and resources for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

We recognize that reconciliation entails adopting various approaches, such as the way we plan our parks and open spaceswhom we support with grant funding; how we design our training; and how we make decisions regarding our street and place names. 

The Renaming of Indian Road is an ongoing project that aligns with the Ontario Human Rights Commission's direction to recognize the enduring impact of colonialism on Indigenous peoples and the negative impacts the discriminatory display of names and images has on individuals and groups. 

Our parks and cemeteries team continues to work to build relationships with Indigenous and Urban Indigenous communities to transform park spaces like Huron Natural Area into places that better represent past and present Indigenous communities, art, culture and reflect current Indigenous initiatives. These dedicated gathering spaces will be a place for communities to hold ceremonies and celebrate cultural traditions. The city is also working on a number of initiatives focusing on Indigenous engagement and reconciliation. The Uniroyal Goodrich Planting project is a part of the LoveMyHood grant in which Wisahkotewinowak and a group of Mount Hope neighborhoods are planning to plant Indigenous plantings in Uniroyal Goodrich Park and around the nearby stormwater management pond. Our neighborhood development office is supporting this project. 

The RISE Fund is another key initiative to support Indigenous communities. The fund is a community grant that provides support for Black, Indigenous and racialized community-led organizations, programs, initiatives or events meant to decrease inequities and increase opportunities and well-being for those same communities in Kitchener. 

We acknowledge that we still have a long way to go toward reconciliation and eliminating discrimination against Indigenous peopleI urge all Kitchener residents to recognize National Indigenous History Month by learning about the history of Indigenous peoples. We need to reflect on the tragic facts of the Residential School system and acknowledge their presence in contemporary history. Each of us can do our part by committing to learning more, attending a local event, supporting an Indigenous business or artist or making a donation to a local Indigenous organization. 

Mayor Berry Vrbanovic on behalf of Kitchener Council