June 21 is National Indigenous People’s Day – a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit & Métis peoples.  

Kitchener sits on the traditional territories of the Anishnaabe, Haudenosaunee and Neutral peoples. Each group has their own unique culture, languages and traditions. Today, and every day, it is important to recognize and celebrate the diversity of Indigenous groups across the world, and at home.    

At the City of Kitchener, staff and Council are committed to continue deepening our understanding of the history and current reality of Indigenous peoples, and addressing longstanding, systemic anti-Indigenous racism that exists in our community and in our organization. We know we have a long way to go. The work of reconciliation is complex, uncomfortable, and requires critical reflection on how power is distributed in our organizations and institutions.     

The journey of reconciliation at the City includes developing relationships and engaging with Indigenous communities and organizations, providing Indigenous competency training for staff and finding opportunities to explore cultural ceremony and celebration. More recently, the city welcomed a Senior Indigenous Advisor, who plays a key role in advancing initiatives that are Indigenous-centred, removing barriers to municipal spaces and services, addressing anti-Indigenous racism and developing and maintaining relationships with local Indigenous communities.  

Reconciliation also means approaching things differently: from how we plan our parks and open spaces, to who we support with grant money, to making decisions about our street and place names.  

Recently the city provided a LoveMyHood matching grant to a group of Kitchener residents, including Indigenous community members and allies, to install a crosswalk in Victoria Park to honour the Every Child Matters movement. The honorary crosswalk, which will be unveiled this September, will be a tribute to the Indigenous children that were lost, and those who still live with the generational trauma that was caused by Residential schools.    

We will soon be announcing the first recipients of our Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Equity (RISE) Fund. From gardening projects to mentorship programs, home visits for seniors, and employment supports for racialized women, the six community groups selected are doing positive and transformational work with Black, Indigenous and racialized communities in Kitchener.  

I encourage all Kitchener residents to recognize National Indigenous People’s Day by learning about the history of Indigenous peoples, including the devastating truth about the Residential School system. You can also attend a local event, support an Indigenous business or artist or donate to a local Indigenous organization.