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Politics ᐊ ᓃᑳᓂᔅᑭᑭᓂᐧᐃᒡ ᐊᐱᑎᓰᐧᐃᓐ

Montreal’s reconciliation strategy aims to improve lives of Indigenous residents, build relations with Indigenous governments

BY Ben Powless Dec 3, 2020

Montreal announced a new reconciliation strategy in early November, with the goal of improving the city’s treatment of Indigenous residents and relations with Indigenous leadership, including the Cree Nation Government (CNG). 

The strategy comes after two years of consultations carried out with 30 Indigenous-focused organizations by the city’s commissioner of Indigenous affairs, Marie-Ève Bordeleau, who is of Cree heritage from Waswanipi. 

The five-year plan contains 125 commitments divided into seven objectives, including developing government-to-government relations, supporting the urban Indigenous community, improving Indigenous residents’ sense of security, dealing with Indigenous homelessness, and supporting Indigenous cultures.

At the launching of the initiative, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the city is committed to the reconciliation process, but that there was only so much a city can do, with things like funding commitments requiring the participation of the provincial and federal governments. The strategy’s launch was delayed from the spring due to the Covid pandemic.

“Today, the City of Montreal commits to developing and maintaining strong relationships with its First Nations and Inuit partners. Collaboration is more than ever essential to ensuring the quality of life and security of Montreal’s urban Indigenous community,” Plante stated in the strategy.

Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, is quoted in the strategy: “The essence of the principle of reconciliation is rooted in the traditional values that forge our cultural identity as Indigenous peoples. We are proud that this heritage can be translated today into the actions put forward by the leadership of the city of Montreal.”

There were over 35,000 Indigenous residents in Montreal, a growth of 211% since 2001, representing 0.7% of the city’s total population. 

The strategy comes after repeated criticisms of discrimination and racism by the city and province. A 2019 report showed that Indigenous peoples in Montreal were 460% more likely to be stopped by police than white people, and Indigenous women were 1,100% more likely to be stopped than white women. 

The 2019 Public Inquiry Commission on Relations between Indigenous Peoples and Certain Public Services in Quebec (aka the Viens Commission) report made 142 calls to action in response to racism against Indigenous peoples across Quebec. 

Montreal’s public consultation office also issued a report in 2020 detailing systemic racism and discrimination across the city.

Commissioner Bordeleau said that the strategy was inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) calls to action, which recommended all levels of government start their own reconciliation processes. 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.