Town councillor’s comments not appropriate or acceptable
To the Editor:
Treaty 8 Territory Driftpile Cree Nation – The Chief and Council of Driftpile Cree Nation wishes to condemn and express its deep disappointment in statements made by Town of Slave Lake Councillor Joy McGregor regarding the Indigenous homeless community in and around Slave Lake.
Most troubling was Joy McGregor’s statement that “we need to stop being so nice to them, we need to stop feeding them and need to stop doing all these wonderful things” [for the Indigenous homeless] as elements in her proposed plan to “get these people home” to their “settlements” and “communities”.
Driftpile Cree Nation is of the view that neither the approach, nor the language used by Councillor McGregor are appropriate or acceptable – particularly in an era of reconciliation between First Nations and Canada.
Further these comments reflect a gross or willful ignorance about the root causes of the problem as well as a troubling lack of will to come together to resolve these issues in partnership with First Nations.
Put simply, what is manifesting as homelessness and/or drug and alcohol addiction today is the direct result of our peoples’ forced disconnection from our land, culture and community by Canadian colonization.
We are seeing the immediate impacts of the intergenerational trauma created by residential schools, the subsequent 60s Scoop, and the abuses that were continued within the child welfare system. Finally, we are seeing the pernicious effects of systemic racism and the attendant lack of equal opportunity for success in society.
We do not raise these facts to blame or finger point as that is unproductive and divisive. Rather, we raise these facts because we believe it is important that we begin with an understanding of the role colonial policies and practices have played (and continue to play) in creating the current situation and that we move forward with a shared responsibility for fixing the issues that have been created.
We are all part of a wider community in Canada and it is only by working together with a shared sense of responsibility and mutual cooperation that we can succeed in solving these complex problems. Indeed, this is precisely what reconciliation calls for.
We recognize that Treaty 8 territory suffers from a serious homelessness problem and we have a significant interest in resolving this pressing issue. To that end, Barbara Courtorielle, the Executive Director of the Slave Lake Aboriginal Friendship Centre worked diligently to rezone a provincially-owned building to be part of the solution for the homeless community.
Unfortunately, on November 3, 2020 the Slave Lake Town Council rejected the rezoning proposal put forward. We are and continue to be deeply disappointed by the lack of partnership shown by the Town of Slave Lake in this regard and the us/them attitude demonstrated by the Town Council.
At this time, I am calling on our members to move away from supporting Slave Lake’s economy. Similarly, we will not be making any further capital expenditures in Slave Lake until such time as we receive a public apology for the callous, cruel and racist comments made by Councillor McGregor.
It is our sincere hope that the Town of Slave Lake Council will take the opportunity to reflect on this incident and this letter and extend a hand to us in partnership so that we may work together with compassion, kindness, and mutual understanding toward a resolution that will be effective rather than one rooted in intolerance, contempt and a lack of understanding. Effective solutions are to be found in the former and are rarely, if ever found in the latter.
We as First Nations People have always been resilient and will continue to move forward regardless of the opinions of those who choose to continue to speak from an uneducated manner.
We look forward to having meaningful dialogue with you to begin of what we hope is a more constructive relationship in the spirit of unity.
Chief and Council
Driftpile Cree Nation