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Candidate Q & A: reconciliation

The candidates for the St. Albert municipal election weigh in on how they would approach reconciliation if elected.

Send us your election questions
The Gazette has reached out to all St. Albert candidates with a list of 12 questions, and the answers will run in The Gazette each week as the Oct. 18 election approaches. Question topics touch on taxation, climate, development, funding shortfalls, business, traffic, transparency, reconciliation, the city’s Badger Lands solar-farm project, and more. Now we want to hear from you. What questions are at the top of your mind going into St. Albert’s municipal election? Email us the questions you'd like candidates to answer: [email protected]

With St. Albert’s municipal election trailing Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, there is still much work to be done to address Canada’s colonial present.

In 2019, St. Albert’s Payhonin reconciliation engagement report pinpointed 14 recommendations for the city. More recently, St. Albert allocated $50,000 for a consultant to establish a framework for a guiding committee to lead council on reconciliation matters in the future. 

How do council candidates envision St. Albert following up with, and expanding on, the steps it has already taken toward reconciliation? The Gazette reached out to all candidates running in the St. Albert municipal election to see how they would view reconciliation playing a part in their role, if elected. 

Mayoral candidates had 120 words to answer the question:

Cathy Heron: Authentic relationships and partnerships with our Indigenous community is another large part of my vision. Under my leadership we have come a long way in four years, and we need to build on this momentum. First, we need to complete the recommendations coming out of the Payhonin report. Second, I will work with the new Métis Local here in St. Albert. Third, I would like a memorandum of understanding with Alexander Reserve, our closest neighbour. Fourth, I am committed to creating monuments to acknowledge our two residential schools and the lives lost and pain experienced. Fifth, work with all Indigenous to respectfully bring back community celebrations to Mission Hill.

Angela Wood: Reconciliation is integral to understanding who we are and where we, as a community, want to go. Reconciliation is about awareness and the rebuilding of relationships based on renewed trust. Being Métis and growing up with my Aboriginal heritage woven into our daily practices provided me with a very special and unique understanding of my Aboriginal history. I believe that incorporating awareness, understanding, and the importance of reconciliation is fundamental in the leadership role.

Bob Russell: As mayor I would support reconciliation and trust that council would form a citizens committee to take on this task and advise council what steps we might take to assist in reconciliation.

David Letourneau: Upholding and following through with the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be front and centre, particularly in a city with history such as St. Albert. An important first step of many non-Indigenous Canadians is to become more educated about Canada’s true history. It is the responsibility of the city to ensure accessible resources are available. I am pleased to see that this September the library has started a program called the Indigenous Canada Learning Circle. Having an aboriginal programmer at the Musée Héritage is another step in the right direction. I will continue to support more programming that will encourage learning and difficult conversations. 

Council candidates had 80 words to answer the question:

Sandy Clark: I want to work with the Indigenous community to collaborate and explore future possibilities for projects and initiatives together. I would strive to work together to find a path toward understanding the truths of the past, reconciliation, and collaboration into the future so that we can look to a future of trust and caring while recognizing and embracing our unique differences and in turn facilitating healing for our community and seeking to become united moving forward.

Kevan Jess: I see my role, if elected, to continue to work toward full inclusion — this being the full purpose of community as a neighbour with all persons and those of Indigenous backgrounds in particular. Listening/learning of lived experiences, respecting traditions, and understanding future expectations of all our neighbours will guide me. I have collaborated with residents/officials of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities through my career, but I have much to learn as a neighbour and ally.

Wes Brodhead: For the dream of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be realized in St. Albert, the whole community will need to embrace the reality of our history. Nonetheless, this won’t occur if community leaders are lukewarm in their commitment to reconciliation. Council needs to lead by example and diligently act to support the indigenous community. I support the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation report and the Payhonin report. I will be active in pursuing the implementation of these recommendations.

Gilbert Cantin: In university, I organised a helping project for First Nations in Ecuador. When I worked in Fort McMurray, I spent a full day learning the Canadian First Nation history. To get reconciliation, we must recognize the wrong that was done and move forward with our First Nation friends. When elected I will ask that the land of both ex-residential schools in St. Albert be scanned to make sure we do not have any of the 6,000 missing children. 

Shelley Biermanski: I believe that reconciliation planning is often dictated by those who were never affected. We often have politicians who are not Indigenous speaking of what they believe reconciliation should look like. By listening to different Indigenous groups it can be found what is important to one group is not important to another. Reconciliation to me is first listening and then finding local working solutions together. No one solution will be beneficial to all regions.

Ken MacKay: We must make a commitment to moving forward on addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 12 Calls to Action associated for local governments. This means taking active steps around our community’s role concerning residential school sites and naming policies. I will listen and learn from our Indigenous and Métis community elders and knowledge keepers on moving forward on St. Albert’s Payhonin reconciliation recommendations. I will support cross-cultural learning opportunities that promote awareness, education, and understanding.

Wally Popik: Reconciliation is a front issue and as an elected city representative I would be able to make a meaningful contribution to its progress.  

Rachel Jones: As a councillor, it would be my duty and honour to participate actively in reconciliation. I welcome and look forward to participating in ceremony, building relationships with First Nation and Métis residents, neighbours, and leaders, and continuing to educate myself. I’m a newer resident, and I respectfully acknowledge that St. Albert is on traditional Treaty 6 territory. I have learned that our valley is referred to as “Payhonin” (gathering place) and have taken the pledge to continuing this learning.

Joseph Trapani: As a former councillor and deputy mayor and my time as a city administration officer for city, towns and native community, my extended knowledge of the Municipal Government Act and my experience will assist and help the City of St. Albert move forward.

Donna Kawahara: Reconciliation should be part of every candidate’s campaign. My father was born and lived his first five years in a Cree reservation before being taken from his people. My family has lost their stories and connection to our nation. We have a responsibility to follow the calls to action both now and going forward. I was pleased to attend the Treaty 6 and Métis flag raising in September; this is an excellent example of St. Albert’s commitment to Payhonin.

Ross Guffei: The city has a reconciliation report that was presented to council in September of 2019 including a Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action. I fully support this report and will strive to ensure the recommendations are acted upon. I shuddered when I heard about the mass graves at the residential schools. As a parent and grandfather, I cannot imagine the grief the Indigenous community felt when this was revealed. We owe a tremendous apology to those affected. 

Jennifer Cote: Reconciliation must focus on building relationships of mutual trust, respect, and friendship. The most important role I can play in building these relationships is to listen to the stories as told by those who were most affected by this tragedy, and use the knowledge gained to become part of the solution. Reconciliation will not occur overnight. We must be present for and supportive of those who are ready to share their stories so we can collectively move forward.  

Louis Sobolewski: Reconciliation is an important step forward if we are to come together as a community. For me, reconciliation starts with education, as I realize that I still have so much to learn in regard to the indignities and injustices that the Indigenous peoples have suffered.  

Leonard Wilkins: Reconciliation is an ongoing event and will continue to be part of our community for the foreseeable future. As an elected official, I will stay abreast of the issue and direct the city to support whatever areas we can.

Sheena Hughes: The city has developed and is implementing a reconciliation plan, which I believe is the first one created in the province. Reconciliation comes together with listening, learning, and understanding both the past and present. It is about showing mutual respect and building relationships. The city has started to implement the reconciliation plan and more work needs to be committed to ensure the plan is carried out and not shelved to collect dust.

Shawn Lemay: This is so very close to my heart and soul. As a person of proud Métis background, I chose to focus my political science major on Indigenous self-government. One of our major studies (focus) was on the tragedy of residential schools. And this was back in 1989 — 30-plus years ago. It’s critical that we work with our local First Nations to listen, to involve them in a real, sincere, spirit-driven path of action to true reconciliation. We MUST be unconditionally committed to this path.

Mike Killick: As a parent and grandparent, I can’t possibly imagine how devastated I would feel if anyone took my kids away from me. I will listen to our local Indigenous community, especially the residential school survivors, keep an open mind to try my best to truly understand the tragic reality of residential schools. I would ask our Indigenous community to define their expectations of how St. Albert in partnership with them can move forward to reconciliation with dignity and respect. 

Natalie Joly: My responsibility is to witness, to listen, and to take action. Last year during council’s winter break, I completed the University of Albert’s Indigenous Canada course to invest in this journey. I am also proud that St. Albert is taking steps in our local Payohin Report recommendations, which followed the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. My role on council is to continue this journey and to follow the lead of our Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit partners. 

Mike Ferguson: Taxes, climate change, and transparency are my focus. I am happy to gain an understanding of the subject. I do understand the history and the brutality of what happened in Canada.

Isadore Stoyko: Provide recognition to past and present conditions that would provide potential improvements to the reconciliation activities to our community as a whole.

Rachel Narvey

About the Author: Rachel Narvey

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