The flags of Canada’s first peoples shall now fly forevermore at St. Albert Place.
About 80 people gathered at St. Albert Place Sept. 12 to witness the raising of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations and the Métis Nation of Alberta flags atop two new flagpoles installed earlier this year.
The city has for many years flown the Treaty 6 and Métis flags on the community pole at St. Albert Place to mark specific dates, such as Métis Week or Treaty 6 Day, after which they would be taken down. Recommendation 13 of the 2019 Payhonin Reconciliation report called on the city to consider adding two flagpoles to all municipal flagpole locations so that the two flags might fly permanently.
These flags reflect the city’s commitment to peaceful relations with Indigenous peoples and the important role the Métis and First Nations play in St. Albert, Mayor Cathy Heron told the crowd.
“These flags are an important and tangible symbol that we share this land together in trust as a place we must take care of and leave for generations to come.”
The flag-raising featured performances by traditional First Nations and Métis dancers backed by the earth-shaking drums of Alexander First Nation’s Kipohtakaw Singers. Treaty 6 Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker and Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin also led a grand entry procession in the St. Albert Place lobby.
In what may have been a sign of divine approval, pouring rains outside St. Albert Place ceased just prior to the start of said procession — just like how similarly bad weather lifted before the grand entry at the opening of the St. Albert Healing Garden in September 2017.
Métis Nation of Alberta vice-president Dan Cardinal said these flags were a sign that St. Albert was on the right track when it comes to healing and reconciliation.
“The time has come to recognize the contributions made by Indigenous people to this province and this country,” Cardinal said.
“What better way than to proudly display the flags of our nations?”
The flag ceremony kicked off a free week-long celebration of Indigenous culture and history in St. Albert. Michif Cultural Connections hosted a free talk on Métis history Sept. 13, and St. Albert’s Hazel and Mark McKennitt will demonstrate Indigenous crafts and dance at the Arden Theatre on Sept. 15. Artists such as Maureen Callihoo-Ligtvoet will demonstrate finger-weaving and quill art in the St. Albert Place lobby on Sept. 16.
More work to do
Heron said St. Albert has made progress on many recommendations from the Payhonin report. All city staff and councillors now have access to Indigenous awareness training, for example (recommendations 7 and 8), and the city now has a full-time Indigenous relations co-ordinator (recommendation 5).
“This council has made significant strides, but that can’t end on Oct. 18,” Heron said, referring to the date of the 2021 municipal election.
Heron said she was encouraged to see council candidates at the flag raising and hopes the next council will continue to work on Indigenous relations.
One issue the next council may have to consider is whether to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Sept. 30) as a statutory holiday.
Heron said the current council chose not to do so because it would cost the city about $250,000, but will still observe Orange Shirt Day, which is also on Sept. 30. Council will revisit this issue after the election.
Check stalbert.ca/events for details on this week’s Indigenous cultural activities in St. Albert.