All public proceedings in the Region of Peel will now begin with a formal Indigenous land acknowledgement. The decision was approved by Regional Council in December 2019, and is meant to recognize the “historic and present inhabitants” of Peel.
This acknowledgement embraces the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, including other Indigenous groups that have been “inhabited and cared for” Peel for thousands of years.
According to Indigenous U of T, a land acknowledgement is a statement formally recognizing “the unique and enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous peoples and their traditional territories.”
The recommendations, which included a formalized land acknowledgement, were published in an October 2019 report by the Diversity, Equity and Anti-Racism Committee (DEAR). The report proposed a revised land acknowledgement demonstrating Peel’s commitment to “diversity, equity, inclusion and antiracism.”
“Land acknowledgement is a start to building awareness of the Indigenous peoples and honouring the people who lived and worked on the lands in the Region of Peel,” wrote Catherine Matheson, Commissioner of Corporate Services.
The report also supported the recommended calls to action released by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in 2015. In particular, the report asks Peel Region to support Action 57, which calls upon all levels of government to promote the education of the “history of Indigenous peoples” and of the “Treaties and Indigenous rights.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigates historical accounts of residential schools and works to promote healing and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
Regional Council was originally advised through a September 2017 report that a land acknowledgement would be made at the beginning of the meeting held during Treaties Recognition Week. As a result, Regional Council meetings that took place closest to Treaties Week from 2017 to 2019 opened with a land acknowledgement.
According to the Region of Peel, the land acknowledgement promotes understanding of colonial history, while continually building mindfulness and participation in the present day.
Indigenous land acknowledgements are commonly recited before public events and gatherings across Canada. In recent years, feedback on the usage of land acknowledgements has prompted discussion on their impact on reconciliation efforts.
“Beginning with a land acknowledgement is a sign of respect and it is appreciated. However, it should be viewed as a beginning and not the finish,” said Mississaugas First Nation Chief R. Stacey Laforme at a news conference. He added that the acknowledgement should reflect both parties’ efforts “toward learning, understanding, and moving forward in a good way.”
“If an organization or municipality views the acknowledgement as, ‘that’s it, we have done our part,’ then please don’t bother,” Chief LaForme said.
In a statement published by Mississauga News, Peel Region said that “embedding the practice of land acknowledgments is only one small step toward reconciliation efforts.”
The revised Peel Regional land acknowledgement was developed in consultation with the University of Toronto (U of T), amongst other local Indigenous-group participants.
Across all U of T campuses, the land acknowledgement statement is used at certain ceremonies, such as convocation, groundbreakings, and building openings.
U of T Indigenous welcomes “all members of the university community” to use the statement at university events “where appropriate.”