For the last 7 years, I have celebrated September 30 as Orange Shirt Day, and this year, it is also the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The creation of this statutory holiday is one important way to publicly honour and commemorate Survivors and all those lost to the hands of the residential school system. Its creation and observation fulfils #80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: 94 Calls to Action, and is a step on the journey towards reconciliation. However, we are still just at the beginning.
Systemic and systematic racism, discriminatory legislation and policies, and the legacy of genocide are too often framed as moments from the past—some “dark chapter.” We must remain conscious of the racism and discrimination that continues to disproportionately marginalize, hurt, and kill Indigenous peoples today. In order to continue the work of reconciliation, we need to establish, repair, and maintain mutually respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples on personal, political, and systemic levels.
No one living on Turtle Island today is exempt from the responsibility of reconciliation. As a guest on Treaty 7 territory, I am committed to advancing reconciliation in my daily life and in the work I do. I know that whatever I say here means little unless it is followed up by active effort to listen to, refer to, and follow Indigenous peoples as they lead, and then support action and accountability towards reconciliation.
Running for City Council brings with it some tensions. The seat I’m running for, and the government it leads, is a settler government that branches from harmful, painful, discriminatory, and oppressive roots. Yet, it is the government we have here, and yes, it has to change. I realized that no matter how much community organizing I’ve done, it was still up to Council to make decisions that shape our lives here in Calgary. I am privileged enough to put my name forward and I do not shy away from the responsibility to make positive change in our city, and not only talk about equity, but act on it.
I do not have all the answers, but I know what I stand for and who I stand for. Do not confuse this with me saying that I know who I speak for: I can only speak for myself—but I am listening to Indigenous voices. My vision for Calgary identifies initial actions to further build equity, inclusion and reconciliation in our city, and the need for The City to fulfill recommendations from the White Goose Flying Report.
However, this list is incomplete. I will work in partnership with Indigenous communities and leaders to determine priorities and enable Indigenous-led solutions to crises such as housing, mental health, addictions, and employment. I will work in partnership with Indigenous communities and leaders to create Indigenous-led programs and events to amplify education, cultural competency, celebration, and community.
I am still learning. I will own my mistakes and missteps, but I will not make excuses. I will strive to respectfully work, plan and build with, not for, Indigenous peoples. I am here to listen, collaborate, and champion Indigenous-led initiatives and solutions for Indigenous peoples living in and visiting Calgary. I resolve to continue my journey and commitment to reconciliation today and every day.
- Read Phyllis Webstad’s story
- Calgary Foundation’s list of events for National Truth & Reconciliation Day
- Watch The City of Calgary Live Stream event at noon on Thursday Sept 30
If you are feeling distress after reading this, there is help available:
Indigenous-specific 24-Hour Crisis Lines:
National Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line:
Hope for Wellness help line
- For chat option, visit the Hope for Wellness website
KUU-US Crisis Phone Line
- For other numbers, visit the KUU-US Crisis Line Society website
Other Crisis support:
Distress Centre Calgary:
- For other contact options, visit the Distress Centre website
Alberta Health Services Addiction and Mental Health Help Line
- More information available here