For the first time, the City of Flin Flon has named a committee specifically to encourage reconciliation and bring forward Indigenous issues.
City council approved a measure to create an official team devoted to reconciliation and addressing Indigenous needs. Council confirmed the creation of the team and approved the appointment of members to it during its Nov. 16 meeting, heralding the team as a step forward for the City.
The team, which had already met ahead of the Nov. 16 meeting, will consist of six members - two elected city councillors, one City of Flin Flon employee and three Indigenous community leaders. The three leaders are Margaret Head-Steppan, Elder with the Flin Flon Aboriginal Friendship Centre and proprietor of the Eagle Rose Holistic Healing and Training Lodge, as well as mental health facilitator Donna Head and Naomi Umphrey, the owner of Green Street Convenience. Colleen Arnold and Tim Babcock will represent council, along with Jaimie Fleuty, the City’s communications and marketing coordinator.
“We want to recognize the need and that we need to work together. We are committed to reconciling with Indigenous people in Flin Flon and area. We want all citizens to feel included and welcomed in Flin Flon,” said Arnold at the meeting.
Among the team’s responsibilities, Arnold said, would be to increase awareness and education on Indigenous issues for City employees and to increase partnerships between the City and Indigenous groups. Despite being officially incorporated in 1933, City management had not entered into a partnership with a specifically Indigenous group until 2018, when the City ratified terms with One North, part of the group that brought the Hudson Bay Railway back to operation.
“We meet and we come up with different ideas for how the City can do that,” said Arnold.
“We're coming up with ideas and recommendations to take to council to incorporate. We’ve just started, but we’ve got some good ideas for how we can make people feel more welcome into our community and feel a part of the City of Flin Flon, for all citizens.”
Babcock said early meetings for the team have focused on building trust and a positive relationship within the group, stating that further discussions between Indigenous people and leaders and the City would need to take place.
“We’ve had two or three meetings so far and so far, the theme has definitely been unity. The people on the committee, there’s so many years of experience there, but partnerships take time and there’s a relationship that needs to be built.”
“This is something that is long overdue and we know we have some heavy lifting to do to get to where we should be. This is the first step in reaching those goals.”
“It’s a new committee for the City of Flin Flon, but I think it fits very well with regard to the direction, culturally, that the whole country is going. It makes perfect sense for us,” said Mayor Cal Huntley.
“We look forward to that. It’s just the beginning.”
Councillor Karen MacKinnon added that making a priority of reconciliation was outlined in the City’s strategic plan, released publicly back in 2019.
“This is fulfilling part of our plan as we move along and it’s a very important part of the plan,” said MacKinnon.
“A big part of this is listening.”
Arnold, who in her first remarks upon being elected to council in 2018 mentioned the need for Indigenous services in Flin Flon, said that ensuring a good working relationship between the City and Indigenous people and leaders had to be a priority.
“We have to build a relationship, first of all, between all groups. How we do that, that’s what we’re working on first. That will lead to more partnerships and bigger goals,” she said.