Hundreds turned out to an event at Civic Plaza Friday (June 4) to honour the 215 Indigenous children discovered at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops. The event was hosted by Skookum Lab, part of the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Surrey councillor plans to acknowledge First Nations communities at next meeting

Annis says it's the 'right and respectful thing to do' despite mayor's refusal to do so

Surrey Councillor Linda Annis says she will acknowledge First Nations communities at the next council meeting on Monday (June 28) if Mayor Doug McCallum again refuses to do so.

“Acknowledging our Indigenous people is the right and respectful thing to do,” said Annis in an emailed statement Thursday (June 24). “The fact that the mayor refuses to do that doesn’t mean individual councillors can’t do it when we first speak in council.

“Reconciliation is something all of us want, and the mayor’s refusal to do something that every level of government is doing across the country, is an embarrassment for our city and frankly, it’s disrespectful.”

SIMPSON: Surrey’s refusal to acknowledge First Nations land was terrible look – now it’s even worse, June 1, 2021

According to the City of Surrey’s website, which acknowledges it’s on the traditional territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Qayqayt and Tsawwassen First Nations, the city is now home to the largest urban Indigenous population in B.C., with more than 13,000 calling Surrey home.

The city’s site states the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada exposed the “terrible legacy” of the Indian Residential School System and the on-going trauma for survivors.

“The city is taking a proactive response to the call to action by the TRC,” the City of Surrey website says.

The Now-Leader has reached out to the City of Surrey for comment.

While land acknowledgments were not part of the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action, Regional Chief Terry Teegee has previously stated, “If the city cannot acknowledge whose lands they work, how can Surrey be trusted to advance reconciliation and First Nations issues?”

Teegee’s comments were in response to McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition defeating a motion from Councillor Jack Hundial in January 2021 to acknowledge city meetings are held on Coast Salish territory.

READ ALSO: McCallum says First Nations are treated ‘better in Surrey literally than anywhere’, Jan. 13, 2021

At the time, McCallum said the city doesn’t need to acknowledge that its council and committee meetings are being held on First Nations land before every meeting, while at the same time claiming “we treat them better in Surrey than literally anywhere.”

“I think we’re doing an excellent job currently and the First Nations are happy with what we’re doing.”

Meantime, McCallum, as chair for the Surrey Police Board, opens the monthly meetings with a land acknowledgment.

“The Surrey Police Board recognizes that our work takes place on the ancestrial (sic) and traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish people.”

– With files from Tom Zytaruk

READ ALSO: Indigenous land acknowledgment to open Delta council meetings, public events, Feb. 17, 2021

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