Dear Mayor and Council Members,
On October 29 Victoria Taylor, a land-based practitioner and professional landscape architect, made a thoughtful deputation to Council concerning the municipal duty to consult Indigenous Peoples on planning matters.
The reaction of some Councillors showed a disturbing lack of awareness of this duty and what it means specifically for our elected officials and the Municipality. Planning staff and the County have a legal duty to consult Indigenous Peoples under the Planning Act, and specifically, under the Provincial Policy Statement 2020 to engage with indigenous communities and consider their interests. Professional planners also have an ethical duty to consult under our provincial and national Codes of Practice.
This duty is not, contrary to what some Councillors may think, a duty to “keep the Mohawks updated” while continuing development as usual, nor an excuse to block development for one’s own purposes. Rather it is a duty of public service, required by law, to engage with Indigenous communities including First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Of the 94 Calls to Action under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) the very least we can do is uphold the law and engage meaningfully with indigenous peoples.
To honour the spirit and intent of TRC, as much as uphold the law, we must do this in an open and transparent manner on all matters of planning that are deemed in the publics’ interests’ and the legacies that shape our shared future. This holds for any application to amend the Official Plan to re-zone or for long term planning: it is the responsibility of the Municipality, and therefore of both public servants and elected officials.
In the development rush that has become the new norm in Prince Edward County, Council should expect to take seriously their legal duty and develop respectful protocols for indigenous engagement. Council should take careful note of Halton Region’s leadership in retaining an indigenous planning consultant to broker engagement outreach and partnership development (see: https://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/10233904–tremendous-step-forward-halton-hires-well-known-indigenous-adviser/).
As a first step, Council is better advised to start with the basics and enrol in Indigenous Cultural Training, which recent behaviour suggests should be mandatory for all elected officials, just as it is for senior public service leaders.
Prof. Nina-Marie Lister
Graduate Program Director
School of Urban & Regional Planning