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Indigenous leader calls Surrey decision against land acknowledgements 'disappointing'

Last Updated Jan 15, 2021 at 11:58 am PST

Surrey City Hall (NEWS 1130 File Photo)

Council's decision to not add a territorial acknowledgement before meetings is disappointing to Indigenous leader

B.C. Assembly of First Nation says lack of land acknowledgement before Surrey meetings not in line with reconciliation

Regional chief calling on Surrey city council to revisit motion to add land acknowledgement before meetings

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – The decision by Surrey city council to not add a territorial acknowledgement to the start of their meetings is not sitting well with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.

Mayor Doug McCallum and his four affiliated councillors voted down a motion from councillor Jack Hundial on Monday, saying they already do land acknowledgements at the start of civic events, and that First Nations leaders seem happy with the status quo.

However, Regional Chief Terry Teegee disagrees, calling the decision “a complete disappointment.”

“Especially in today’s world of talking about reconciliation and talking about undertones of racism,” he explains. “And I think you know that the recognition of the Coast Salish people is really something that doesn’t take much and it’s just a recognition of the rightful people in the territory.”

He believes the decision speaks to “the ongoing, difficult relationship that many First Nations have with different levels of government.” He adds such a decision not only perpetuates the issue of racism, but also delegitimizes the rightful people of the territory.

“The city hasn’t been there hundreds of years. The First Nations have been there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years,” Teegee tells NEWS 1130.

Pointing to recent reports from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as B.C.’s move to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he says Surrey’s decision is not in line with what needs to happen to mend relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Related article: Surrey council rejects motion to recognize Indigenous land

He’s calling on the city to reconsider the motion, pressing councillors and the mayor to recognize the impact their decisions have.

“There’s a reason why they’re (land acknowledgements) are so important. It’s a recognition of the Indigenous peoples that have been here since time immemorial and it’s a recognition that these are unceded lands and territories that our First Nations have legitimate governance [of],¬†we have legitimate claims to these lands,” he explains.

“And I think it’s recognizing that we’ve never given up these lands, and recognizing the Indigenous peoples of these lands is quite important in terms of recognizing that there’s a long history with Indigenous peoples on these lands, long before Canada, long before British Columbia, long before the City of Surrey has been around,” Teegee continues, adding land acknowledgements are a sign of respect, tolerance, and commitment.

Teegee is not aware of any discussions between the City of Surrey and Indigenous leaders on this matter.