There was a ceremony at The Forks at the Oodena Celebration Circle today for Winnipeg's Indigenous Accord signing.
Representatives from many different spheres, including Mayor Brian Bowman, Manitoba Inuit Association, Kevin Hart, Regional Chief, Assembly of First Nations, Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, as well as representatives from the police service, Winnipeg Transit, Fire and Paramedic Service, local organizations, businesses, church denominations, and individuals becoming partners of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord.
"From what I understand, the Indigenous Accord is the next step towards the reconciliation between the city of Winnipeg and the Indigenous community in that it's a commitment to always work together and to consider each other's opinions and to actively stay in right relationship with each other," Kyle Mason, founder and executive director of the North End Family Centre explains.
The ceremony was several hours long and included a Grand Entry, sacred fire, a flow of signatories formally signing the Accord, and traditional Indigenous performances.
Mayor Brian Bowman stated, "It's a historic day and one very important step on our journey of reconciliation. Really thankful for the number of community partners who stepped up to sign the accord. This is a beginning, we're obviously going to keep the doors open to other groups that we have and will invite to join us on this important work."
Bowman explained that the signing of the accord is not only symbolic but also encourages each signatory to annually report to the public through the city what their practical goals and outcomes are to continue to move toward reconciliation.
Willowlake Baptist Church (WBC), was one of the faith organizations to sign the document. WBC board member Mike Diehl explained that there was "a call to action inviting churches and organizations to join in the process by adopting the principles of the UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples.
"We think that it's well overdue; that as Christians who need mercy, and seek justice, and for the Indigenous People of this land to be inviting us to participate in that is, you know, how can we not respond? And as Christians, I think, because of the Ultimate Grace [we are given], if Christians don't have the capacity to be a part of that, then who does?"
Diehl went on to say that as a church body, "[Willowlake's] goals are to work on education of our people . . . we're also going through our programs and policies as a church to see if we need to adopt changes that will make us more in line with the UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples . . . and I hope that in a year from now we'll be able to report back with some concrete things that we've done. And it needs to be more than just talk, it needs to be real action."
Michael Redhead Champagne, an Indigenous community leader in Winnipeg. He says that he hopes that now the Accord is signed "the City of Winnipeg would lead by example with its own list of measurable actions that it hopes to take within specific departments."
"It's a step in the right direction," Mason expressed. "I think Faith communities, whether it be Christian based organizations or churches or individuals, we play a vital role in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba. I think it's time for we Christians to not always be last to the game but to actually be a part of things that are right. And I fully believe that reconciliation is within the Christian wheelhouse. That righting relationships, righting past mistakes, and committing to do better in the future is a very Christian thing."