LAC LA BICHE - Across the country, various levels of government, organizations and institutions are raising flags to recognize the first peoples of Canada. Last week, Lac La Biche County council approved a program after recognizing the need to honour and raise flags through consultations with Indigenous communities and stakeholders.
The County, which is situated in Treaty 6, 8 and 10 territories, and is surrounded by neighbouring Métis settlements of Buffalo Lake as well as Kikino, is unique compared to other municipalities, said Melanie McConnell, Associate CAO, Corporate Services Division with Lac La Biche County.
“It is imperative to underscore that Lac La Biche is unique in that it covers three numbered Treaty territories, as most places in Alberta tend to cover one Treaty territory.”
The flag poles are estimated to cost $2,000 “plus any costs related to purchasing of the flag,” she explained.
In an effort to acknowledge The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) 94 calls to action released in 2105, moving forward with the flag placement on the area’s sacred land, has been discussed by the County’s Indigenous Collaboration Committee and in closed council sessions in recent months.
However, finding a location – or multiple locations – require public consultation, especially considering what the response from the diverse local community would be, said County Mayor Paul Reutov.
“We represent Lac La Biche County and thus far we haven’t had any public discussion within the Lac La Biche County community… We did have discussions with our Indigenous neighbours,” but both the location and idea need to be shared publicly before construction, he said.
The initial placement of the Treaty and Métis flags was set for McArthur Place, but council is looking at other sites, including the Bold Center. Plaques for Indigenous communities along with recognizing other cultures in the area might also be a suitable option, said Indigenous Collaboration Committee member and Coun. Sterling Johnson.
“The Bold Center is a gathering place and we should celebrate all the ethnic groups there, we were thinking maybe there could be a flag and plaque of what each flag means for that group. Then, we could make it more of an ethnic centre for everybody in the town,” said Johnson.
While the Bold Center is an option on the table, the area which is generally intended for sporting activities and events, might not be the best option, said Coun. Jason Stedman.
“I kind of like McArthur Place for it because... you’re walking around with family and friends reading plaques. At the Bold Center, you’re there for a football game.”
Recognizing all cultures
Ultimately, while the location, decision and expansion of the project will need to consider community recommendations for council to begin the project, it’s imperative to not focus on just a few communities, said Coun. Darlene Beniuk.
“Lac La Biche has got a lot of cultures here and if we don’t ask these people what their ideas are, we are going to be shooting ourselves in the foot. We have to recognize all cultures in some fashion, not one in particular or two in particular, but everyone that has contributed to Lac La Biche,” she said.
After visiting Indigenous communities and the surrounding areas in Treaty 6, committee member and County Coun. Kevin Paré noted many buildings situated with Canadian Flags simultaneously have Treaty 6 flags as well. Moving forward, the Lac La Biche community needs to get on board and recognize the first peoples of Canada, he explained.
“The Treaty 6 flag flies around most of these communities and not only in on spot but in every spot, whether it's the RCMP Barracks... It recognizes that these people were here first, and that this is their land and we're just visiting on it.”
In the coming weeks, after community awareness is established for the upcoming Treaty and Métis flag project, sites will be tabled for approval by County council.