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‘Apolitical’: Calgary Indigenous Gathering Place could take a step ahead at city council

Calgary’s proposed Indigenous Gathering Place is meant to be an apolitical spot to bring groups together for decision making, said the city councillor behind the motion.

The Indigenous Gathering Place notice of motion comes to council Tuesday. If approved, it would direct administration to work with the Indigenous Gathering Place Society to find a suitable location.

They’re examining city-owned land around the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. This location has a significant spiritual and cultural significance to Indigenous peoples, the motion read.

RELATED: OPINION – Calgary needs an Indigenous Gathering Place (2019)

During the Jan. 25 Executive committee meeting, Ward. 13 Coun. Dan McLean brought up concerns different Indigenous groups weren’t consulted.

A letter from the Métis Nation of Alberta was sent to council at that time.

“While we are supportive of the concept of Indigenous Gathering Place(s), sufficient consultation has not occurred with all stakeholders or affected parties to sufficiently consider, let alone determine, the location of any Indigenous Gathering Place(s) at this time,” read the letter.

According to a story from Global Calgary, the Indigenous Gathering Place Society was also surprised by the motion.

Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer, who along with Ward 7’s Terry Wong, sponsored the motion. Spencer told LiveWire Calgary that this was a grassroots, urban Indigenous movement with the goal of creating a gathering space.

“This push is intended to be apolitical. They’re not attempting to speak for all of Region 3, and all of the political entities that make up this area,” Spencer said.

“Their goal is to finish that physical place where their governance, their decision making can happen.”

IGP Consultation

Spencer said there wasn’t official consultation with the political entities because that wasn’t the scope.

“I don’t think they’ll ever be official consultation around this because it’s not meant to be theirs. This is for the Indigenous community in Calgary,” Spencer said.

“Then from there, they invite the political entities to come participate and to bring their unique cultures, their ceremonies and it becomes the canvas on which all the Nations and the political entities can come and share what they have to share.”

This step would move toward a physical place for Indigenous groups to gather. In 2019, the Indigenous Gathering Place Society presented a plan. It showed the need for five-to-six acres, the building specs and operational and sustainability goals.

Still, Coun. McLean said the item has been handled poorly.  He supports the IGP, but the consultation has been lacking.

“We’ve got the land, it’s a traditional area and I’d like to see it go forward, but it has to be done with the approval of all the other parties involved,” he said.

McLean suggested that City Hall may have jumped the gun on this one for political reasons.

“I think they better make sure they get this one right because, after all, they’re trying to achieve something that’s very important and you want to make sure all stakeholders are happy,” he said.

The city advocacy group Calgary Alliance for the Common Good has launched a campaign to support the IGP motion.

“Creating an Indigenous Gathering Place is not only a value to Indigenous peoples, but also to non-Indigenous peoples,” their website reads.

“In this space, all peoples can learn from the cultural teachings of the Indigenous peoples and work towards truth and reconciliation in action.”