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Historic first meeting in 150 years yields commitment to cooperate, and to hopefully meet again


The first joint meeting by the elected councils of the City of London and Oneida Nation of the Thames saw the long-time neighbouring communities take a collaborative step forward.

After a shared meal and introductions, Chief Todd Cornelius formally welcomed city councillors and civic administration to the First Nation.

“Let’s seize this opportunity to lay the groundwork for cooperation, understanding, and mutual respect,” he told the elected leaders who sat together around a horseshoe shaped table inside the Oneida Community Centre.

London Mayor Josh Morgan began his greeting in the traditional language of the Oneida Nation, having recently received lessons from an elder.

“It’s about forging a new partnership together in collaboration, and as the Chief said, it won’t be another 150 years until we meet again,” Morgan added in English.

The mayor then presented a traditional gift of tobacco and white pine sapling which represents peace.

Cornelius presented a woven Haudenosaunee Wampum Belt that represents a historic peace agreement between four First Nations.

The two-hour discussion focussed on a number of common interests.

Concerns were raised about storms continuing to trigger wastewater overflows from London’s sewage treatment plants because indigenous families fish in the river downstream.

Oneida councillors also asked for indigenous voices to be part of the decision making for London’s Whole of Community Response to Homelessness because about 30 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in London are indigenous.

There was a request for shared space within municipal facilities so that members of Oneida Nation who live or work in London can be connected to resources.

Cornelius explained, “A lot of our Haudenosaunee, Oneida Peoples, live in the city. We want to make sure their voices are heard too.”

“We talked about shared space. We talked about future builds,” added Morgan. “How we can work together to partner on those spaces so that they are in a better position to provide services to their community members who live in the city of London.”

The first meeting in 150 years between elected leaders of the two communities required an immense amount of planning and cooperation to ensure the traditions and policies of both councils were respected.

City council suspended several of its meeting rules and symbolic procedures.

However, some legal requirements under Ontario’s Municipal Act had to be followed, including the passing of a by-law to confirm the proceedings.

The mayor pointed out that the Municipal Act has procedures for joint meetings between municipal councils, but is silent about the procedures to follow when meeting with First Nations.

“I think the municipal act could be designed not only to make this easier, but to actually encourage these meetings where there are two willing partners who want to get together, have a meeting, and discuss issues,” he said after the meeting.

No date was set for a second meeting, but both Morgan and Cornelius expressed a willingness.

“I’d like to keep this relationship going in regards to having open doors,” said Cornelius. Top Stories

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