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OTC and Newcomers


The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action has two calls related to reconciliation for newcomers to Canada. While these are directed at the federal government, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner thinks the relationship between Newcomers to Canada and Indigenous People are important and are supporting programs to do this. The office’s director of operations Angie Merasty, share why the office has tackled this.

Q: Why is the OTC working with newcomer organizations?
A: There is a lot of misinformation, misconceptions, and biases that newcomer people receive when they arrive in Canada about Indigenous people and that isn’t a good place to start a relationship. We all need to work together to better understand each other and start a relationship off on the right foot.

Q: Who is the OTC working with for this?
A: We have been truly fortunate to have partnerships with a number of organizations and groups. In late 2020 we signed an official memorandum of understanding with the Saskatoon Open Door society to formalization that relationship. We also work with the Truly Alive Youth and Family Foundation Inc, the Saskatchewan Intercultural Association, and through Reconciliation Groups as well.

Q: What kind of information is the OTC sharing (and what are you looking to learn)?
A: We want to ensure people are receiving factual information, including education about the history of our people in Canada and everything we have come through – starting with the Treaties, Residential Schools, the Indian Act, and the pass system. More than history, it’s about creating an education awareness that despite past atrocities, we are still here, have thriving culture and ways of knowing, and still want to work on reconciliation. We want to share all the beautiful culture both ours and those of newcomers.

Q: Can you give me an example of the work that is happening?
A: One of the most exciting things we’ve been part of in the past few months, is the Youth Cultural exchange [I’ll link to the story on it] – where we had groups of young people meet each other and really dig into the stereotypes on both sides. There was no sugar coating the facts as they really got to know each other. The youth asked many questions of each other and were engaged throughout.

Q: What does reconciliation when it comes to newcomers mean to you?
A: It’s about us coming together and learning more about each other. Let me give you an example. We held a workshop with Sheelah McLean on White Privilege. At the end of the session many of the newcomer youth wanted to know where to get more information because they wanted to use it to educate their own people and community. If we can arm newcomers, especially young people, with information we can support them to educate their own communities. They don’t even realize many of their cultures were oppressed by the same people who oppressed Indigenous People. Seeing newcomers becomes our allies. That is Reconciliation

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