Urban Commitments to Reconciliation: Current Problems


September 14, 2022

Individual Municipal Issues

Advancing the TRC Calls to Action

Women Transforming Cities: Delegates to the 2022 Convention were presented with highlights on the progress local governments have made in advancing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action at a clinic earlier today.

Speakers from Women Transforming Cities identified that 54% of surveyed municipalities have made progress on less than three calls to action; common barriers include:

  • limited staff capacity
  • lack of funding
  • lack of knowledge and education; and
  • that small towns are most challenged to make progress. 

In discussing misconceptions about the calls to action, delegates were reminded that this is the work that we’ve all been asked to do by Indigenous communities. “The calls to action empower and create permission to do more work and take ownership,” said Clara Prager, TRC Project Lead.

Councillor Wark from the District of Chetwynd provided local examples of their reconciliation work.  “Reconciliation is an ongoing effort,” said Wark and she encouraged delegates to focus on communication.  “There are so many opportunities for local governments and First Nations to work together.”

Patience is the key recommendation from Barclay Pitkethly, Deputy CAO with the District of Mission.  He provided an example of a ten-year land transfer process that will provide tremendous benefit for both the Indigenous communities and the local government.

February 27, 2023

Individual Municipal Issues

Lawsuit claims racism from an Alberta town made approved wellness centre impossible to realize

“…an apology isn’t going to cut it.” — Phillip Millar, legal counsel

A seniors lodge with its 38 rooms in Bashaw, Alta. was to be converted into a residential care facility for First Nations, but owners of the facility allege that town council frustrated development because of racial prejudice.

First Peoples Law Report: Windspeaker.com – Legal action initiated against the central Alberta town of Bashaw claims that “racial prejudice” made the approval of a wellness centre that would serve Maskwacis members impossible to be realized.

James Carpenter and Dr. Tony Mucciarone, partners in the Bashaw Retreat Centre Inc., filed their statement of claim in the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta Feb. 27 in Wetaskiwin. The statement names current Bashaw Mayor Rob McDonald and both present and former councillors. While Maskwacis is not part of the legal action, many conversations with the four First Nations that comprise Maskwacis occurred and they are supportive of the action being taken, says Phillip Millar, legal counsel for Carpenter and Mucciarone.

Carpenter and Mucciarone are asking for more than $4 million in compensation for economic losses after two years of being unable to fulfill the demands put before them by Bashaw council. “This is a way to give voice to how this discrimination exists,” Millar told Windspeaker.com.

“The allegations are serious and it’s because, I think, the timing has never been better to actually stand up for what is right…Racism isn’t always in your face. We’re just in a situation where we actually have some evidence of people who are decision makers expressing prejudicial views about projects that’s given us the ability to finally try to shed some light on the way prejudice and racism can be implemented behind the cloak of politeness and protocol,” said Millar in a news conference held in Calgary.

The alleged discussions took place behind closed doors, “but everybody knows what happened here,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter and Mucciarone were joined by Russel Burns, advocate and First Nations consultant on the project, and Elder Charlene Burns, advocate for women, mothers and families supporting the project. “Words of such hate. This is what racism is. We don’t need that, and with a town of 800 and four churches…Something has to give there,” said Russel Burns. “It saddens me. In fact, I get emotional to think the racism is so blatant in this day and age when we are supposed to live the diversity among people. And yet you see something like this,” said Charlene Burns.

In May 2021, Bashaw Retreat Centre decided to change the renovated seniors lodge with its 38 rooms into a residential care facility for First Nations. Acquiring the existing building was easier than accessing capital funding to build a new facility, said Carpenter.

The location was ideal, he added, with Bashaw’s proximity to the residents of Maskwacis and the facility being located on five acres on Treaty 6 territory.

Maskwacis members could go outside of their community to build relationships with their families at the facility, get the supports they needed, Carpenter said, and then return home stronger. Those supports would be provided and developed by First Nations. “Bashaw was chosen because the First Nations found willing partners that would stand with them and walk the journey and navigate a non-Indigenous world that we’ve now learned is nothing short of a bunch of pitfalls and obstacles and disappointments,” said Carpenter.

According to the statement of claim, the development permit for a seniors centre had been approved by town council in 2017.

However, in May 2021, despite the residential care facility being defined in the same way as a seniors lodge by the land-use bylaw, council asked Bashaw Retreat Centre to apply for a new permit, which they did that same month. On June 8 that year, the application was deemed incomplete. A second application was submitted a month later and was also deemed incomplete. From that point forward to May 20, 2022, the applicants were continuously asked to provide more information. They responded each time but then eventually on Aug. 30 last year, the second application was reconsidered and denied due to yet more information being required.

Council, both past and present members, “treated the plaintiffs with hostility and never sought to meet or assist the plaintiffs or the Chiefs of the four Nations of Maskwacis, despite numerous requests,” reads the statement of claim. Further, the statement says that town council did not approve the second application because they viewed the Maskwacis “as problematic”; that the “further presence of the Maskwacis would devalue residential property values”; and that members would “do ‘terrible things’ in the town.”

According to the legal action, town council has “engaged in a pattern of dealing amounting to civil conspiracy, defamation against the nearby First Nations group, public malfeasance, and/or fraudulent misrepresentations.”

None of these allegations have yet been tested in court.

Bashaw Retreat Centre lost business and opportunities and incurred various expenses approximating $2.5 million, they contend. As well, the value of the facility has deteriorated approximately $1.5 million. As a remedy, Bashaw Retreat Centre is not asking for town council to apologize to Maskwacis.

Millar says it’s not his place to ask for action for Maskwacis. But he also adds that “people are tired of apologies.” “We’ve had too many apologies and you know, for me, an apology isn’t going to cut it. We don’t need that. We need action. We need something that’s going to be different. We need to let people know…(that) this kind of blatant racism, this is where it ends. It’s really sad that we have to go through this route to address this,” said Charlene Burns. “There’s no choice other than this action.”

In response to Windspeaker.com, Theresa Fuller, chief administrative officer with Bashaw, said in an email, “The town has not been served, we have no comment at this time.”

By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

January 12, 2023

Women Transforming Cities

The TRC Calls to Action in BC Municipalities

Progress, Barriers, and Opportunities to Accelerate Implementation

Women Transforming Cities: Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released its final report in 2015, Indigenous communities have been calling on all levels of government to implement the Calls to Action. We all have a responsibility to contribute to truth telling, reconciliation, and decolonization. Municipalities in particular — as the level of government closest to our day to day lives — have a unique role to play in implementing the Calls to Action.

With guidance from Indigenous leaders and organizations, Women Transforming Cities sought to apply our experience and relationships with local governments in BC to understand:

  • What progress municipalities have made towards implementing 10 Calls to Action that are explicitly directed toward local governments
  • What barriers are slowing and stalling action
  • What local government leaders need in order to accelerate action

We heard from representatives in almost half of all municipalities in BC, ranging from villages of less than 400 people to cities of more than 650,000 and spanning every region of the province.

Tracking progress and identifying common challenges in implementing the Calls to Action provides an opportunity to find solutions to advance this crucial work more quickly. The goal of this research and report is to see these barriers addressed and empower more municipalities to make meaningful progress towards truth telling and reconciliation.


In this report you will find
  • Background on why we did this work, our methodology, and who we heard from.
  • A summary of key  findings, including the state of progress on the Calls to Action and key barriers
  • Recommendations for accelerating implementation.
  • Actions and challenges from municipal leaders in their own words
  • Analysis of 10 Calls to Action for local governments, including a snapshot of progress, common challenges, how it relates to municipalities, and tangible examples of what local government action looks like on the ground.
  • Takeaways for municipalities as they continue to advance the TRC Calls to Action.
Actions you can take to support this work

Share this report with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, pointing out the support local governments, First Nations, and Urban Indigenous communities need to made progress on the Calls to Action. 

Email this report to your Mayor and Council, and ask them what progress has been made in your community on implementation of the Calls to Action. Hold them accountable by asking for regular updates.

Share this report on social media to amplify the message that municipalities have an important role to play in accelerating the Calls to Action.

Amplify and support Indigenous organizations in your local community — ask if specific Calls to Action are a priority for them.

Donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors’ Society.

Key Barriers Preventing Action
  • Limited Resources and Staff Capacity
  • Lack of Awareness, Knowledge-Sharing and Education
  • Lack of Clarity and Direction from Senior Governments 
  • Lack of Political Will and Prioritization