St. Catharines supports Indigenous community
St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik and city council had a strong message of support for the Indigenous community Monday night.
Sendzik began the council meeting saying council stands with its First Nations brothers and sisters in their sorrow and grief in the loss of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine.
“We share our deepest sympathies with their families and loved ones,” Sendzik said. “We stand with you in your anger and sadness in the verdicts that were delivered in their tragic deaths. We understand your anger and frustration.”
Sendzik said all levels of government have responsibilities in reconciliation, including St. Catharines.
“As a municipality and as allies, we have a responsibility to take action and make change if reconciliation is to be real and meaningful,” Sendzik said.
He said the city of St. Catharines has expressed its support in partnership with the Niagara Regional Native Centre and it continues to work with the centre to improve understanding, communication and education.
And Sendzik said others are stepping up, pointing out that Brock University announced last Friday it is taking a leadership role in making change by creating a new vice provost role to support Indigenous education.
“At the community level, the conversations that are happening now are critical,” Sendzik said. “We see support for change in our own community in the gathering that was held here at city hall last week and the marches across the country and the conversations we’re having with our families. These are the kind of actions that will influence change.”
The verdicts in the Boushie and Fontaine cases have sparked shock and outcry across Indigenous communities.
Boushie was 22 when he was fatally shot in 2016 on a Saskatchewan farm. A farmer was acquitted by a jury this month of second-degree murder. Fontaine was a 15-year-old girl whose body was pulled from Red River in 2014 in Winnipeg. The man charged with second-degree murder was also found not guilty this month.
Sendzik said the city offers its sincere support to members of First Nations in the community who are dealing with the impacts of the recent judicial decisions and stands with them wanting to see real change in how Canada addresses the “systemic flaws in our courts” and in the handing of the murdered and missing indigenous women cases, as well as how First Nations peoples are treated by social systems.
“There’s no more talk,” Sendzik said. “We need action and hopefully we’ll see some action in the coming days and months ahead.”