A query Regina Ward 7 Coun. Terina Shaw requested about homelessness and Indigenous tradition throughout a metropolis council assembly has sparked a dialog about cultural misconceptions.
The query got here up throughout dialogue of a movement aimed toward ending homelessness in Regina.
Shaw’s query, posed to Sheila Wignes-Paton of the Phoenix Residential Society throughout final Wednesday’s metropolis council assembly, included an anecdote about an Indigenous particular person from Regina Treaty/Standing Indian Companies (RT/SIS) that Shaw had spoken with.
Shaw mentioned she was advised there are individuals throughout the Indigenous tradition who don’t want properties.
“Are you able to deal with that and communicate to that please? As a result of till I had heard that from her, I had no thought there have been individuals like that who existed, and I assume that does exist, and are you conscious of it?” Shaw requested.
Wignes-Paton responded by saying, “I feel perhaps it is settler tradition imposing one thing on the Indigenous group, and a few might select to not have a house per se. They’re extra comfy in dwelling with completely different individuals [and] transferring round, so I can see that that occurs.”
Wignes-Paton went on to say nearly all of individuals Phoenix Residential works with in its residence venture are Indigenous and that everyone’s particular person needs are revered.
Shaw then adopted up.
“That simply verifies what she mentioned, that there at all times can be individuals which can be quote-unquote homeless within the Indigenous tradition due to what they like, by means of the mayor, is that appropriate?” Shaw requested.
“Sure, I might say it might be,” Wignes-Patron responded.
Later within the assembly, Kale MacLellan introduced her help for the movement to finish homelessness. On the finish of her presentation she spoke on to councillor Shaw.
“No, there usually are not individuals who need to be homeless. Everybody needs a spot to name residence. Some individuals select to journey, similar to individuals who select to spend their winters in Arizona or Florida,” MacLellan mentioned.
“Framing homelessness as a selection is a bizarre take. No person chooses to be homeless. No person chooses to be insecure.”
Ward 6 Coun. Daniel LeBlanc requested MacLellan if she occurred to be Indigenous and if she was accustomed to the traditions of Plains Indigenous individuals.
“I’m Indigenous, so I am in all probability the precise particular person to be asking that query to, not one other white girl,” MacLellan mentioned.
In an interview with CBC, Councillor Shaw mentioned that when she requested Wignes-Patron the query, she was not “even actually” trying on the color of her pores and skin.
“I used to be asking her since she had been coping with the housing first,” Shaw mentioned. “It appeared like she was type of the skilled in that since she’d been coping with that form of housing for a few years.”
Shaw went on to say that there are individuals — not simply Indigenous individuals — who won’t need housing.
“I’ve labored with individuals [from] all several types of backgrounds that do not at all times need a residence, they need to be roamers, they need to be the gypsies of the world,” she mentioned, utilizing an ethnic label broadly thought-about offensive and traditionally inaccurate, “and that is OK too.”
Shaw mentioned the query got here from the underside of her coronary heart and that it was prompted by data from an Indigenous chief in the neighborhood.
“We have been advised that not everyone needs a house, that within the Indigenous tradition, there’s individuals which can be known as Wanderers,” she mentioned. “My query was, if that is true, which supposedly it’s true, then we have to discover a place the place we meet individuals at their wants and the place they need.”
She mentioned she requested the query as a result of she wished it addressed in council.
“We as council and mayor, we aren’t the consultants, the individuals which can be on the market, the non-profit organizations, the individuals which can be main this and doing this work each single day are the consultants.”
Shaw mentioned she meant no hurt and seems like no apology is important.
“I simply requested a query, I wished some clarification and a few assist to grasp.”
Response from advocates
MacLellan, a group organizer and pupil, mentioned in an interview with CBC that Shaw’s feedback have been “an attention-grabbing option to body homelessness.”
“I am not conscious of any teachings about individuals who select to be homeless repeatedly,” she mentioned. “It is actually disappointing to listen to that rhetoric repeated by Coun. Shaw as a result of it is just one particular person’s viewpoint she’s bearing in mind and never the numerous different Indigenous individuals who have been telling her that folks want properties and folks need properties now.”
MacLellan mentioned these kinds of feedback can hurt Indigenous individuals experiencing homelessness.
“If individuals view this as not an issue, or that these are individuals who simply select to be homeless, it makes it rather a lot tougher for individuals who need to discover safe dwelling,” she mentioned. “I feel it is a very easy approach for metropolis officers to bounce the blame off themselves.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) launched an announcement Wednesday asking that Shaw change into educated on the true historical past of Canada.
“With out an trustworthy understanding, reconciliation is not possible,” the assertion learn.
It mentioned it’s upsetting that an elected official on Treaty 4 Territory perpetuated “such racist and uneducated views.”
“First Nations individuals have been overwhelmed and damaged by this technique repeatedly, and it simply continues with statements like this,” the assertion continued. “Colonization is the reason for First Nations individuals dwelling with out properties.”
“Nobody chooses to be homeless.”
Indigenous homelessness advocate Shylo Stevenson introduced at Wednesday’s metropolis council assembly and was current throughout Shaw’s query. In an interview with CBC, he mentioned Shaw’s remarks shocked him.
“It blew my thoughts,” he mentioned. “We have been advised to hush as a result of we have been simply blown away.”
Stevenson mentioned he wished the query would have been directed towards an Indigenous particular person with cultural expertise within the area.
“The particular person she requested was not the way in which to go.”
Stevenson mentioned he has not been taught about individuals who don’t need to have properties.
“Perhaps she misinterpreted what was shared along with her, I do not know, however we’re nomadic individuals,” he mentioned. “We journey round, we transfer round, however by no means have I ever met anyone that wishes to be homeless.”
Stevenson mentioned Shaw’s feedback have been irritating, as they may doubtlessly add to the stigma round Indigenous homelessness.
“That simply fed into it, and to be acknowledged like that in a metropolis council assembly is simply one other slap within the face to the Indigenous tradition.”
Coun. LeBlanc says inside conversations not for settlers to ‘weaponize’
LeBlanc mentioned in an interview with CBC that whereas he does not declare to know every little thing about Indigenous information, there are basic misconceptions concerning homeless individuals. He mentioned concepts about some individuals eager to be homeless, “are largely overblown.”
LeBlanc, who put the preliminary movement ahead, mentioned that even when a number of individuals really feel that approach, there are nonetheless lots of who need housing and might’t get it.
He mentioned he knew Shaw had heard this data from a “very nicely revered Indigenous chief on the town,” however that chief was not within the room throughout the council assembly.
“I might say no matter inner conversations the Indigenous group is perhaps having, it is not for settlers to make use of that information that is perhaps shared with them, or in some methods to weaponize that information,” he mentioned.
LeBlanc mentioned town has usually made the frequent mistake of considering reconciliation ought to be settler-led.
“[People think] reconciliation ought to at all times really feel comfy for settlers and I feel that is a racist assumption too.”
“I am not saying councillor Shaw makes these. I am saying I, and we as a metropolis, have made these traditionally and it is time for us to do some uncomfortable however mandatory reconciliation.”