Ceremonial space among the demands from group in Victoria Park
KITCHENER -- An Indigenous group who have set up in Victoria Park have some short- and long-term requests for the public space.
Kitchener Mayor Barry Vrbanovic and Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky met with the group on Friday. Organizers shared immediate demands, including accessible washrooms and a Wi-Fi hot spot. In the long-term, they’d like space for cultural and ceremonial gatherings.
The group began camping out on Sunday and the number of people participating has been growing each day. They said they're not protesting, instead occupying the traditional land for ceremonial use.
Organizers said finding space for private use can be challenging for local Indigenous communities.
"To celebrate our days, our feasts, our National Indigenous Peoples Day, all of those things, we have to pay for," organizer Amy Smoke said. "We are simply looking to celebrate our own cultures and traditions on our own lands."
"We are demanding that some space be made that is permanent and irrevocable and recognized and understood," organizer Terre Chartrand said.
Jaworsky wanted to meet with the group to better understand what kind of space is needed.
"The connection and the tie is along the Grand River and that's something we want to explore as well," Vrbanovic said. "Part of the issue obviously has been cost and I've committed to taking that away."
Chartrand and Smoke said the mayors seem to understand why the group has set up in the park. They're hopeful the discussions will turn into actions, but plan to stay for as long as needed.
The group will also gather on July 1 for a day of Indigenous mourning.