Land Back Camp relocates from Victoria Park to Waterloo Park
KITCHENER -- A big change has come for the Land Back Camp, a self-described Indigenous public land occupation that is now on the move after 122 days in Kitchener's Victoria Park.
The group has now moved to a new location, citing safety, health and privacy for the reasons behind the decision. Still, they say their purpose remains the same.
Organizers said their four months in Kitchener were marked by incidents of racism and harassment, prompting them to relocate to Waterloo Park instead.
"It just became too much, so we wanted to be somewhere that was better for the campers," said co-organizer Shawn Johnston.
Still, the group said the time spent in Victoria Park did include many meaningful moments, too.
"Watching some of the youth connect to the land and their language, to each other so quickly, so wonderfully. Everyone meshed together really well," said Amy Smoke.
The choice to move to Waterloo Park was partially made for the familiarity. In the past, that park has been the site of powwows hosted by the Indigenous Student Centre at the University of Waterloo.
"We already have that relationship with the City of Waterloo, that it would be best to move to the park," Johnson said.
That's something Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky acknowledged, calling for people in the community to respect the Land Back Camp and what the people involved want to achieve.
"We have a long way to go as a community in terms of respecting many, many wrongs in the past and fixing them," he said.
Organizers said they have already seen two big changes over the last 122 days.
"All fees be waived in public spaces for the Indigenous communities to gather, that's great," Johnston said. "Also for positions to be created at the City of Kitchener for Indigenous peoples, Black people, people of colour. That was passed recently."
The camp organizers said they still want to see the creation of Indigenous advisory committees, and land for a permanent gathering space.
Those involved are prepared to stay through the winter months if that's what it takes.
"We have been living on the land since the beginning of time. We would figure it out," Smoke said.
Organizers said they've been welcomed by the community, but did want to remind people to respect their sacred space.