New Beginnings – An Indigenous Engagement Improvement Strategy

“New Beginnings” was initiated in spring of 2016 to ensure a coordinated, culturally appropriate response to the increasing number of Indigenous families and individuals seeking social services in the region. Spruce Grove FCSS has been a main point of contact for Indigenous residents accessing regional services within Spruce Grove.

The initiative addresses ways to remove barriers and strengthen relationships with urban Indigenous people in the area by enhancing regional cooperation with First Nation communities, individuals, cross sector groups, community service providers, City departments, and other levels of government.

The work has been led by Spruce Grove Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). InSync Consulting Inc.    was engaged to support the process and identification of priority initiatives. The New Beginnings strategic framework is community-owned, and its ultimate success is dependent on involvement and joint ownership from a diverse group of stakeholders.

Phase One of the project was initiated to develop a tri-regional response to the increasing number of Indigenous families and individuals seeking services by:

  • Addressing ways to remove barriers and strengthen relationships with urban Indigenous people in the area
  • Enhancing regional cooperation with nearby First Nation Communities and all levels of government
  • Building upon current collaborative programs and services to improve current access, service delivery, and social policy initiatives while continuing to address supports effectively

Primary Research:

  • Service provider focus groups
  • Individual stakeholder interviews
  • Internal interviews
  • Indigenous awareness training sessions

Secondary Research:

  • Preliminary asset mapping: Inventory of regional programs and services
  • External literature review

Outcomes:

  • Increased awareness and knowledge
  • Relationship building

Phase two focused on elevating the strategy from a department project to a regional initiative through:

  • Additional focus groups
  • Additional stakeholder interviews
  • Discussions with the funder to readjust the focus to Urban Indigenous community members
  • Further Indigenous awareness training sessions
  • Strategic Planning Workshop – Initiatives Development

A diverse group of stakeholders convened to review the key findings from the project, and therefrom develop a number of specific actionable initiatives to improve the engagement with Indigenous community members living in the Parkland County region.

A special thank you is extended to Elder Phillip Campiou for his wisdom and teachings throughout the day, and to all participants for their input and commitment to the process.

The Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS), developed courtesy of Alberta Native Friendship Centres and InSynch Consulting, was used as a framework.

It is important to recognize the need for a collective approach not only in developing the strategy and identification of the initiatives, but also in the implementation phase.

  • Continued Indigenous awareness training
  • Cultural Gathering Place
  • Food security mobile unite
  • Wholistic housing
  • Indigenous voice in decision making
  • Knowledge Keeper / Elder involvement
  • Talking circles
  • Accessible transportation

  • Creation or identification of a development oversight committee
  • Choose an implementation team lead (champion)
  • Review of existing business, community and regional projects
  • Prioritization of identified action initiatives
  • Find the collaborative gain
  • Creation of an effective communications plan
  • Continued involvement of community members
  • Advocate for action against unresolved racial issues and healing requirements
  • Conduct feasibilities studies and prepare business cases

  • Indigenous Awareness Training for all Tri-Regional Council Members was held in January.
  • Increased involvement of Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers in City programs, initiatives and events, including the Five Year Strategy to Reduce Poverty and Homelessness.
  • “Treaty 6 Acknowledgement and Elder Protocol Guidelines” has been drafted as an internal document for City staff as a guide on protocol, relationships, and Treaty acknowledgement based on best practice research and individual teachings by local community Elders. Further development and ultimate finalization of the document will involve formal engagement with local Elders specifically for that purpose.
  • A traditional Listening Circle has been offered in partnership with the SGPL, facilitated by local Elders and Knowledge Keepers in the spirit of sacred ceremony.
  • “Connecting with our Indigenous Neighbours” plan review meeting.
  • Development of webpage and communications plan.

Urban Indigenous Definition

In accordance with this initiative, the definition of Urban Indigenous refers to communities that have an Indigenous population residing within the boundaries of Parkland County and whom utilize resources that are physically located within the communities therein.

Statistics Canada recently changes their verbiage of “urban” which referred to any place where 1,000 permanent inhabitants reside, to that of “population centres”.