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Danielle Desjarlais and Kateri Lucier-Laboucan, Indigenous Design Studio at Brook McIlroy Inc.

Indigenous Planning Perspectives Task Force Report


Indigenous Peoples have been present on the lands we know as Canada for more than 15,000 years. When Europeans arrived approximately 400 years ago, Indigenous Peoples had been governing the land with planning, architecture, and environmental design tenets that had been established for millennia. The Doctrine of Discovery (Papal Bull 1493), which indicated that only Christians had right of title to land, dictated the actions of European settlers across what is now North America and dispossessed Indigenous Peoples from their traditional territories. 
Subsequent legislation by the Canadian government during and after Confederation, and up to present day have further served to dispossess Indigenous Peoples from their traditional territories, cultures and traditions (e.g. The British North American Act of 1867, The Indian Act - 1876).

Despite the devastating loss of land and culture, many Indigenous planning practices persist to present day. Indigenous planning is especially notable for its holistic approach, with close links to land and cultural memory and a deep integration between land, environment, and culture.
Contemporary approaches to planning have not always reflected Indigenous traditions and perspectives. The planning profession is focused on the disposition of land and resources, and planners rely on processes and tools borne out of the colonial era.
Land and the disposition and management of land are central to the planning profession and to the process of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. To quote novelist, broadcaster, and member of the Order of Canada, Thomas King, from his book The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America: “Land. If you understand nothing else about the history of Indians in North America, you need to understand that the question that really matters is the question of land.”
The Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) recognizes its responsibility to participate in the national discussion on truth and reconciliation and to respond to the Calls to Action set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in 2015.
The planning profession can improve its understanding of the detrimental impacts of the imposition of colonial laws and policies on Indigenous Peoples. By connecting this past to the injustices and realities of the present and taking action, OPPI has an opportunity to help foster respect for Indigenous individuals, institutions, and laws. By walking alongside Indigenous Peoples, planners, and communities on a shared journey, OPPI can play a significant role in reconciliation and help build a better future.
Photo Credit: The Institute for Integrative Science & Health -

The concept of Two-Eyed Seeing is a good way of explaining what is now needed. Two-Eyed Seeing as taught by Mi'kmaw Elder Albert Marshall refers to “learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing ... and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.”
On March 23, 2018, OPPI Council invited Dr. Sheri Longboat, Calvin Brook, RPP and Elder Dr. Duke Redbird to contribute to an Indigenous Planning “Generative Discussion.” A task force was created and over the course of the next year, a report was produced establishing context and outlining recommendations for moving forward respectfully and in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, communities, and planners.
The following pages are largely derived from the Report of the Indigenous Planning Perspectives Task Force, June 2019. Because this work is ongoing and these recommendations must translate into action, this online space will be used to provide updates on progress, add new information as it arises, and demonstrate our accountability.

Cover image: Danielle Desjarlais and Kateri Lucier-Laboucan, Indigenous Design Studio at Brook McIlroy Inc.

The graphic is based on the Prophesy of the Seven Fires of the Anishinaabe and the idea that we are currently in the time of the seventh fire, when a choice will be made that will determine the future. This is highly relevant to the issue of planning and climate change. This is why the seventh fire at the top of the graphic is without colour. The outcome is up to us as a collective.