Healing the Land, Healing Our Selves: Re-Indigenizing Public Spaces in Toronto

October 26th 2016. 18:30 to 21:30
A huge opportunity has emerged to act on the understanding and insights we have gained through the “Indigenize or Die” series, and help reindigenize public spaces in Toronto on a whole new scale. Come and contribute your inspiration and ideas for how we can impact a TOcore Parks and Public Realm Plan being developed by the City.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM

Peace Lounge, 7th floor, OISE
252 Bloor St. W (at St. George Station)

We are inviting all Torontonians, members of the indigenous community, settlers and newcomers. Kristina Reinders, who is leading the Plan’s development for the City of Toronto, will join us, along with members of the consulting team the city has retained. Members of NKG, Helping the Earth) will also participate. Let’s explore how we can collaboratively ensure that Toronto’s public parks and realm are indigenized, in accord with indigenous law and our international commitments.

For registration please go to

$15 suggested donation to cover host expenses. Students and unwaged PWYC.

The CIty of Toronto is developing a 40-year plan Parks and Public Realm Plan for the city core to improve the quality and connectivity of public spaces. The plan, to quote the City, presents a chance to “generate a bold and compelling vision for the parks system and public realm network that puts public life and place-making […] at the forefront of long-term planning.” 
Public engagement is at the root of the plan’s development, and the planners have expressed a desire to include an indigenous lens in that plan. Early City consultation with some indigenous people and agencies pointed to the possibility of a much greater focus on reindigenization.
We want to seize the opportunity to mobilize inhabitants of Toronto—settlers, in allyship with indigenous people—to ensure the reindigenizing of Toronto’s public spaces.  

Some potent possibilities have already emerged from the “Indigenize or Die” experience of the power of being on the land and around the fire. Members brought some of those inspirations to a September focus group held by the City, sharing this advice:
  • The plan should recognize and restore ways the land was used before settlers arrived as well as the way first nations continue to use the land. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) both refer to the importance of first nations using land for ceremony and customary use, such as gathering family and council around fires.
  • Another step that could help recognize indigenous uses of land could be mapping the trails used by indigenous communities; restoring these trails could be a long-term goal.
  • There’s a need for a new way of consulting with indigenous voices — a “2.0” version of the City’s Aboriginal Affairs Committee that can express a collective indigenous voice in consultations. Leadership in indigenous culture is about expressing the collective will of a policy that has been arrived at by consensus; legitimate policies are built on collective processes.
  • In light of the damage that was done to Indigenous society, its institutions, and structures by colonization, in terms of real reconciliation it is incumbent upon settler culture to provide resources and create the space to allow Indigenous people to restore their institutions and social structures. It is only then that real, meaningful engagement and consultation with their nations can occur.
Join this month’s "Indigenize or Die" dialogue to hear more about this opportunity and help generate ideas and strategies for reindigenizing Toronto’s public realm.
Kristina Reinders, Senior Urban Designer, City of Toronto
Kristina is a Senior Urban Designer with the City of Toronto and a passionate advocate for quality public realm and forward-thinking policies that promote livability and make urban life rewarding and enjoyable for all.
She currently leads the TOcore Parks and Public Realm study with responsibility for overseeing the development of a plan for downtown parks and public realm, a Public Space Public Life study, and new urban design and park policies that support successful implementation of quality public spaces. TOcore is one of the most complex planning studies ever done in Toronto and is directly aimed at improving Toronto's quality of life for the rapidly growing downtown population.
Kristina also co-leads Toronto’s Complete Street Guidelines, which supports the re-balance of streets from vehicular-focused infrastructure, into safe and connected public “places” that accommodate multi-modal movement.
Members of the consulting team for the TOcore Parks & Public Realm Plan.  
The Plan is being co-led by the City of Toronto’s City Planning and Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Divisions.
 The City has retained a consulting team composed of: 
- Public Work a local urban design and landscape architecture studio focused the intelligent evolution of the contemporary city;
- GEHL studios, an international urban research and design consulting firm;
- Sam Schwartz Engineering, a leading traffic and transportation planning and engineering firm, and;
- Swerhun Facilitation, a local firm specializing in designing, running, and documenting complex engagement processes.
The team has been invited.
Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG) Helping the Earth
NKG works to restore indigenous responsibilities to the land and water in Toronto.  NKG is working with urban indigenous people to reclaim the area in and around the Humber (Tanaouate) River, restore indigenous responsibilities to the land and water, and support indigenous cultural learning on the land in the city.
"Indigenize or Die" has been honoured and excited, over the past seven months, to build a collaborative relationship with these front-line warriors who are on the ground, doing the re-indigenizing work about which we have been dialoging. 

Kevin Best, Series Curator

Kevin Best has focused on how to create a just and sustainable society through activism, innovative business and restoring Indigenous society for over four decades. Of Haudenosaunee and Celtic descent, through adoption he self-identifies as Anishinabeg of the Martin Clan. He has worked with Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island, consulted to Greenpeace and pioneered green energy in Ontario. He is currently working on a start-up called Odenaansan (Village or “the little places where my heart is”), an integrated, culturally-based approach to restoring Minobimadzin (the good life) through sustainable food, energy, housing and water in Anishinabe communities. Passionate about decolonization and re-indigenization, he is committed to spreading understanding of these life-giving possibilities. He is Managing Director of Rivercourt Engineering.

The ship of global imperialism and colonization has hit an iceberg. While the majority of the world's inhabitants suffer the consequences of runaway capitalism and globalized war-making, the very few on the upper decks continue their party with business as usual, blissfully ignoring the realities. 

In this series, "Indigenize or Die," we deconstruct the myths of the dominant culture, explore a more truthful historical perspective and how that manifests today. Then, through the lens of decolonization and re-indigenization, we explore together possibilities for an ecologically sustainable and socially-just way forward. We ask, how can we ensure the survival of complex life on this land in accordance with its legitimate laws and the laws of Nature?  

The intent of the series is to weave an understanding of history and current reality into developing a practical "go forward" plan for this land. We will be joined by other Indigenous people from both here and elsewhere around Mother Earth throughout the year. ​Curated by Kevin Best.