City of Cold Lake council delved into a unique topic brought forward by City administration during a recent corporate priorities meeting, exploring the ceremonial use of smoked products during Indigenous events, particularly for smudging and pipe ceremonies that happen within City facilities. Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Kristi Isert, General Manager of Corporate Services for the City of Cold Lake, highlighted the legal framework and cultural sensitivity surrounding the proposal.  

“Administration has been approached with a question of whether, under its smoking bylaw, it’s possible to permit Indigenous ceremonial use of smoked products or smudging and/or pipe ceremonies within public facilities and places where smoking is otherwise prohibited,” said Isert. 

Coun. Vicki Lefebvre expressed support for accommodating Indigenous ceremonial practices in City facilities, noting the minimal impact the ceremonies have on air quality.  

“I don’t have any problem with that being allowed. Most of the time when they have it, it’s a very small amount.” 

Coun. Chris Vining emphasized the need for structured approval processes and clear communication.  

“I think it needs to be pre-approved time, pre-approved space so that we know what is going on,” he said. Vining also highlighted the importance of notification, adding, “I think it should become part of the policy is that notification is made to the public and to staff that it’s going to occur.” 

Coun. Adele Richardson shed light on the existing policy permitting Indigenous ceremonial practices within Alberta Health Services (AHS) facilities, stating, “there is a policy and we do permit it 24-7 in all of the facilities.”  

Richardson, who works for AHS, also emphasized the coordination with staff and maintenance departments to ensure smooth conduct of the ceremonies. 

Coun. Bill Parker proposed an alternative approach by suggesting outdoor events for some Indigenous ceremonies.  

“This would be a primary reason to bring in one of their tents and perhaps do an outdoor event right in the front of the doorway… and do something for the public to see,” said Parker. 

According to information from the City of Cold Lake received after the corporate priorities meeting, Mayor Craig Copeland explained, “We’ve asked administration to draft some changes to the bylaw, so these ceremonies can be included at private or public meetings within City buildings.”  

He further explained, “These changes will return to a future council meeting for first, second, and third readings before being approved by council. Included in the potential changes are considerations for the health and safety of staff and public; limitations to specific rooms or areas where smudging and/or pipe ceremonies could be allowed; and having access to a fire extinguisher.” 

By Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 25, 2024 at 15:35

This item reprinted with permission from   Lakeland This Week   Bonnyville, Alberta

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