The recently appointed lieutenant-governor of Ontario, Edith Dumont, visited Orillia this week to help kick off the Ontario 55+ Winter Games, but she also met with local officials and Inclusive Orillia, shining a spotlight on inclusivity, equality, and Truth and Reconciliation.
Dumont met with Mayor Don McIsaac and Rama First Nation Chief Ted Williams, as well as Krystal Brooks and other members of Inclusive Orillia, ahead of Tuesday’s opening ceremonies for the Winter Games.
McIsaac said Dumont, who took office as the British monarch’s Ontario representative in November, hopes to see progress on a number of social justice issues during her term.
“She has headlines that she wants during her term. Equality is one of them; women’s rights are another; Truth and Reconciliation, inclusivity is another,” he told OrilliaMatters. “Those are things that are important to her, so she echoed those to the group and, certainly, the comments the group made resonated with her.”
McIsaac said it was a productive session.
“She listens very carefully ... and she listened to what they had to say, and said, ‘I can’t tell you what to do, but just keep doing what you’re doing because it matters.’”
He said a number of issues were discussed with the group, noting the importance of people with lived experience and Indigenous people participating in the meeting.
“I absolutely agree with the importance of including Indigenous peoples in our conversations and our thoughts,” the mayor said. “It was just a really good conversation.”
For Rama First Nation’s Krystal Brooks, the meeting was a “powerful” experience.
She and other members of the newly formed Inclusive Orillia shared the work they hope to do in the city, with Brooks highlighting the parallels between that work and the circumstances behind Dumont’s appointment as lieutenant-governor.
“Being the first Francophone lieutenant-governor, and her background ... she’s such an empowered woman trying to empower other women. Women see her, and Francophone people see her, and they see themselves when they see her,” Brooks told OrilliaMatters.
“She’s very dedicated. She’s very committed, and her words — there’s obvious action that’s going to follow, so I do have a lot of faith in that.”
For Brooks, a survivor of human trafficking, and a two-time Simcoe North Green party candidate in the most recent federal and provincial elections, that’s important.
“With my background … I wanted somebody who is Indigenous, I wanted somebody potentially from Rama at that table, which is why I joined Inclusive Orillia. Running in the elections, I didn’t have anybody to really draw on as far as my background with human trafficking,” she said.
“I don’t see those people represented in the community, and I wish I did because that would have offered me so much guidance at a time when I really needed it.”
With a Francophone member on board with Inclusive Orillia, Brooks said Dumont felt represented by the group, which is one of the goals Brooks said the group is trying to achieve.
“The biggest thing is we want people to see themselves when they look at us,” she said. “To have our lieutenant-governor say that she saw herself represented through Inclusive Orillia, that she saw herself at our table, was incredible. That’s the goal.”