TORONTO, Oct. 4. 2022 – Today, the City of Toronto opened three designated sites for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples to hold Sacred Fires. The new sites are located at Allan Gardens, Christie Pits Park, and Norwood Park.
These designated sites were selected following engagement with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Toronto, who identified a need for Sacred Fire sites in these areas. Sacred Fires have existed since time immemorial for Indigenous Peoples and are used for wellness, healing and gatherings. The City recognizes the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples to have access to Sacred Fires. With designated sites, the City aims to create safer access to land for ceremony, minimize interruptions to ceremony and continue to build relationships to meet the needs of Indigenous communities.
“The Toronto Fire Services team is proud to work alongside the Indigenous Affairs Office and Indigenous communities on this important initiative. These designated Sacred Fire sites are a great example of how Toronto Fire Services can put reconciliation into action. TFS looks forward to continuing to work with the IAO and Indigenous communities to find new ways to support reconciliation,” said Chief Matthew Pegg, Toronto Fire Services.
Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples have used Sacred Fires for wellness, healing, and gatherings. Just as some people gather in churches, temples, mosques, or synagogues, Indigenous ceremonies happen on the land. Fire is a sacred gift from the Creator, as well as a doorway of communication with the Spirit world, ancestors, and Creation, and is an important part of many ceremonies.
“Sacred Fires connect us to the Spirit world, the natural world and to each other. They are an important part of Indigenous culture and I am glad to see the City taking action to make them more accessible to Indigenous Peoples in Toronto.”– Elder Blu Waters, Designated Sacred Fire Site Facilitator, Norwood Park
The creation of designated Sacred Fire sites in City parks supports Action 15 of the City’s Reconciliation Action Plan, which addresses the need to reduce barriers for Indigenous People accessing Sacred Fires. Sacred Fires are also supported by articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report.
Booking a designated Sacred Fire site is free. The booking system is managed by the City’s Indigenous Affairs Office (IAO), in order to support Indigenous community members with using and sharing these spaces. Each booking includes basic materials to build a Sacred Fire including firewood, a fire bowl, ash bin and chairs. Site users must provide their own lighter, medicines, kindling, and Fire Keeper.
Designated Sacred Fires sites will be inspected by TFS once a year to ensure the safety of the sites, as required by the Ontario Fire Code. Indigenous community members may continue to hold Sacred Fires at undesignated sites by contacting the IAO or TFS, who will ensure staff is engaged to perform safety inspections.
For more information, visit Toronto.ca/SacredFires.
“The creation of designated Sacred Fire sites is a step forwards in building stronger relationships with Indigenous community members and meeting their needs. Through collaboration, together we can reduce barriers to accessing ceremony and ensure that the inherent rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples are respected.”– Selina Young, Director, Indigenous Affairs Office
Indigenous residents are encouraged to book their Sacred Fire sites at least two weeks in advance, wherever possible. Certain ceremony types that often take place at short notice, such as Grief Ceremonies, may take priority over others if multiple bookings are requested for the same date.
Indigenous residents may continue to book undesignated Sacred Fire sites at other City locations by contacting the IAO at Indigenous@toronto.ca or calling 416-278-4639.
SOURCE City of Toronto