March 11, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PORTAGE PLACE & INDIGENOUS LEADERS MOVE FORWARD WITH POSITIVE ACTIONS FOR THE COMMUNITY
Downtown Winnipeg – In response to the regrettable removal of Joseph Meconse from Portage Place several weeks ago, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ convened a meeting between Indigenous leaders Lisa Meeches (Manito Ahbee Festival), Joseph Meconse, and Damon Johnston (Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg) with David Stone of Portage Place to connect on a variety of short-term and long-term goals to better cultivate an environment of inclusion, welcome, cultural sensitivity, and safety.
At a press conference today that began with a pipe ceremony and concluded with a round dance with the downtown’s business and Indigenous communities, a series of significant and thoughtful ideas and changes were outlined, to address the challenges of inclusion and safety at Portage Place and in our city and downtown – to bring communities together, build a common experience, and promote a conversation about Indigenous culture and traditions.
Portage Place has committed to incorporating an Indigenous lens to its security complement. Bear Paw Security will replace the mall’s current contractor, providing security services that considers and promotes Indigenous culture and traditions. In addition, Portage Place inducted and honoured Joseph Meconse as its official Ogichidaa, an Indigenous ambassador and liaison who will establish and maintain positive relationships and foster mutual understanding. Long-term goals of aligning Indigenous-led social agencies and applicable programs or services at or near Portage Place will also be explored by Portage Place.
“All I want is for our community to be respected,” says Joseph Meconse. “No one should be mistreated when visiting and enjoying each other’s company. Indigenous people are great people, our hearts are pure.”
The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ also announced plans for an infusing of Indigenous culture and arts in its summer programming roster, beginning with the popular concert series at Portage Place and an Indigenous-music stage at ManyFest, its annual festival that attracts over 70,000 Winnipeggers annually. A series of other initiatives to enhance cultural awareness and promote the arts and languages of the Indigenous community was mentioned by the BIZ, for an announcement to come later in the year.
“We have heard from our community and are working proactively with the business community to form concrete solutions to create change,” says Lisa Meeches, Executive Director of Manito Ahbee Festival. “Organizations like Portage Place have been part of this discussion for years, so we’re eager to keep the momentum going with these important steps and actions.”
“This will be the standard of business moving forward at Portage Place,” says David Stone, General Manager of Portage Place. “We are committed to undertaking these goals and actions to ensure a welcoming environment for all.”
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Emily Ormonde, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Phone: (204) 958-4626; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org