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SUMA conference concludes with bear pit session

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The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) conference wrapped up on Wednesday with educational sessions in the morning, followed by a bear pit session for delegates to speak directly with the provincial government.

The hour and a half long bear pit session allowed SUMA delegates an opportunity to speak directly with the provincial delegates on the final day of the conference.

“It’s so good to see provincial government here and answering the questions to some of the decisions they might’ve have made but also to understand what the needs are in our communities so we’re very pleased with the last four days,” Randy Goulden, SUMA president said.

According to Goulden, the top three issues she heard about this week include infrastructure funding, mental health and addictions, as well as community safety.

“They’re very very pleased with the discussions that they’ve had, the engagement they’ve had with SUMA, with our board of directors but also with the provincial government and the leaders that have taken time to come and have those discussions with them,” she said.

Another topic mentioned more than once was truth and reconciliation efforts. Multiple delegates, including Prince Albert City councillor, Tony Head, spoke about the need for more consultation with Indigenous leaders when it comes to issues affecting their communities.

“I had asked the government to take a close look at some of the services that are lacking in our province, and to also consider the TRC’s recommendations on government actions,” Head said.

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Minister of Government Relations, Don McMorris, spoke to media following the session.

“We’re quite proud of our record on truth and reconciliation and the engagement of First Nations into the economy. We’ve got a number of programs, record revenue sharing as far as gaming profits that go to First Nations, FSIN, and First Nations organizations, Metis organizations as well,” McMorris said.

With another prominent topic being mental health and addictions, many highlighted the urgent need for more resources as rural communities struggle to keep up with the demand for addictions treatment; an issue that disproportionately affects Indigenous people.

“They highlighted some of the robust and growing economy but to me, I felt like they were lacking some of the social services that are required in our community to make a strong thriving community. I hope they refocus some of their attention to these much needed areas. You know, we’ve seen a lot of struggles and no improvements so my biggest hope is that they improve the system,” Head said.

Now, delegates are heading back to their home communities across Saskatchewan until next year’s conference, which will take place in Saskatoon. 

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