Roundtable 18: Reconciliation

Overview

Reconciliation occurs only after recognition of the truth of the lived experience of Indigenous peoples historically and today. Colonialism, residential schools and interference with language and religion have broken trust between Indigenous peoples and settlers, and their descendants. The City of Vancouver and other organizations have undertaken measures to bring the objectives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into action.

  • What are the emerging lessons from these efforts?
  • How can we engage in a healing process that fosters sustained relationships of mutual respect and understanding?
  • Under the umbrella of A City for All, there remains a need for reconciliation with others that have received apologies, such as the Japanese, Black, Chinese, and LGBTQ2S communities who have also suffered systemic discrimination.
  • Recognizing that each group’s history and circumstance is different, what are the commonalities?
  • What can be applied from the initiatives of different groups to bring reconciliation into action?

Roundtable Discussion

There were 11 participants from a variety of non-profit and community-based organizations and funders in the Resiliency Roundtable, as well as the table lead Carole Brown and notetaker Carl Steffans.

While the experience of the impact of colonization may be felt by many groups, there was agreement that Indigenous peoples are the first nations of the land and are different from others that came later. The rich discussion touched on multiple themes. There was discussion of the deeply personal and political experiences of sharing one’s culture but also of educating oneself in one’s own culture, coming to terms with lessons from a history we never knew, but are living in right now.

We finally get to say it. A lot of our people have been kept in silence for so long because they have been held in trauma. This gave people validation that ‘yes we live in complex trauma, but that doesn’t define us. It is only a part of who we are.

Amanda Nahanee

The table also discussed the problems with using systems and services (e.g. health care, child and family services, police services) that have displaced and oppressed Indigenous and other peoples, and the challenges of systemic change. Other topics included the role and place of urban Indigenous peoples; how people are connecting to the idea of colonialism and relating it to themselves; and the need for common ground between different groups (Indigenous, people of colour, other cultural minorities, and different experiences and backgrounds within those umbrellas).

There was a recognition that there are many definitions of reconciliation. There is the danger that reconciliation simply brings more pressure to assimilate. Reconciliation is messy. It is not about bringing outside members into the existing culture, but building a more cooperative community living together. The fluid nature of reconciliation brings challenges when governments and the general public want certainty. Truth is central to making reconciliation integral to the community.

Reconciliation shouldn’t be something that is a done deal. It is fluid.

David Diamond

While clearly there is a long way to go, there is also recognition that there is a resurgence underway with Indigenous people taking their power, but taking it in a community way and level. There is recognition of trauma but also a recognition that trauma is only one part of a person.

Key Findings

  • Tolerance isn’t enough. Love, knowledge, and acceptance are central to effective reconciliation.
  • Uncomfortable conversations are important to making change, but education shouldn’t be the job of Indigenous and other minority groups. Education is integral to understanding. The question is education for whom, by whom, and about what.
  • Diversity and inclusion is not about changing white spaces, or helping ‘others’ to conform. How do we change dominant culture? How do we co-create space?
  • How can language be used to change attitudes?
  • The root problem is land and cultural dispossession. Industrialization has made everything a commodity. The cultural deficit of western capitalism.
  • How do urban Indigenous peoples legitimize their ability to represent themselves?
  • There is both diversity in Indigenous peoples and nations, but also a shared experience. There is a need to understand where we are located. Status is a way to place people into boxes.
  • Fear based policy making is essential to colonialism (potlach ban). People who led were afraid of white assimilation into Indigenous culture. There is a fundamental fear from people who are used to being welcomed everywhere—white fragility.
  • People don’t understand the power and privilege they have. Privilege and power should be acknowledged, but are invaluable opportunities to make effective change. Those elected make choices and those who provide information (staff, management) aren’t neutral data-generating machines. People need to act with intentionality, thoughtfulness, and do their personal work to understand their roles in deconstructing racism.
  • The importance of keeping families together, protecting children, not children ‘at risk’ but children who have been deprived of their culture.

Recommendations

OVERARCHING RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Get resources to the people on the ground already doing the work and create effective opportunities to empower communities and allies to co-create initiatives.
  • Address the fact that urban Indigenous peoples are refugees of colonialism.
  • Deconstruct colonial systems.
  • Break down systemic barriers which support existing power structures.
  • Smash colonial/capitalist protocols and get the humans representing institutions to be present.

SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Re-publish an updated version of “First Nations: A Guide for Newcomers” and send it out to all households public education.
  • Set up a structure where people are not afraid to make mistakes and to voice opinions.
  • Look at mandating ceremonial spaces in new buildings/places using Community Amenity Contributions.
  • City of Vancouver to set up a non-appointed Indigenous advisory committee for reconciliation, strategic planning, continuity in relationship building.
Marches for Reconciliation have been held all across Canada.

Related Initiatives

ALIVE (Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement) creates opportunities for Aboriginal peoples to take part in decision making in the space they live in. They work at a neighbourhood level to examine the ways people communicate and work together on issues such as community engagement and employment and through projects such as “Reconciliation in Action” initiative in partnership with community centres and residents’ groups.

Britannia Community Centre hosts reconciliation events including ALIVE’s Reconciliation in Action program. The Board is looking at ways to advance reconciliation in an area where Indigenous People are underrepresented such as creating a ceremony room in the Centre.

Theatre for Living uses theatre workshops to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to help support processes of reconciliation.

The Ming Sun Benevolent Society has supported the replacement of the historic Ming Sun building in Japantown with social housing. There needs to be a way to commemorate the history of the building, one of the 20 oldest in Vancouver, even though it is not repairable and the community needs the social housing. Some groups and individuals protested the development of social housing on the site – there continues to be a lack of understanding about social housing, and more education and communication between different groups is needed.

The Vancouver Park Board has adopted 11 recommendations in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is now trying to do ground work on reconciliation including taking a reconciliation lens to programming, trauma informed training, harm reduction training, training on privilege, and through the Rise program, having Indigenous youth partners in the parks board system. Melding this approach with existing Parks Board systems is a challenge and an ongoing process.

The Discourse is a digital news media company that brings together journalists, members and partners to provide in-depth journalism to communities underserved by media.

The Tsawwassen Comprehensive Community Plan was recently refreshed and one of the nine objectives was the recognition of language and culture. Preservation of Indigenous languages is especially hard when people move to urban areas. The use of technology may be one way to address this issue.

The Indigenous Relations Manager is responsible for managing the City of Vancouver’s overall approach to government relations with Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation. The Manager is a resource to the City’s Business Units in the implementation of Council’s strategic direction moving towards a ‘City of Reconciliation’, as well as implementation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations relevant to municipal government. This position works collaboratively across City divisions and agencies to build strong relationships with First Nations, community organizations, and other government partners to support Council direction and the City’s strategic initiatives.

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