Reconciliation Week – A Call to Action

During 2013 UBCM Convention week, another event of vital importance is happening in Vancouver – Reconciliation Week. In conjunction with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) British Columbia National Event September 18-21, Reconciliation Canada is hosting several events, including The Walk for Reconciliation on September 22. The UBCM Pre-conference session “A Snapshot of the Local Government-First Nations Landscape” will feature a panel dialogue hosted in partnership with Reconciliation Canada, moderated by The Honourable Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the TRC.

UBCM is working with Reconciliation Canada to promote the reconciliation message, as well as the events of Reconciliation Week. Reconciliation Canada is an organization founded in 2012 that is building new relationships between Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians, relationships built on a foundation of openness, dignity, understanding and hope. Reconciliation Canada is engaging people from every part of Canadian society in an open and honest conversation about our diverse histories and experiences in order to build resilient, sustainable communities.

The TRC is an independent commission established as a result of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in the 150-year history of the residential schools, and to guide and inspire a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.

Reconciliation Week will include the following events:

UBCM Reconciliation Dialogue Panel, September 16
The first half of the UBCM Pre-conference Session, “A Snapshot of the Local Government-First Nations Landscape”, will feature a panel dialogue hosted in partnership with Reconciliation Canada, moderated by TRC Chair, Justice Murray Sinclair. Panel participants will include Reconciliation Canada Ambassador Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, as well as representatives of all levels of government—First Nation, local, provincial, and federal. Panelists will discuss what reconciliation means to them, and how we can work together moving forward.

The lighting of the Flame of Reconciliation, September 16
A sacred fire will be lit at Ambleside Beach to symbolize the start of Reconciliation Week.

The All Nations Canoe Gathering, September 17
Paddlers will start from Kits Point to the Olympic Village. People-powered crafts will join traditional canoes in a welcome ceremony to Coast Salish lands.

The TRC's British Columbia National Event, September 18-21
BC National Event participants will bear witness to the experiences of Survivors of the Indian Residential Schools, and the schools' continuing legacy. The event will also feature traditional ceremonies, Survivor gatherings, an Education Day for students, and cultural performances, among other activities.

In preparation for this event, the TRC has held public hearings in communities throughout British Columbia – in Port Hardy, Campbell River, Port Alberni, Duncan (Cowichan), and Victoria in 2012; and Prince George, Williams Lake, Kamloops and Terrace earlier this year. This, the TRC's sixth National Event, takes place at the Pacific National Exhibition. No registration is required, and all activities are free.

The Walk for Reconciliation, September 22
Bringing Canada's many cultures to walk a path together in a shared commitment to reconciliation. Organizers are hoping that the The Walk for Reconciliation will engage 50,000 participants. Local governments, such as Vancouver and Port Alberni, have established Walk Teams and are encouraging their staff and citizens to come out and support this important initiative. Register for the walk, which will go from Queen Elizabeth Plaza to Creekside Park.

A New Way Forward Celebration, September 22
Reconciliation Week culminates with a celebration marking a new beginning and a show of commitment to continuing on the journey of reconciliation. Featuring multicultural performers and various festivities.

Reconciliation Week is a Call to Action, for all British Columbians. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the continuing legacy of the Indian Residential Schools, bear witness to survivors' experiences, and heal. It is also a time to come together to create relationships and build strategies for moving forward.

BC local governments are taking up this Call to Action. One such example is that of the City of Vancouver, who proclaimed June 21, 2013 to June 20, 2014 the Year of Reconciliation in Vancouver. In partnership with Reconciliation Canada, the City is supporting a Year of Reconciliation by acknowledging the negative cultural impacts and stereotypes that resulted from Canada's residential school system, to witness the process of reconciliation and healing, and advance with a greater shared understanding of the historical impacts that have shaped the experiences of Aboriginal people to date.

UBCM encourages all delegates to participate in Reconciliation Week events where possible, and consider initiating reconciliation activities in their own communities. Please spread the word within your council or board, and across your networks, and join us as work toward a new way forward, together.

If your community is making efforts to further the reconciliation message, UBCM wants to hear about it. Please contact Angela Turner.

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