Session Panel Explores the Meaning of Reconciliation

One of the pre-convention study sessions focused on the work of reconciliation between First Nations, local government and other orders of government. UBCM spoke with one of the panelists, Director John Jack from Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, to seek his thoughts on the work of reconciliation and what local governments can do to support reconciliation across the province.

“I think reconciliation is a process between many communities and many communities. If the process is going to be real, we can't engage with generalized abstractions like “First Nations” or “Non First Nations” – it has to be about the people next door. So I see it as relationship building between local communities and First Nations communities, and in most cases that means dozens and dozens of bilateral discussions. Another way to look at is that it is couples counseling for dozens and dozens of arranged marriages. None of us asked to be here, but we are here and we need make the relationship better.”

“One of the lessons we are learning from the reconciliation process is the pain that results when leaders cannot except that others want to live their lives in ways that are different. We need to value the idea that people have the right to live their lives differently. During our session, Grand Chief Edward John referred to the proposed charter in Quebec that would ban religious symbols. These sorts of policies just bring division.”

“We are better off as leaders by remembering that we are here for the same reason – we are trying to make the lives of our constituents better. If we focus on that common goal, we can work together and look at how our lands are going to be used. First Nations and local governments may have conflicts on how to do this. The best way to have those conflicts though is to talk to each other, get to know each other, and find out more. What we need is a pragmatic approach that is not overly formalized – I think that is what will bring the best results.”

“With an issue as deep as reconciliation, it's natural to wonder where to begin. I think we need to start the conversation locally. Local governments can get to know their counterparts. Not just at dinners, but actually get to know the leaders or administrators in neighbouring communities on a personal level. Once we understand each others' politics, then we can act accordingly. If the trust isn't there, you have to build trust until you get down to business. You may not want to do it, but you can't afford to not do it. Our plans cannot be fully formed until you take into consideration the interests of everyone involved.”

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph (Reconciliation Canada), Grand Chief Ed John (First Nations Leadership Council), John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, and Ms. Colleen Swords (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) joined Director Jack in the well received session.

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