C2C Forums: Relationships and Reconciliation

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action” document, released in June of this year, identifies specific, practical steps to repair the relationship between Aboriginal people and the rest of Canada. UBCM’s Regional Community to Community (C2C) Forum program provides assistance to help build strong foundations for such relationships here in B.C.

With modest financial support available to First Nations and local governments, more than 500 C2C forum events have been held since 1999. The program is administered jointly by the First Nations Summit and UBCM, and offers matching grants of up to $5,000 to bring together elected officials of neighbouring communities to discuss issues of shared concern or responsibility.

For nearly 15 years, program funding was provided by the provincial and federal governments.  However, the federal government declined to fund the 2015/16 C2C program and the province alone is now supporting C2C grants.

"Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts." - Justice Murray Sinclair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair

So what does reconciliation look like?

The first step in the reconciliation journey is to build respectful relationships. With 200 First Nation band councils and 190 local governments, as well as the diversity of B.C.’s geography and recent history, the specific activities needed to build positive relationships differ markedly across the province.

For some communities, it means sitting down together for the first time to learn each other’s history or conducting reciprocal community visits. For others it means developing memoranda of understanding or protocol agreements.  Ultimately joint service agreements, economic development plans and projects or other initiatives form the tangible outcome of relationships cultivated under the program.

Forum topics have included OCP reviews, regional employment strategies, cultural heritage protection, waterfront revitalization, watershed planning, drug and alcohol awareness, public transit, waste management, wildfire prevention and emergency services, to name but a few. The issues are as diverse as the participants.

 “While few agreed on what reconciliation might look like, a starting point could be by sharing meals with one another and letting conversations crisscross over supper.”  - Sara Fryer in Reconciliation & The Way Forward, 2014.

One of the most successful ways to initiate dialogue and begin the process of building respectful relationships is to gather for a meal. In many successful C2C events, the elected boards and/or councils break bread together as a means of making personal introductions among themselves. This simple expression of common purpose and goodwill can resonate powerfully.

Over time, the rapport of early efforts bears fruit in the form of protocols and trusted working relationships. C2C funding remains available to encourage and maintain those relationships across terms of office and changing community circumstances.

The UBCM also recently signed a Partnership Agreement with Reconciliation Canada that allows the parties to work together in an ongoing, collaborative manner to initiate, foster, and support reconciliation initiatives and activities to benefit British Columbians.

The importance of moving forward was a recurring theme during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. Acknowledging our sometimes troubled past is an essential starting point in any honest and healthy relationship. The work of reconciliation is really just beginning and the C2C Forum program is available to help these efforts along.

Full information on the C2C Forum program is available here.

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