Ginger Gosnell-Myers: Why frameworks that recognize Indigenous rights matter

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      By Ginger Gosnell-Myers

      I’ve been watching governments react to Indigenous rights my whole life. Being from a political family and Nation, you get pretty attuned to various governments attempting to "deal" with Indigenous rights. While governments of the past have brought forward their big solutions to some pretty basic fundamentals of Indigenous rights being acted upon, they never went far enough. 

      More recently, I worked for the City of Vancouver as the staff lead on their reconciliation efforts. Municipalities aren’t known for being a place of innovation on Indigenous rights recognition. But we moved forward with our commitments, within our jurisdiction to act, and developed the City of Reconciliation Framework as a response. 

      The City of Reconciliation framework was not to be a cookie cutter prescriptive set of policies or programs. Rather it focused on the important elements of what the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Actions outlined, and we used them to provide direction and policy alignment. What we were able to accomplish was nothing short of monumental change, for the better. We empowered the ability of staff to respond to a respectful government-to-government working relationship. It provided the City of Vancouver and First Nations the time to create the tools that actually work, along with the training staff needed to undertake it well. 

      If this was prescriptive, it would not have worked. It wouldn’t have given anyone the ability to create what was needed. Vancouver’s City of Reconciliation framework wasn’t about a government trying to just "deal" with Indigenous rights. It was about creating a pathway forward, together. It set the City of Vancouver on the path to reconciliation. With the framework set, the real work took place in every department within the City of Vancouver on creating an action plan, based on working alongside with First Nations and ensuring that there was agreement on what our next steps and longer term objectives were. 

      Yes, there is still a long way to go. But that’s the nature of meaningful reconciliation. It will take time and involve all of us to get it right. 

      That’s why I support the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. It’s a drastic change from the efforts of all other previous governments. And that’s because it’s providing the actual tools Indigenous leaders have been asking for in order to undertake the needed work on rights recognition. In my experience, this is the only approach that matters.

      Ginger Gosnell-Myers (Nisga’a & Kwakwakwewak) is a public policy expert and urban planner. She is an associate with the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.