Vancouver may proclaim “Year of Reconciliation” with indigenous peoples

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      As Vancouver prepares to host a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada event in the fall, one councillor wants to see a “Year of Reconciliation” proclaimed in the city.

      A motion set to be introduced by Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer next week also asks staff to report back on the possibility of naming the municipality a "City of Reconciliation”, and for council to state its support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

      Reimer said her motion is based on recommendations made by Reconciliation Canada, and by a resolution passed by the city's Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee. 

      “For some people, the residential school experience is unknown,” Reimer told the Straight by phone. “They might have heard the term, but they’re not aware of what it meant…It was a very deeply traumatic and shameful experience in Canada that needs to be dealt with, needs to be acknowledged, needs to be understood, and that we need to move on from collectively.”

      “Ultimately it’s a trauma…that has reverberations throughout our community, and if we can’t reconcile that and move forward, that’s holding us back, as a society and as a city,” she added.

      Karen Joseph, the executive director of Reconciliation Canada, said the group is organizing “dialogue workshops” in the lead-up to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission event in September. The commission has held four other national events across the country to date, which are aimed at informing Canadians about the history of the residential schools system, and the experience of former students and their families.

      “It’s really taking the reconciliation process as it exists right now in terms of acknowledging and apologizing and making restitution, and takes it to the next level of well that’s just the very beginning step, and where do we go from here,” Joseph said in a phone interview.

      Some of the events the organization is coordinating in conjunction with the TRC gathering include an All Nations Canoe Gathering on September 17, a commencement event at B.C. Place on September 21 that will include international speakers, and a “Walk for Reconciliation” through downtown Vancouver on September 22. Joseph said organizers are hoping to invite 50,000 people to the B.C. Place event and the walk.

      Chief Robert Joseph, the executive director of the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society, said he is hoping to see Vancouver adopt the recommendation to name the municipality a city of reconciliation.

      “It’s really important here in Vancouver in particular because we have so many ethnic groups here already, whose own relationships with others needs to be nurtured and cared for, and we think that Vancouver is a great [place] to be declared the city of reconciliation,” he told the Straight by phone.

      The Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chief and former residential school student is also part of the Reconciliation Canada initiative, a charitable project created by the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society and Tides Canada Initiatives to engage Canadians in “meaningful dialogue” to build stronger relationships between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

      If Reimer’s motion is passed, a “Year of Reconciliation” could be proclaimed in the city beginning June 21, which is recognized as National Aboriginal Day. The councillor said the City of Reconciliation designation is likely to require more discussion. She noted that to her knowledge, no other municipalities have taken on the title.

      Reimer added that in her view, the topic of reconciliation has begun to gain more attention.

      “This discussion felt impossible 20 years ago,” she said. “The impact is so huge and the discussion and the number of people having it is so small. And now to be at the point where…it’s a discussion that has become much more mainstream is really encouraging about what’s possible.”

      The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada event is scheduled to take place from September 18 to 21, 2013.



      Dave L.

      Feb 23, 2013 at 8:17am

      It is a fact that white French & English people (primarily) came to this country , and by sheer force of numbers have dominated the native peoples and taken over the land that they once lived on.Colonialism was happening everywhere throughout the world,at that time.
      This ongoing unrest is not going to change the past, It's time to get over it , get on with life.
      Yes the "Residential Schools" happened , yes they were horrible in the extreme for a great deal of native people , and no, they were not all bad , (or so I have read?)
      Once again this (the fact of the residential schools) is not going to change , time to get over it and get on with your life.
      Stop blaming the white people of this country for all of your problems , surely some of your problems are caused by your own actions / choices ?
      I have to stress that I am NOT anti - native and I do in fact sympathize with you for the some of the problems you do have , however it is also a fact that more money is not going to cure all your problems nor is land reclamation. Nothing will erase the past.
      Somewhere along the way you have to stand up and just get on with it. Listen to a very wise native chief from Osoyoos ,BC ,Chief Louie and what he has to say, His people have benefited greatly from his "Common Sense" approach to life in the 21st Century.


      Feb 23, 2013 at 12:58pm

      Craven, dishonest, naive, immature, childish, lost, confused. These are just a few adjectives that immediately come to mind when I think of Vision Vancouver. Oh, and blind too.


      Feb 23, 2013 at 2:17pm

      I don't suppose Andrea's motion will include a motion calling for racial equality and an end to race-based government? Thought not.

      By the way, when someone says they are a hereditary chief it means their great-great grandparents were likely slave owners, part of a ruling elite. Funny how that little historical ugliness is neglected


      Feb 23, 2013 at 2:38pm

      Good on you Reimer, and the others who suggested this. It's about time we stopped ignoring the First Nations peoples and the injustices they faced and still face today.

      Jodie Tonita

      Feb 23, 2013 at 3:19pm

      I agree with Andrea, the fact that we can have this discussion as a city is really hopeful. It will never be easy, requires strong leadership and I'm thrilled that people are stepping us to move this forward. Vancouver, its people, and culture will be stronger for it. Bravo! Let us know how we can help!

      Walter N

      Feb 23, 2013 at 4:25pm

      @ Dave. L.:

      I agree with you. Lazy Indians should get over it & move on. We should also stop blaming Germans for the First and Second World Wars and that forgettable thing they did with the Jews. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be boycotted. Blacks in the USA to get over it & on with it too. And women, well, why don't they just shut up and listen, right? Yeah.

      Do I know you? Is your last name Loewen? Just wondering.


      Feb 23, 2013 at 4:27pm

      Dear Dave L., You are being selectively, willfully blind to the fact that the colonisation of "BC" is ongoing. For proof of this you need only look at the proposed pipelines, the logging of traditional, unceded territories, and the willful destruction of the Salmon that was the birthright of First Nations for millennia. This is a form of genocide according to the UN and Amnesty International.

      And the constant "be like us" bullshit I hear from racists like yourself who hold up the Osoyoos band as the shining example of entrepreneurial First Nations is laughable when one considers that because of the effects of climate change - another "gift" by the civilised to indigenous people - nobody will be able to live in Osoyoos past another generation.

      That all said, I'm doubtful that this ceremonial circus will accomplish anything beyond making some settlers feel better about themselves. I think the money could be spent on something more permanent than another parade with big screens, plastic banners and disposable cups.

      Columpa Bobb

      Feb 23, 2013 at 5:03pm

      To Dave L.
      I'd LOVE to hear you say 'get over it" to the Jewish people who are survivors of their holocaust. I would love to hear you say "get over it" on veterns day. I would love to hear you say "get over it" to survivors of rape, molestation and murder.
      You are a self made idiot, sir. That the last residential school closed down in 1996 shows how recent, fresh and open the wounds are. Get your ignorant head out of your butt, relieve yourself of your overblown sense of entitlement and race based apathy and grab just a smidgeon of education before you venture public declarations of any kind around this matter.


      Feb 24, 2013 at 11:25am

      The Oooyos band, or some of them benefitted mostly from the luck of their geographic location and the ability to turn their land into pesticide drenched farmland and add to the ever growing mass of universally crappy BC wines


      Feb 24, 2013 at 2:35pm

      Get over it... we stole the land fair and square.