Xele’milh-Doris Paul, Squamish Nation elder and leader, is an unwavering volunteer who brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners to achieve safety, health and shared understanding in her North Vancouver community. In 2021 she was awarded the inaugural British Columbia Reconciliation Award.
Doris remembers the first time she felt empowered to seek reconciliation for the betterment of her community. “It started in 2005 when I heard about kids as young as nine drinking at parties. I’d go knock on the door and call out the kids.” She wondered if parents were aware of their children’s activities and to help address the problem Doris was keen to engage the RCMP. She invited the West Vancouver Police to meet with parents and the Council and the dialogue started. Through research and her own persistence, a partnership between the Nation’s parents and local police was formed called the Integrated First Nations Unit (IFNU).
To this day she remains involved in the program and is highly respected. “Every time a new IFNU member is hired, they knock on my door to introduce themselves. I love this integrated team.”
Her steadfast leadership on the North Shore’s Violence Against Women Committee further exemplifies her determination to deepen Indigenous cultural understanding and the work of reconciliation for many, most importantly the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Through her work on MMIWG, she acted as Cultural Advisor to help create the “Strength and Remembrance Pole”, which sits outside the North Vancouver RCMP Detachment. The pole honours the MMIWG, and the lives lost at the Ècole Polytechnique University.
“Every spring to acknowledge MMIWG, we put roses at the foot of the totem but I had to tell the RCMP that the pole is as sacred as a headstone, so the police should not clear away the dead flowers. The flowers should be disposed of in a running body of water.” Respecting the cultural knowledge Doris shared with them, the IFNU members invited Doris and others to join them and together they broke the water with a cedar bough and laid the flowers to rest in the water. “One of them actually ended with a prayer. This was a vision I had when we first created IFNU but I was never sure we’d have a cultural connection.”
In 2007 Doris was awarded BC Achievement’s Community Award as the founder and chair of Caring for Our Youth Committee, a community organization formed to protect youth from drug dealers, violence, and suffering and pain caused by addiction. And today she’s getting the ball rolling to start it back up after hearing from the community. “People are ready for some kind of justice support and this younger generation can see the vision.”
Doris is a leader in her community, bringing people together. Her ability to learn more about the BC Reconciliation Award and the stories it has inspired, visit www.bcachievement.com
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