When it came to developing a community-driven and culturally informed approach to decolonizing relationships between health systems and Indigenous Nations, the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ (Many Ways of Doing the Same Thing) research team recognized early on that commitment to respectful engagement and co-learning would be crucial to success. A truly reciprocal partnership between the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Interior Health, the University of Victoria and later the University of British Columbia took shape, founded on mutual goals of understanding and implementing what Reconciliation means and looks like for the Ktunaxa Nation. The xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team is committed to supporting the Ktunaxa Nation’s vision for community health, while redefining and dismantling colonial “health system expertise” and leveraging partnerships to co-design solutions that promote better outcomes for all.
Through expertise shared by Ktunaxa Elders and Knowledge Holders, the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team came to understand the definition of colonization as “the process of forcefully removing and disconnecting people [from land, culture, identity, community, and problem-solving resources]”, while Reconciliation is a process of re-connecting. This concept of connecting would emerge again and again; in their earliest meetings with the Ktunaxa Nation, it became clear the project must be rooted in local knowledge. In order to name the project, the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ research team joined Ktunaxa Elders to engage in a deep dive of the nuances of Ktunaxa language, millennia-old problem-solving methodologies, and cultural knowledge. In bearing witness to these practices, the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ research team found organic and meaningful inspiration in how to move forward with their work. The Elders consulted became the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ Advisory Group, and their ongoing generous guidance ensures research is conducted with honour and respect of cultural protocols, local expertise, and the Ktunaxa language.
Dr. Christopher Horsethief, project co-lead and Ktunaxa scholar, explains that “a healthy community must be able to solve problems, and access, preserve and share cultural knowledge across time and space.” Building capacity for the revitalization, restoration and documentation of traditional Ktunaxa Nation knowledge systems and research processes has been of the utmost importance. This has taken the form of community gatherings and events, honoraria, scholarships for students, hiring local research assistants, and commissioning Ktunaxa artists to create artwork that capture themes around community wellness.
In May 2019, during one of the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team’s visits to community, non-Ktunaxa team members had a rare opportunity to participate in digging for bitterroot, a culturally significant community activity usually not open to non-Ktunaxa people. The bitterroot harvested was later prepared as part of a feast, served during a Ceremonial Recognition to share findings and celebrate progress. This moment was captured in a team photo depicting the hands of Elders and team members holding a bucket of bitterroot, a visual embodiment of Reconciliation in coming together, exchanging cultural knowledge, and connecting through a shared activity.
The type of work being done by the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team is often at odds with the ways current institutional systems are designed to reward and support health research work. The team’s collective ability to navigate the barriers of this system, while staying true to their work and purpose, has been reflected in a successful Canadian Institutes of Health Research project grant; one reviewer noted, the proposal itself is a teaching tool for reviewers. “The issue of health is uppermost in all of our minds and we ask how do you change the system? This project incorporates everybody: universities, experts and First Nations,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers. “It involves a co-creation of knowledge while bringing together two systems and showing the value Indigenous knowledge brings to a system.” Being recognized with a BC Reconciliation Award is yet another step towards legitimizing and centering the xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ team’s way of working as equally robust, fundable and impactful.
“We are profoundly grateful to Ktunaxa Nation for trusting us, correcting us, and teaching us so that we can walk this journey together,” says Dr. Sana Shahram, project co-lead and Assistant Professor at UBC. “It is never lost on us what a privilege it is to be welcomed into this work and we hope to continue doing this work together and in a good way for many years to come.”
For Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS), Reconciliation means many things. It means relationships built on knowing truths about what has happened in the past, and an unwavering commitment to build brighter futures for the unique needs of a community. From this commitment came the renowned Nowh Guna “Our Way” Foot in Both Worlds Carrier Agility Training program, a Reconciliation education framework based in north central British Columbia. Facilitators and knowledge holders from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds create space for participants to examine their own practices and institutional policies, and learn how to better work with Indigenous community members. Based on the Carrier values and First Peoples Principles of Learning, training sessions are led by Elders and Knowledge-Keepers.
CSFS was founded on the principle that Indigenous peoples must have equity, as well as equality, to ensure the holistic wellbeing of their families and communities. Organizational values of respect, integrity, compassion and responsibility, developed by founding matriarchs and leaders and based on cultural values, are carefully integrated into the work of CSFS. Prior to creating Nowh Guna training, CSFS worked with Cindy Blackstock on her Touchstones of Hope initiative, which in part inspired the development of their own educational programs for moving toward, and for, Reconciliation. Many CSFS staff members and professionals from the larger community have now taken part in Nowh Guna training. As the interest to learn more about Indigenous culture and Reconciliation grows, CSFS has recognized the need to create space for non-Indigenous partners to understand the past, present and future of Indigenous peoples and their contributions to society.
A typical training session brings together a mixed group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from a wide variety of sectors, both public and private. A safe space for learning is established. Truths are told about historical experiences, tears are shed, and new understandings are built. It’s an authentic space to learn directly from the wisdom and generosity of the Elders, and to unpack the history behind inaccurate assumptions. The training follows a formal process, but it’s the experiential exercises and story sharing during which many students and trainees report breakthrough connections to the materials. By the end of the second day, participants leave the closing circle with a sense of profound transformation. Many stay behind to ask for opinions on how to remove systemic and/or unintentional barriers to access or provide welcoming and helpful services. Hearts are changed, strong relationships are formed, and nothing seems impossible. Every experience shared, each conversation and action taken, creates meaningful change.
“[CSFS’ Nowh Guna ‘Our Way’ training] is an important educational program with a global component whose impact has enriched people’s lives,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers. “It speaks to the inclusion of Indigenous people sharing their knowledge, and underlines that, as Indigenous peoples, we do have the capacity to govern ourselves.” In 2020, CSFS celebrated 30 years of work to reassert First Nations control of justice, health, social and family services, all of which have suffered through the process of colonization. The BC Reconciliation Award recognizes the importance of this work, as culminated in a training format that’s helped CSFS First Nations staff learn more about their shared histories and experiences as well as sharing this knowledge with the larger community. It’s a methodical walk-through of history and law that teaches descendants of settlers to understand the uneasy transition from bright history through dark past, into an optimistic future. The BC Reconciliation Award celebrates this future, and acknowledges the commitment of CSFS staff from all backgrounds toward reconciling past injustices.
CSFS has worked long and hard to meet the enormous needs stemming from the colonization of their communities. While CSFS is proud to have provided three decades of service, in some ways, particularly the long road of Reconciliation, they understand this may just be beginning. CSFS continues to seek innovative ways to re-build their Nations and communities, so in that bright future, every child is provided with the tools and opportunities to reach their full potential.
“Reconciliation is not about words,” says Dawn Drummond, “it’s about action.” As director for Indigenous Relations for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), Dawn has devoted more than a decade to collaboration and consultation on thousands of projects with Indigenous communities in the southern interior region of the Province. Throughout the course of her career, Dawn has come to understand that the actions required for Reconciliation can take many forms: the action to complete and honour commitments, to understand the unique history and stories of a community, and to appreciate culture and traditional language. But most important, Dawn stresses, is the action of not giving up. Perseverance goes hand-in-hand with trust and vulnerability on the many steps of the Reconciliation journey.
Dawn’s earliest awareness of the concept of Reconciliation and how it might be applied to her work came after the completion of her first fully executed Reconciliation highway agreement with an Indigenous community. At the signing ceremony, she was gifted a drum and was asked to learn a Secwepemc song to play at the gathering. Dawn was overcome with emotion at what her and the community had accomplished working together. The experience brought new purpose to her work and spurred her to start down a path dedicated to resolving historical reconciliation agreements, with continued advocacy for change, innovative solutions, and a commitment to keep coming back to a community even when the discussions are challenging.
One memorable challenge issued to Dawn was a particular road with 40 years of unresolved issues. It was a tough file, but Dawn is known as the MoTI Champion for a reason. During a meeting in 2016, the Chief asked her to shake on a guarantee that a new road would finally be built through his community. “Through this handshake,” he told her with a smile, “you’ve committed to complete road construction before you move onto another job.” These are the kinds of commitments Dawn identifies as vital: support for communities where there was little for decades, and an obligation and desire to work hard to get the job done. Even with the complexities of COVID, Dawn was thrilled to fulfill her promise in 2020 with the completion of the road.
Truly at the crux of Dawn’s work, in tandem with commitment, is community. “When I think of my community,” Dawn says, “I think of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.” Over the course of her career, Dawn has witnessed many positive changes, including increased awareness of Reconciliation and the power of the work they do, the words they use, and the actions they take. Her family and colleagues have given her tremendous support to continue to grow and learn, and, in turn, Dawn is always happy to bring people along on the journey. She also cites the trust imbued in her by her executive, someone willing to take the leap when Dawn begins a sentence with, “I want to try something we’ve never done before…”
It’s Dawn’s hope that this evolving mindfulness will shape the future of MoTI and chart a positive path forward inclusive of everyone. “The innovation and creativity that I bring to the table for negotiations is successful,” Dawn says, “because of collaboration with communities. Each community is unique in what they are looking to achieve and what works for one community may not work for another. It’s my job to listen and understand how my work can help resolve immediate issues [but] also contribute to the community as a whole.” As an example, Dawn and the Williams Lake First Nation collaborated on alternative procurement language for a project that included a minimum value committed for Indigenous economic opportunities. The alternative language was successful and has since that time been used for other projects. “I’m proud that we developed this language,” Dawn says, “and that my colleagues and executive were supportive to try a different approach. This established a path to provide more economic opportunities within highway projects for other First Nation communities.” BC Reconciliation Award juror Chief Sophie Pierre was also struck by this element of Dawn’s work: “Dawn is an outstanding example of an individual doing a job exceptionally well. She’s acknowledged by the First Nations she serves and described as someone who gets things done. What a great model she provides for other ministries to follow.”
“I’m truly humbled to be recognized for my work through this award,” Dawn says. “It’s an honour to work with a community and their leadership. I appreciate their willingness to not only work with me but to get to know each other and share moments in our lives.” Dawn recalls fondly how the milestones of her personal life, like her marriage and births of three children, have been noticed and celebrated by her work partners. Dawn is quick to reiterate that Reconciliation is not easy. The work required to understand historical grievances and find a way to collaborate with each community in setting a path forward is immense. But with these collaborations comes the power of meaningful, genuine connection, and wonderful friendships too. “I love travelling to communities,” Dawn says, “sharing a meal, having a laugh, and then getting down to business.”
Reconciliation, Corey Payette says, is bearing witness to the truth, and through his highly acclaimed musical production, Children of God, Corey has brought this truth to audiences throughout Canada. He is not only a leader in contemporary Indigenous theatre, but in his role as artistic director of Urban Ink and Raven Theatre, he mentors emerging BIPOC artists in telling their own stories from their own unique voices. A playwright, actor, composer and director, Corey’s work celebrates resilience and cultural reclamation, centered on the power of language, memory and ceremony.
Corey describes himself as having been in a “state of Reconciliation” his entire life. While he was not raised in the culture of his nation, as a child Corey came to know the stories of his family and ancestors, those that had been silenced for generations, unknown by mainstream society. In adulthood, Corey found himself most passionate about telling stories that shed light on the experiences of Indigenous peoples. In Children of God, an Oji-Cree family has their children taken away to a residential school in Northern Ontario. Following the production, a conversation is created for the community to hear from residential school survivors and their descendants. While Corey had prepared himself for the stories of the survivors, he was struck by the number of non-Indigenous people who spoke up. In response to these shared memories and deep truths, they offered their commitment to teach their children the history of residential schools and to be better citizens. This, Corey says, is Reconciliation in action—when individuals see it as their personal responsibility to make change. It means adapting one’s view of what it means to live on this land and making the commitments to move forward.
Corey is quick to decline accepting full recognition for his work. “The performing arts are an extraordinarily collaborative medium,” he says, “it took many Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples coming together over the past 10 years to help make my musicals a reality.” He’s most proud of the progress made in the post-show conversations, expressing additional gratitude to all who have taken part in that process. “If we want the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to become a positive one,” Corey says, “Reconciliation is the only way forward.”
Thanks to Corey’s commitment to his craft, thousands of Canadians understand the truth and enduring impacts of residential schools and intergenerational trauma. His work has created space for survivors to share their stories and young people, many who have been cut off from their language or have been displaced from their communities, to voice their experiences. “Children of God is a brilliant piece of work,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror Chief Sophie Pierre, “through his musical, Corey raises awareness in a unique and compelling setting while creating an understanding of the journey to Reconciliation.” In response to receiving a BC Reconciliation Award, Corey is humble but inspired: “I feel like I’ve only just begun this work. It makes me feel like I’m on the right road and that my musicals are reaching people and making lasting change in the community.”
Xele’milh-Doris Paul, Squamish Nation elder and leader, remembers the first time she felt empowered to seek Reconciliation for the betterment of her community. In 2005, she noticed a disturbing trend of youth being given drugs and alcohol at local parties, and, wondering if their parents were aware, set up a meeting at a space associated with the community’s RCMP detachment. Word spread, and Xele’milh-Doris found herself joined by more than 50 parents, and eventually, by her invitation, the RCMP and West Vancouver Police department. A partnership between the Nation’s parents and local police was formed, and so too was Xele’milh-Doris’ passion for community safety. A residential school survivor, Indigenous educator and advocate, Xele’milh-Doris became the engine behind such initiatives as the Integrated First Nations Unit (IFNU) with the North Vancouver RCMP, the First Nations Court, and the North Vancouver Integrated Domestic Violence Unit. Her steadfast leadership on the North Shore’s Violence Against Women Committee’s Strength and Remembrance Pole project 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).
The roots of Xele’milh-Doris’ desire to care for her community run deep to the trauma she endured as a child over the course of ten years at the Sechelt Indian Residential School. The pain, loneliness, and confusion in being told by those who ran the residential school that she had been given away by her parents or grandparents is an agony that endures for Xele’milh-Doris. “Because of this era,” Xele’milh-Doris says, “I am an adult healing from my childhood.” Later, the entrenched systemic and societal racism she experienced as an adult hindered her education and employment. At first, the concept of Reconciliation overwhelmed Xele’milh-Doris: as an Indigenous woman, carrying the weight of such suffering, Xele’milh-Doris longed for healing. Eventually, she began to find new strength: “The idea of Residential School was to kill the Indian in me and possibly bury me,” Xele’milh-Doris says. “But if they [did] bury the Indian in me, they actually [planted] a seed. I [grew] above my pain and bloomed into an Indigenous Woman who wanted to live, and wanted to love and respect my culture and traditions.”
Xele’milh-Doris has gone on to use her culture and traditions to inspire and engage her community in meaningful ways. One of her favourite memories is of a drug awareness march she led through her Nation’s reserve. At the invitation of Xele’milh-Doris, she was joined by few members of the West Vancouver Police department. At first, turn out for the march was small, and but her close friend, Corporal Fred Harding, encouraged her to continue. As they moved through the streets of the reserve, singing and drumming, residents were drawn to their doors and windows, curious about the activity. By the end of the march, Xele’milh-Doris realized they’d been joined by nearly 150 people. “That was a successful day!” Xele’milh-Doris recalls. “The cultural gathering after the march went on for about an hour, there was drumming, singing, and dancing. I was overwhelmed with emotions.”
“Xele’milh-Doris has been instrumental in creating an Indigenous unit involving both youth and elders,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror T,lalisam, Dr. Kim van der Woerd. “Her ability to establish a broad scope of connection with other partners showcases her leadership as an educator while addressing safety issues in her communities.” In the beginning of her work on community safety, Xele’milh-Doris opened a conversation with local police on the level of support provided to her nation. Through research and persistence, Xele’milh-Doris helped bring police and Nation’s leadership to the table to begin negotiations for improved services for her community. These relationships with outside services are important to Xele’milh-Doris, and she considers the lifelong friendships she’s made a point of pride. In 2017, Xele’milh-Doris was awarded the Be More than a Bystander Award from Ending Violence BC, for her work with the North Vancouver RCMP and West Vancouver Police as the Aboriginal Victim Specialist Worker in the North Shore domestic Violence Unit. She also received BC Achievement’s Community Award in 2007 for her work as the Founder and Chair of Caring for Our Youth Committee. 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 honors the MMIWG, and the lives lost at the Ècole Polytechnique University, and in working closely with members of the North Vancouver RCMP, Xele’milh-Doris found the experience, as with all her work, deeply powerful. “There are so many important people who have joined this movement, so many stepped forward to lend a hand or [brought] recommendations of services needed, and how to apply the new directives. I would like to thank [the] teammates who stood by my side,” says Xele’milh-Doris. “We are all paddling in the same direction and we are pulling together.”
To Corporal Christopher Voller, Reconciliation does not have a succinct definition. It must be redefined and adapted to each person, community, and circumstance. Throughout his career with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Chris has been keenly aware of why the RCMP needs to build, or re-build, trust with many communities. He does not shy away from that challenge of addressing the role the agency played in this; as Chris explains: “We existed as an enforcement agency when the Government created policies that forcefully removed children from their families in order to place them in schooling systems that saw them lose their sense of personal and cultural identity.”
While Chris was introduced to the concepts of Reconciliation in his training at Depot, the Regina-based RCMP training facility, he recognized that Reconciliation could not become meaningful until employed into action. Chris sought out postings where he could work with Indigenous communities, intent on having a positive impact. Working throughout Canada, Chris recognized contributing to Reconciliation requires explicit acknowledgement of colonization, forceful relocations, residential schools, and other traumas that have touched individual lives and communities. “Acknowledging our roles,” Chris says, “and the piercing, multigenerational effects of those roles, coupled with continued socioeconomic disadvantages, needs to be understood. This acknowledgment is key to make meaningful strides in working towards what is broadly fit in the overarching term of ‘Reconciliation’. The outcome of that, in my world, translates to an ability to deliver a culturally safe and culturally competent service standard while providing policing to the individuals who make up the communities we serve.”
Chris is in his fifth posting in a fourteen-year period, having served nine of those years in what can be described as isolated posts. He perceives Canada as his “community”, as his work can take him to any corner of it. His primary efforts are in building relationships wherever he is serving, but he also makes effort to have these translate to regional, provincial, and federal levels. “My community,” Chris says, “needs to be, and should be, every community I can effect.” Chris is incredibly proud to have walked alongside and learned from great leaders and knowledge keepers. He recalls with overwhelming emotion being invited to dance at a potlach held by the Nakwaxda’xw hereditary Chief. During the dance, Chris wore a combination of his police uniform and the regalia of the Chief, a strikingly beautiful vest adorned with a grizzly bear and family copper; the Chief, in turn, wore pieces of Chris’ uniform. Standing side-by-side before the gathered guests, the Chief hugged Chris and addressed him as brother. “He’s one of several leaders with whom I’ve formed a connection that will last a lifetime,” Chris remarks. To the many guests visiting from other communities, this demonstrated a respect for one another that many had yet to see. “It was a privilege knowing I was so welcomed,” Chris says, “especially within a cultural event that we, in the history of my organization, had once helped to ban.”
Chris hopes the BC Reconciliation Award will help draw attention to the continued need for education, motivation, inspiration, and, most importantly, innovation. The more others know about existing partnerships and approaches, the more others can evaluate if these could be enacted for the unique needs of their businesses, communities, and relationships. He wants to give hope for those who continue to feel the negative effects of colonization, to know the efforts of Chris and his partners continue every day.
“Chris’ impact is remarkable,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror T,lalisam, Dr. Kim van der Woerd. “He knew the history and came in to build relationships with humility while identifying community needs. His actions demonstrate individual and community Reconciliation.” Chris understands the legacy of his uniform: “For those of us serving now,” Chris says, “we cannot change what took place. [However,] we would be just as guilty… to make omissions in any circumstance where a face-to-face apology can be had, or an acknowledgment of the wrongs can be given to a survivor or their families. Few organizations face the history that mine does. It’s crucial that people know so many of us are trying, that we know we need to focus efforts to this area, and that a large number of us genuinely care and want to be a part of this work.”
For those just starting a journey of Reconciliation, Chris emphasizes the deeply powerful experience of this work: knowledge and perspective of resiliency and history; capability for forgiveness; the strength of a sense of community, and just how large hearts can be. Its emotional magnitude forces personal and professional growth. The journey is toward a shared goal of a respectful and safer tomorrow for all, irrespective on whether they be visitors or the original inhabitants within their traditional territories. “Our goals should never be to simply meet a standard,” Chris says, “our obligation rather should be to set that standard higher each day.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has dedicated his life to defending Aboriginal Title and Rights, achieving Reconciliation and self-determination for BC First Nations. A member of the Penticton Indian Band Council for 24 years and Chief for 16 years, he is currently serving his eighth, three-year term as the President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).
“I know firsthand [Grand Chief Phillip’s] unique and singular contribution to Reconciliation in British Columbia,” says the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould. “He has stood on principle, held up Indigenous Nations and peoples across the province, and educated British Columbians of all backgrounds on how to advance true Reconciliation.”
Grand Chief Phillip has fought to ensure governments stay their course in their efforts to achieve Reconciliation for First Nations, and worked with other Indigenous organizations, including the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), to engage with provincial and federal governments on key issues for First Nations, including, but not limited to, the recognition and implementation of First Nations Title and Rights; ending violence against Indigenous women and girls; implementing the National Inquiry’s Calls for Justice; enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous Peoples in provincial and federal legislation; establishing a game revenue sharing agreement for BC First Nations, and protecting the rights and welfare of First Nations from industrial and energy projects that infringe upon their territories and lands.
“Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has devoted his life work to improving the lives of our peoples,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror Chief Sophie Pierre. “His words: ‘if we don’t do the work, our grandchildren will have to’ has guided him and ensured a better future for all, and we thank him.”
Grand Chief Phillip has helped critique, shape, and advance landmark legislation and policies that work to bridge cultural and ideological divides and rectify the wrongdoings of Canada’s colonial governance. He played a seminal role in the passage of the Bill 41 into the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Act. His advocacy and work as part of the FNLC to pass the provincial UN Declaration legislation paved the way for future agreements between the provincial government and BC First Nations. In addition, Grand Chief Phillip is a founder of the Indigenous Youth Internship Program (IYIP) in partnership with the BC government and works alongside the UBCIC Youth Representative, the UBCIC Women’s Representative, and the UBCIC Elder’s Representative to promote the equality and well-being of Indigenous women and youth in BC.
“[Grand Chief Phillip’s] greatest enduring legacy and achievement is that he lives his values,” says the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould. “This is what great leaders always do. They exemplify in their actions and patterns of living the principles they preach to others. Stewart treats others the way he tells us we must be to reconcile. He is patient, kind, understanding, principled, uncompromising (in the best of ways), and willing to listen and learn. Reconciliation is about truth, equality, and justice— and that is how he treats all human beings he comes across. As such, he is an example of Reconciliation in action, from whom we learn, and of which we need many more.”
The North Pacific Coast covers more than 100,000 km2 of British Columbia’s coastline, extending from northern Vancouver Island to Canada’s border with Alaska, from shore to the continental slope. The sheer scale of this coastal region is reflected in the ambitious nature of the Marine Plan Partnership, known as MaPP. A globally unique partnership between seventeen First Nations and the Province of British Columbia, MaPP has created a platform for Reconciliation built on commitment to collaborative governance. The shared vision and use plans of MaPP for the four sub-regions of the North Pacific Coast (North Vancouver Island, Central Coast, North Coast and Haida Gwaii) and its Regional Action Framework integrate traditional, local, and scientific knowledge with ecosystem integrity and human well-being.
Key to the success of MaPP has been careful alignment with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the desired outcomes under BC’s recently enacted legislation. MaPP’s earliest actions on Reconciliation were inspired by the internationally recognized landmark conservation and land use agreements for Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest. In 2011, a historic Letter of Intent was signed by the provincial government and the organizations representing seventeen First Nation governments. The letter outlined joint governance, management structures, and processes for collaborative marine planning, as well as a commitment to joint implementation of collaboratively developed marine plans. This letter was an important first step down a path for Reconciliation in partnership.
This initial commitment bloomed into working relationships, both formal and informal, between First Nations and provincial representatives. In 2015, partners involved in MaPP held a historic signing ceremony at the BC Legislature in Victoria, celebrating the completion of planning for the North Pacific Coast sub-regions, the culmination of four years of collaboration, co-governance and shared decision-making. In 2016, confidence in the project was strengthened with the signing of agreements to co-lead implementation of marine plans and the regional action framework. It was a clear indication the meaningful incorporation of traditional knowledge, use of best available science and collaborative monitoring and data collection for marine resource management would contribute to the longevity of the model. MaPP has continued with success over the five years since, despite many political, economic and social changes that have taken place during that time, and now the partnership is planning ahead to the next fifteen years with renewed resources.
The MaPP approach balances consistent practices alongside recognition of the unique approaches of the First Nations communities located within MaPP’s sub-regions. From northern Vancouver Island to Haida Gwaii, relationships with MaPP have been carefully and thoughtfully cultivated, leading to an improved understanding of cultural values and interests. This in turn has led to advancing Reconciliation through dialogues on important resource management issues affecting the broad group of stakeholders. MaPP is proof of how marine resource management and decision-making can be enhanced by Indigenous knowledge and practices. The model is now being used in other planning and management processes provincially and internationally, a point of pride for the MaPP Partners.
Throughout the years, MaPP has proven its ability to support a shared journey towards Reconciliation. “The Marine Plan Partnership is a great example of Reconciliation and work that transforms the government-to-government relationship,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror Nicole McLaren. “To have it mapped out in a constructive and positive manner with co-management is a powerful thing.” Recognition of MaPP through the BC Reconciliation Award further demonstrates the value of open and honest dialogue and respectful approaches to finding solutions that can further Reconciliation for communities. The additional investment in communities by MaPP supports youth programs, with opportunities to interact with Elders and mentors to engage in contemporary and traditional–use activities and stewardship of the marine environment, charting a path for a renewed future for coastal First Nations.
Dr. David Suzuki is a prominent scientist, broadcaster, author, and a world-renowned environmentalist whose lifelong efforts to advance Reconciliation have been a central aspect to his work. In his diverse career, he has been a steadfast ally to Indigenous communities, modelled solidarity through his advocacy for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and formed partnerships through shared insights of science and traditional knowledge. David co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation, which helped carve a path for the government-to-government negotiations and relationship that led to the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement. His commitment to Reconciliation has extended beyond Canada on his global travels, including in the Kaiapo of Brazil where he and his wife worked to stop a major dam that would have flooded traditional territory. “I am proud to be awarded with eight names from First Nations in Canada,” shared David, “and one in Australia.”
While David’s storied career exemplifies his commitment to Reconciliation, his personal journey of understanding started decades ago after moving west from London, Ontario. “I knew nothing of Indigenous people through education or personal experience until I moved back to British Columbia in 1963,” he explains. His own experiences with the consequences of racism as a third-generation Canadian had manifested in a strong aversion to prejudice and discrimination, which he witnessed firsthand in the stereotypes frequently portrayed of Indigenous people. While fishing with his father in the BC interior, David became enthralled by the stories and knowledge of the First Nations people he met there, opening his eyes to new perspectives. His understanding and passion of environmentalism and Reconciliation formed and evolved together, galvanized by Rachel Carson’s novel, Silent Spring, and further fuelled at an event celebrating the Stein Valley, where he met Ruby Dunstan of the Lytton band and a number of Haida visitors. It was in the late 1970s when David traveled to Haida Gwaii to film the battle over logging for Nature of Things that he met Diane Brown, Miles Richardson and Guujaaw: “Through them, I really understood what the fight for territory meant and the incredibly unjust ways they have been treated under the infamous Indian Act,” David explains. “It opened my eyes to the realization that conventional environmentalism was a shallow understanding that was made far more profound when infused with the ecocentrism of Indigenous people around the globe.” Through his engagements with Indigenous people while filming, and decades of support to those struggling to gain control over their territories, David has always been a student of the journey.
“David Suzuki has been instrumental in helping First Nations,” says BC Reconciliation Award juror T’esóts’en, Patrick Kelly. “The Great Bear Rain Forest project came to be because of his leadership. Amazing synergy came together on the west coast of BC through his foundation and the Coastal First Nation – Great Bear Initiative, whose impact is felt across the world.”
Today, David and his colleagues strive to continue that same learning and commitment in the office. “The weekly staff meetings of the David Suzuki Foundation are opened with an acknowledgement of land that has become a lesson on Indigenous history and values,” he shares, “not only is it informative and educational, staff is moving to a deep understanding of the reason Reconciliation matters.” The team has taken part in Reconciliation sessions with Chief Bobby Joseph’s family, often accompanied by tears from the moving experience. On being honoured with a BC Reconciliation Award, David reflected that, “the award itself is a recognition that Reconciliation is an important priority for BC. It is important for all Canadians to recognize there are individuals and groups for whom Reconciliation is a life commitment.”
David sees Reconciliation as a true recognition and appreciation for Indigenous peoples and their knowledge and culture, fundamentally unique in how it expresses gratitude for nature through ceremony and tradition, while reaffirming the responsibility to protect it. As David looks ahead to the future of Reconciliation, he says “communities will be the backbone of a genuinely sustainable future. The high mobility of populations has to change to strong, stable, self-sufficient communities that will be the key to resilience in a changing world. I believe we will learn how Indigenous communities are embedded in place, where elders are held in high regard, where sharing and co-operating have played vital roles under great duress.”