Wishing my mom could see her vision come true at the National Reconciliation Gathering

Nov 24, 2016
Reconciling the differences between my Indigenous culture and heritage on one side, and settler background and Christian faith on the other side, was always a big part of my life.

My father was of Irish background and my mother was Ojibwe from Sand Point First Nation, Ontario. While both of my parents went through challenges in their lives, I was raised to be proud of both sides of my heritage. And reconciliation of the two was always a passion of mine.

I bring the wisdom, knowledge and values of Anishinaabe peoples into my day-to-day mission as an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church. And because of my background, I continue to experience moments of “not really fitting in”. Moments of being perceived as a Church representative in the Indigenous community, and as an Indigenous person within the Church. Being welcomed and respected by both, but not fully accepted.

 

 

For me, reconciliation means building respectful relationships in our community and accepting our differences. Getting to know each other and our families. Having tea. And learning to work together despite our differences.

When I received Reconciliation Canada’s invitation to the National Reconciliation Gathering in Winnipeg last March, I was so excited. Seeing so many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in community leadership positions, interested in this conversation, willing to sit down and talk to each other – it gave me goose bumps. When my mom was still alive, she had a vision of such a gathering, of community leaders sitting down together and working out our issues. I wish she could see that vision come true.
 

 
 
Reconciliation Canada and their approach to dialogue creates space for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians to begin learning to be comfortable with and understanding of our differences. This is why I support Reconciliation Canada as a monthly donor. I hope that leading up to the Giving Tuesday, you will make a gift to support reconciliation too. Together, we can bring reconciliation dialogue to communities across Canada.
 
 

Thank you,

The Rev. Dr. Margaret Mullin
Executive Director of The Winnipeg Inner City Missions


Margaret’s story is the second in a line of four impact stories that Reconciliation Canada will share with you this holiday season. By making a gift, you invest in Reconciliation Canada’s charitable programs and organizational capacity to engage increasing numbers of Indigenous peoples and all Canadians in reconciliation. These impact stories coincide with the annual Giving Tuesday movement on November 29, 2016, which encourages giving and volunteering during the holiday season.

Have you missed the first impact story? You can read how Simran’s perspective has changed since he first attended a Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop for young adults here


Digging for Reconciliation

Nov 14, 2016

By Patrick Lucas, MCIPP RPP, Registered Professional Planner

 

You know you’re doing something right when you arrive in a small community early on a cold, wet, rainy Saturday in June and there are fifteen young boys and girls waiting for you, impatiently.

“Where have you been? We’ve been waiting. Let’s go!” We’re actually ten minutes early. The kids swarm our car grabbing tools: Pick axes. Shovels. A chainsaw. Chaos. Someone is going to get hurt.

For the next several days some friends and I attempt to guide this frenzy of energy and enthusiasm through the forest, building a single track nature trail that will provide a space for the kids to ride their bikes, their very own jump track. This trail is happening because they went to their parents, their elders, their leaders and clearly stated what they wanted, what they needed. The community listened.

The big question for so many of us, particularly among non-Indigenous Canadians is what does reconciliation mean for us? What can we do?

For me, it started with a smaller, simpler question: what do you know about mountain biking? An elder asks me during a community planning workshop. “Our kids are doing it,” he explains. “Can’t leave a pile of dirt for five minutes without them building some scary looking jump. We don’t want them to stop. Keeps them away from drugs and alcohol. Be good if we could help them build a real trail. Can you help us?”

Of course I said yes. We built the trail: a smooth swooping descent that cuts down through the trees with carefully built features like jumps and berms that allows the kids to test their skills and courage. We watch the kids flying down, hooping and hollering, with huge smiles. I stand back and watch the faces of their parents beaming with pride. For years I have been seeking technical answers to community planning and here I am, covered in mud, and cheering. I know I am on to something special.

This is the birth of the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program, a provincial initiative that works with First Nations, training kids to build trails, ride, and get outdoors and connecting with nature. We have built dozens of trails and bike parks in communities all over the province. In each community we dig, throw dirt, and carve paths while listening to our new friends and elders tell us the stories of their people and their relationship to the land. We learn that, for them, these trails are not just for fun, but their means for reconnecting and rebuilding the relationships that had been torn asunder by hundreds of years of genocide. These trails will take their kids back out on to the land, not only to attain greater health, but to regain their identity, culture, their language. We are helping them dig their way out from under colonization to their rightful place on this land.

All that time I had spent digging through theoretical models of community development and empowerment, desperately seeking the right questions that would lead to the right answers. When all I had to do was grab a shovel, and do exactly what the Boothroyd people did for their kids. Listen.


Our Facebook page
Our newest program focusing on trails: Turtle Island Trails

You can also learn about our project with the Simpcw Nation
Or the current work we’re doing with the Lil’wat Nation

You can also follow our adventures on our blog: Riding Turtle Island


Promotional Videos

AYMBP Program Promotional video

Aboriginal Rider Profile: Finding Courage & Decolonization through Mountain Biking

All Trails are Indigenous: Trail building & Reconciliation in the Simpcw Nation



 

 

 


Patrick Lucas, MCIP RPP

An award winning registered professional planner, a settler and aspiring ally to Indigenous communities, Patrick is passionately committed to fostering and supporting authentic reconciliation and the unsettling of Turtle Island. Over the past fifteen years Patrick has had the honour of working along side Indigenous mentors and teachers learning the pathways to build relationships between First Nations and non-First Nations based on trust and respect. As the Founder and Director of the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program, Patrick has assisted numerous communities to develop trails, recreation, and tourism plans leading to enduring social and economic development.


The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and may not reflect the views and opinions of Reconciliation Canada.


I accept you. I am with you. I love you for who you are.

Nov 10, 2016
People sometimes ask me why I am so actively involved in reconciliation.

My first experience with Reconciliation Canada was at a Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop for young adults. As a Sikh, I can relate to the challenges that some Indigenous youth are confronting. Challenges of how to define myself and how to fit into mainstream Canadian society while maintaining my traditional values and beliefs.

During the workshop, I realized that we need to shed the layers that we put up to hide from other people. To stand in front of others, emotionally and spiritually vulnerable, and for them to accept you, all of you. That moment is powerful beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.

For me, reconciliation is about tearing down walls and building deep connections with people. I believe that reconciliation will lead us to a nation where there will be no more hate, racism, or injustice. And each of us, with our actions, can make an impact on reconciliation too.

Together, we can create a nation of people truly connected to each other, where we will be able to expose all of our emotional and spiritual vulnerabilities and say to one another:

I accept you.
I am with you.
I love you for who you are.
 

Every time I come to one of Reconciliation Canada’s events, I feel a sense of hope that not everything is lost, that one day things will be better, for all of us. With your help, more Indigenous peoples and all Canadians can have this experience.

As a volunteer Reconciliation Canada board member and donor, I ask you to make a gift and support creating opportunities for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians to develop deeper understanding of and connectedness to each other.
 

 
 
Thank you,

Simran Singh


Simran’s story is one of four impact stories that Reconciliation Canada will share with you this holiday season. By making a gift, you invest in Reconciliation Canada’s charitable programs and organizational capacity to engage increasing numbers of Indigenous peoples and all Canadians in reconciliation. These impact stories coincide with the annual Giving Tuesday movement on November 29, 2016, which encourages giving and volunteering during the holiday season.

US Election – Note from Chief Joseph

Nov 9, 2016
Greetings to all of you who are one with me,

I awoke this morning to the news of the US election outcome. Millions of individuals and communities supported both sides of the campaign. For some, the news was exciting, and for others it was disappointing. The divisive nature of the electoral process can be harmful and highlights the importance of unity and respect in our societies.
 
We must take this moment as an opportunity for reflection: to reflect on what kind of society we want to build for ourselves and for our children, and to ask the questions: Who are we as a people? Who are we as a country? How can we build stronger, more resilient communities?

Our children look to us for guidance, and we have an opportunity to be the role-models that they deserve. Let us teach our children the values of empathy, love, compassion and humility, and cultivate a society that allows all peoples to reach their optimum potential.

Our relationships transcend borders, boundaries, backgrounds and cultures. I encourage you to reach out and listen whole-heartedly to your neighbours and peers. Embrace their unique strengths and diverse perspectives, and understand the interconnectedness that exists among us.

Right now, we are caught in a place between fear and hope. Reconciliation, in all its forms, requires patience, openness and courage. Now, more than ever, I urge you to stay the course. Do not get weary.

We must move forward together. Our future, and the well-being of all our children rests with the kind of relationships we build today.


Chief Dr. Robert Joseph
Ambassador, Reconciliation Canada


Igniting Reconciliation: Lighting the Sacred Fire

Sep 29, 2016

It’s early on Sunday, September 25th, 2016. The sky is a deep black, and a cool breeze carries the ocean spray and mist across the sand and driftwood. We are at Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver, on the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation. 

Several figures are gathered beneath a tent, pinning blankets with woven pouches and banknotes. A few metres towards the water, fire-keepers are making their final preparations. 

This is a significant morning. This is the morning of Igniting Reconciliation: Lighting the Sacred Fire. This ceremony, a traditional sunrise sacred fire ceremony, marks the beginning of Reconciliation Canada’s activities planned for 2017. This is a crucial year in the history of this country: 2017 marks 150 years since Canadian confederation. This coming year provides us with a unique opportunity for reflection and the chance to build new relationships that contribute to our collective well-being. The sacred fire will serve as a beacon of light to guide all people in Canada through the activities that are to be held throughout 2017. It is a way to mark the significance of the coming year and to ensure it begins with the best attitudes and intentions.

Shortly before sunrise, a crowd begins to gather. These individuals come from diverse backgrounds, and include Elders, Survivors and spiritual leaders, as well as representatives from Indigenous, youth, multicultural and multi-faith communities and organizations. Those gathered have accepted the vital responsibility of bearing witness to the ceremony, and carrying the messages received into their wider community. 

At 6:30am, the fire-keepers call the crowd together and the ceremony begins. 

The smoke from the fire gently surrounds us. Slowly, the sky turns to a cool, calm silver. The sun has risen and the ceremony is complete. The crowd begins to disperse, smiling and reflecting on the teachings of the ceremony. The weight of responsibility of acting as a witness is lightened by the support silently offered by those gathered.

Following the ceremony, those gathered made their way to the Chief Joe Mathias Centre for a shared meal.

As the crowd thins, the Reconciliation Canada team takes down the tent, folds the chairs and tables, and leaves the beach. Although no trace of the ceremony remains, the important messages and teachings stir us, and will remain with us throughout 2017. There is much work to be done, but this sacred fire will guide us through the activities of the coming year.

We express our deepest appreciation to the Coast Salish peoples for their generosity and leadership in hosting this ceremony, and we extend our gratitude to all those who made this ceremony possible. 


Igniting Reconciliation: Lighting the Sacred Fire was a Canada 150 Countdown Activation and part of the two-year initiative, Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership with the Government of Canada in this area of national significance. 


Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy,
a Canada 150 Signature Project, is funded in part by the Government of Canada

Réconciliation en action : une stratégie d’engagement nationale
est un projet de premier plan de Canada 150. Ce projet est financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada.

Canada150


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Learn more about Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy here.


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The Walk for Reconciliation – Three Years Ago on This Day

Sep 22, 2016

The sun may be shining in Vancouver today, but my mind is drawn back to a much stormier day three years ago. On this day in 2013, the rain poured down in Vancouver and a sea of umbrellas filled the downtown streets, as thousands of people walked for reconciliation in Canada. When Reconciliation Canada was founded in 2012, we set out to bring together 50,000 people to join us for Canada’s first ever Walk for Reconciliation. On September 22, 2013, 70,000 people joined us for the Walk for Reconciliation, demonstrating the insatiable desire for renewed and revitalized relationships held by so many people in Canada.

Since that day, we have witnessed a shift in the consciousness of Canadian society. The legacy of the Indian Residential School system is now understood by more people in Canada than ever before. However, there is still work to be done. Reconciliation Canada has launched Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy, a two-year initiative designed to examine and document perceptions, actions and aspirations of Canadians in relation to reconciliation. This narrative will recognize our common history, highlight current achievements and create hope for the next 150 years. We are humbled by the opportunity to continue to engage all people in Canada in the reconciliation process, and we have several exciting initiatives planned to mark  Canada’s 150th in 2017. Stay tuned for more information on how you can get involved!

We would like to extend our gratitude to all of the partners and supporters who made the Walk for Reconciliation in 2013 possible. Most of all, we would like to thank everyone who joined us on that day. Each one of you helped carry the voice of reconciliation into communities across Canada, and continues to make change in the lives of people across the country.

Gilakasla.


šxʷʔamət (home): What does Reconciliation Look and Feel Like?

Sep 20, 2016

By David Ng, Outreach Coordinator, Theatre for Living

 

I am very excited that Theatre for Living’s Mainstage production early next year, šxʷʔamət (home), intends to look at issues related to our struggle and journey’s towards Reconciliation. Why?

The book, My Name is Seepeetza, was my first introduction to the legacy of residential schools in Canada. I remember reading it in 1998, when I was 12 years old – and horrified to hear that this is how Indigenous children my age were treated in the Residential School system … but I didn’t really fully understand my own relationship (as a child of Chinese immigrants) to the colonial system in Canada that enforced this violent system of assimilation.

Racist attitudes towards First Nations communities are rampant in my own community that I grew up in. This attitude of “well, we escaped war and poverty, and now made our lives better – why can’t they?” is very pervasive. I’ve learned that for me, part of my own struggle and journey towards reconciliation is recognizing that these deeply entrenched attitudes within my own immigrant community are a part of the systemic issues that reinforce the violence that is directed to Indigenous people in Canada.

After all the proclamations, apologies, and policies from the government to address reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada … what does reconciliation look and feel like on the ground? Is it just another form of assimilation? How do we ensure it is honourable?

The project will be created and performed by Indigenous and non-indigenous people living the issues, and will be directed by David Diamond, and Associate Director Renae Morriseau. All participants and cast are paid a living wage – no acting experience is required.  The only requirement is lived experiences in the journey towards Reconciliation.

Are you interested in contributing to the process by sharing your own journey towards Reconciliation?

Apply now to be a part of šxʷʔamət (home)!

 
Workshop dates: Jan 30th – Feb 4th, 2017
Rehearsals: Feb 7th – 26th, 2017
Play: 11 performances, March 3 – 11th, 2017 (with a preview on March 2nd) at the Firehall Arts Centre.
 
To apply, email me, Theatre for Living’s Outreach Coordinator, David Ng (outreach@theatreforliving.com), your application, which consists of the two questions below. The deadline for applications is Oct 21st.

  • We want real diversity in the room, so tell us who you are, and anything else you want us to know about you!
  • What is your journey towards reconciliation? What are the blockages that you think exist? Share with us your story, your lived experiences with Reconciliation, and what it means to you?

There is no right or wrong answer to these questions – we are looking for your own personal lived experiences and expertise.

Please share this post with any one you think might be interested in participating in šxʷʔamət (home).

For more information, please visit this link, or email our Outreach Coordinator, David Ng, at outreach@theatreforliving.com or phone the office 604-871-0508
 

Please keep in mind that the work is physical work – meaning it uses the physical language of the theatre to engage with the issues we are investigating. It does not involve verbal storytelling/testimonials, or flipcharts.


David Ng

David Ng is a queer, feminist, social justice advocate who has been actively involved in grassroots campaigning since he was 14 years old. He has since worked on numerous campaigns and projects including youth sexual health initiatives, feminist anti-violence campaigns, anti racist projects, and other forms of fun, radical, anti-oppression work. Some of the projects he has worked on has included co-creating marketing and media for the book Picturing Transformation: Nexw-áyantsut – a book about a solidarity movement between First Nations and non-First Nations communities, as well as film editing for the Circles of Understanding residential school story project. He is the co-founder of the feminist and anti-racist solidarity blog LoveIntersections.com.

 


The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and may not reflect the views and opinions of Reconciliation Canada.


Entrepreneur Support Program Participant Celebrates Journey and Opening of Salon

Aug 25, 2016
Two years ago, Natasha Pittman arrived in Alert Bay, British Columbia with a desire to reconnect with her ‘Namgis roots. As a child caught in the tail end of the notorious “Sixties Scoop”, a dark period of Canadian history from the 1960s to the mid-1980s in which Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families and placed in foster homes or adoption with non-Indigenous families, Natasha grew up in Ontario, far from her traditional territory. The decision to move out to Alert Bay, a remote island community off the north-east coast of Vancouver Island, was “a real spur of the moment decision”.

“I wanted to find out more about my nation, more about me,” explains Natasha. “I decided it would be beneficial to immerse myself in my culture.”

Prior to the move, Natasha spent eleven years working in salons and built a reputation as a talented stylist. Natasha rented a chair and began building up her own business in Alert Bay and then she came across the Cormorant Island Entrepreneur Support Program.


Natasha Pittman and Stephenie Thompson in the recently opened Hair by Natasha Pittman salon in Alert Bay, BC.
 
The program, a collaboration among the Village of Alert Bay, the ‘Namgis First Nation and Reconciliation Canada, was designed to stimulate entrepreneurism on Cormorant Island. Participants, existing or aspiring entrepreneurs planning to grow or create businesses beneficial to Cormorant Island, received formal business and entrepreneur training via educators with the RADIUS RBC First Peoples Accelerator at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University. The local Community Futures office provided basic skills training such as Microsoft Excel and bookkeeping, while Vancity offered a session on business banking and loans. A business coach recruited and supported by Cuso International lived on island for four and one-half months to help participants apply their training to their individual business plans. The program gave Natasha the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to build her business, and allowed her to tap into a network of local entrepreneurs. Additionally, the program helped her understand a new approach to business, particularly in how she was able to connect her ’Namgis culture with her business ambitions.

On July 23, Natasha was joined by elders, members of the community and supporters to celebrate the opening of her own salon, Hair by Natasha Pittman. The T’sasała Dance Group officially welcomed the new enterprise to the community.

Natasha hopes that her story can provide encouragement for others to pursue their ambitions.

“Two years ago I found Alert Bay, and now I’m standing in my own salon”, she says. “I haven’t fully processed the whole experience yet, but it shows how much can change in two years. It shows what you can do if you put your mind to it.”
 


 

Funding for all elements of the Cormorant Island Entrepreneur Support Program was provided by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, with initial design funding coming from The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.
 


 
   

Reconciliation Canada Responds to Details of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Aug 5, 2016

On Wednesday, August 3, the federal government officially launched an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This is a moment long in the making, and we are full of hope.

This inquiry will bring light to what is happening to Indigenous women and girls across Canada, and we are hopeful that this will help many families and communities that have been in a dark place for so long.

While we are hopeful, we recognize that those conducting this sacred work must approach it in sensitive and safe way. It will be critical to recognize the impacts of the process on family members, friends, neighbours and loved ones – they must be supported and cared for throughout the inquiry.

We see this moment as an opportunity for each of us to reflect on our own role in this process. Each of us must ask, “what can I do to elevate and empower women and girls in our communities?” “What can I do to reinforce everyone’s intrinsic value and worth?” What can I do to raise up and support the families and loved ones involved?”

Answering and acting on these questions is an act of reconciliation, and this is something that all people in Canada must contribute to.

We are humbled by the courage of all of the individuals who never gave up hope. We thank all those who have made this moment a reality. We raise our hands to you.

Gilakasla.



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