Andrea Reimer has been a catalyst in the historical initiatives and actions that the City of Vancouver has undertaken to advance Reconciliation.
The City of Vancouver was the first municipality in Canada to proclaim a ‘Year of Reconciliation’ that began on National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2013. This proclamation acknowledges the harms that were done to Indigenous people, including the residential school system, and created a space for meaningful reconciliation gatherings, apologies, dialogues, public education and artistic initiatives to take place.
Throughout this year of reconciliation, the City of Vancouver worked closely with Reconciliation Canada, the City’s Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and hundreds of community partners. For Andrea, “the year of reconciliation had a transformative impact on the people that were directly touched by coming to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events, the canoe gathering, the library activities, the lunch and learns, or the walk for reconciliation. You could almost see them turning and shifting their perspectives and directions.”
Andrea recalls a very emotional moment at a community reconciliation event where a young Indigenous woman gave her a hug after the event and said: “I never knew I mattered to the City of Vancouver”. Andrea says this was one of those moments where she felt the world shifting: “For a thirteen or fourteen year old to know that she really matters is so important. She will go on to be a strong leader in her community, in my community, and she will inspire other strong leaders. That is the change that matters.”
For Andrea, as we go forward together, our process of reconciliation has to address the issues of economic disparity that still exists between Indigenous communities and the majority of Canadians. As economic reconciliation is essential, the City of Vancouver will work towards this goal by deepening and strengthening its relationships with the Musqueam, the Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh nations.
The concept of a Year of Reconciliation is very powerful but it has a formal end date to work that is only just beginning. How do we reconcile this? First, the City has formally acknowledged that we are on the unceded traditional territory of the three Host First Nations. This means acknowledging that there is an inherent right to economic prosperity for all. Second, Mayor and Council have approved the concept of designating Vancouver as a City of Reconciliation. Defining what this means will be a collective process that each one of us can participate in.
Andrea believes that Vancouver can play a leadership role in supporting other municipalities that are ready to embrace reconciliation: “You cannot legislate for someone to reconcile but you can create that space for reconciliation to happen so that we get to the place we need to be together”.
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