Chief Dr. Robert Joseph’s Reflection to the Reading of UNDRIP in the Provincial Legislature

Nov 22, 2019

I trembled at the moment as BC MLA’s voted unanimously to give first reading to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on Oct 24, 2019, in the provincial legislature.

It was impressive and inspiring because all I had ever seen in the course of my lifetime (80yrs) was the denial or trampling of Indigenous rights. As a tear or two trickled down my cheek, I experienced the wonder of the human spirit. My fundamental faith and belief in the sometimes elusive goodness of others were once again affirmed.

“This bill, when passed, will deepen the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and elevate all of us to new heights,” I thought.

The pride I felt for our Indigenous leaders, grand chiefs Ed John, Stewart Philips, Terry Teegee and Cheryl Cashmere was immeasurable as I listened to them speak to the bill.

My respect for Premier John Horgan, the Honorable Scott Fraser and BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson and all MLA’s was deepened.

Much work will be required following the passage of the bill. Let us all stay the course.

Learn more about UNDRIP here.  

Statement on B.C. government’s legislation to implement UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Oct 24, 2019

The moral and legal persuasion of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is ultimately strengthened by the legislative framework passed by the B.C. government today.

This is one of the most significant human rights milestones achieved for Indigenous peoples by any government in the world. B.C. has set a legislative precedent that can guide the way forward for all provinces across this country as well as at the federal level for meaningful recognition and engagement.

This legislation will allow us to recognize the constitutional and human rights of Indigenous people. At the same time, it will be a beacon for all of us to advance reconciliation as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The bill will create a foundational pillar for deepened inclusion and equality for all without diminishing the same for all others.

The UN Declaration does not create new rights. It upholds the same human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law. This is something we should all aspire to and be proud of.

Over time the UN declaration will be harmonized with provincial law that will serve the needs of British Columbians. The B.C. government should be applauded for its extraordinary courage for taking this giant step for our society.

For more information, see our news release here.  

Meet Our Summer Interns!

Jul 3, 2019

This summer, four interns have joined our RC team. With their hard work and dedication, we are excited about their engagement in our reconciliation work. Meet our incredible Summer interns! 

Rodman Joseph

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Ancestry: Kwakwakaʼwakw

Hometown:  Port Coquitlam, British Columbia

Why did you want to intern at Reconciliation Canada?

Working in Indigenous Relations has always been a passion for me. I have already worked for the BC Region Department of Indigenous Services and wanted to learn more about indigenous relations from the private sector.

What does reconciliation mean to you?

Reconciliation means understanding both sides and using that understanding to move forward in unison. Two parties cant move towards a brighter future without knowing where to go.

What do you hope to accomplish this summer?

I hope to better learn how to stream line social media plans so that anyone can use them.

How does reconciliation play into your future plans?

As an indigenous person who is Canadian, being able to bridge these two previously separate identities, I hope that my children will be able to be proud of both identities and be an indigenous Canadian.

Siera Stonechild

Community Engagement Coordinator

Ancestry: Cree

Hometown: Red Deer, Alberta

Why did you want to intern at Reconciliation Canada?

I feel that its interest in education Canadians about their historical and current relationships with Indigenous people, and their social outreach spoke to me in a way that other places did not. The cultural benefits of working with an Indigenous-led organization also interested me. I felt that this was the best position for me to grow in professionally and personally.

What does reconciliation mean to you?

Reconciliation means the bringing of truths to light in order to face them together. The general Canadian historical narrative conveys the subjugation and erasure of Indigenous Peoples. Reconciliation helps integrate our history with Canada’s in order to create a complete history that will bring Canadians closer together through Indigenous inclusion. Reconciliation means the facing of truths for the building and benefit of a larger community.

What do you hope to accomplish this summer?

I hope to gain the hard skills of an event coordinator and community outreach person. I also hope to grow on a personal level through learning about Reconciliation Canada’s social endeavours to discover how best to support marginalized communities in Canada.

How does reconciliation play into your future plans?

My long-term goal is to work to support urban Indigenous communities in order to better their quality of life. I am not a social worker; however, I hope to work with these communities as a lawyer in order to develop policies that will protect Indigenous ways of life in urban settings. Reconciliation will assist me through working with Indigenous peoples in conjunction with the non-indigenous communities that they are also a part of. This way policy changes will also take into account a city’s diverse population and joint-community needs.

Yeram Ko

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Ancestry: Korean

Hometown: Seoul, Korea

Why did you want to intern at Reconciliation Canada?

Ever since I’ve learned about the residential schools at school I’ve wanted to be involved in the community. I was deeply inspired by Chief Joseph’s thoughts on the importance of truth and reconciliation. I’m amazed and inspired by the passion and spirituality that exists in Reconciliation Canada. It is a blessing to work with others with such positive energy.

What does reconciliation mean to you?

I think reconciliation isn’t something that you achieve but is something that’s an ongoing process.  To me, reconciliation is about finding peace within yourself by acknowledging what happened in the past and having the willingness to move forward to make a better future for the next generation.

What do you hope to accomplish this summer?

As a newcomer at Vancouver, I feel committed to learning more about the first people and land that we are blessed to live on. My goal is to learn more about Indigenous worldviews, knowledge and ways of teaching to share with people.

How does reconciliation play into your future plans?

I think reconciliation plays many aspects of our daily lives, especially the way how I view the world. Through reconciliation, I hope that my lenses expand regarding how to live with others and how to respect one another.

Tate Chernen

Community Engagement Coordinator

Ancestry: Métis, Russian, Irish

Hometown: Chandler, Arizona & Vancouver, British Columbia

Why did you want to intern at Reconciliation Canada?

I wanted to intern at Reconciliation Canada because they showed me love and support in a time of need and it inspired me to join them in the work they do.

What does reconciliation mean to you?

To me reconciliation is love and empathy in harmony to create a future where everyone is supported and those who are in pain have healing.

What do you hope to accomplish this summer?

This summer I hope to develop an educational program that addresses hate crime and implicit biases within communities. I want to grow as an Indigenous person and learn more about my ancestry.

How does reconciliation play into your future plans?

Reconciliation is a force that can be applied to all aspects of life. I can bring it into everything that I do, whether that be business, art, and basic human connection. I can live with the passion to bring those who are suffering up to the same level as those who aren’t. When creating this plan over summer I hope to include reconciliation, a key part to a world of acceptance and healing.

Interview with our partner – West Van Memorial Library

Jun 20, 2019

We are thrilled to announce that the West Van Memorial Library was recently awarded the Building Better Communities Award by the British Columbia Library Association. The West Van Memorial Library has been continuously working with us to expand the community’s understanding of local Indigenous history and Canada’s role in truth and reconciliation.

We had the opportunity to hear from Pat Cumming, Head of Customer & Community Experience about her engagement in reconciliation.

Chief Stephen Augustine

What does reconciliation mean to you?

Reconciliation takes many forms – Nation to Nation, organizational and personal. At the Library, we aim to support community members in their personal journeys towards learning about a history that was hidden for many years, and its ongoing impacts in Indigenous communities. In many respects, the truth comes before reconciliation – it’s important for people to learn historical truths as well as the truth about the resilience and rich culture of Indigenous Peoples that is evident today. It’s also important that individuals have the opportunity to define reconciliation in a way that reflects their personal values. For me, reconciliation is a journey of continuous learning which leads to actions, large and small, that contribute to a future where the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples is based on mutual respect.


How did you first get involved in reconciliation?

The Honouring Reconciliation: Hearing the Truth initiative began with a Canada 150 grant. From the outset, however, it was clear that this was not a project but rather the development of an ongoing practice that would continue well beyond the grant time frame. It was also clear that it would be necessary to build and cultivate relationships with Indigenous organizations and the local Squamish Nation. We were very fortunate that Reconciliation Canada supported and partnered with us from the outset.


What is your vision for reconciliation, on a personal level and organizational level?

On an organizational level, our vision is to view everything that we do through the lens of reconciliation. This means decolonizing our practices where possible, offering programming and collections that represent Indigenous perspectives and consulting with local First Nations in our planning. On a personal level, this journey has been transformational. In my perfect world, stereotypes would be challenged at every turn, all Canadians would have the opportunity to learn about and acknowledge the hardship and challenges that our history has imposed on Indigenous Peoples and everyone would commit to a better future through reconciliation. I recognize that we have a long way to go but we can start by building respectful relationships.


What do you wish you had known at the start of this journey?

The dark parts of history and the legacy of residential schools have been brought to light in recent years and most people have a basic awareness of the struggles and challenges that resulted from destructive policies and practices. What we discovered as we went further in our learning is the fierce strength and resilience that Indigenous Peoples have exhibited in the face of incredible challenges. Much was lost but much was retained through sheer determination and bold resistance. It would have been helpful to have had that perspective from the outset.


What advice do you have for Canadians looking to join the movement?

Listen and read. Learn everything that you can. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action is a good starting point. Be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. Many of us are hardwired to jump to action and to fix problems. Resist that urge and commit to acknowledgment, respect and building positive relationships that can lead to real change. Enjoy the journey and the gifts of the people you meet along the way. We are so grateful for the generosity, warmth, and wisdom of the people we have worked with.


What advice do you have for organizations across Canada to get started or to stay motivated?

There are a number of steps that organizations can take and a number of factors that contribute to success and motivation. Some of the most important things are:

  • Ensure that there is a commitment from organizational leadership
  • Provide multiple learning opportunities for staff at all levels of the organization so that everyone feels that they have a role to play in reconciliation
  • Allow sufficient time for the learning and reflection
  • Attend local Indigenous cultural events
  • Take time to build relationships with local First Nations before taking action
  • Engage with members of the local Indigenous community and include their perspectives when planning and implementing initiatives
  • Know your local context. Learn about the protocols that are in place in the territories where you operate and what is important to the First Nations people who live there.
  • Be flexible with timing, processes, and procedures when possible
  • Be humble, be respectful, be brave



International Women’s Day 2019: #BalanceforBetter

Mar 8, 2019

“I was taught to always hold true to your core values and principles and to act with integrity…I come from a long line of matriarchs, and I am a truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House. This is who I am and this is who I always will be.”
-Jody Wilson-Raybould


Today is International Women’s Day – this year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter, is an important recognition and reminder that gender balance is essential for communities and economies to thrive.

We honour and uphold the place of women as leaders, and as pillars of strength and resilience within our families, communities and throughout society. Without a doubt, women play an invaluable role in the growth and success of the reconciliation movement.

Today and every day, we hold up our hands in respect, gratitude and love to all the women in our lives. We continue to hope for and work towards a reality where our mothers, daughters and sisters are honoured, valued and treated as equals.

Through our work, we remain committed to honouring and upholding their innate strength and resilience. We look forward to continuing this important work through our upcoming events and initiatives – please stay tuned for updates in the coming months to see what we’re up to and how you can get involved.

Cultural Teachings: Welcome to Territory & Land Acknowledgments

Feb 4, 2019

Written by Tim Manuel, Cultural Advisor and Public Engagement Lead

Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have used formal protocol to acknowledge their surroundings, which is meant to honour their spiritual beliefs. This acknowledgment is often spoken in their own language. Indigenous people believed and understood that they are only one aspect in the great diversity of life on the land. They use a common expression such as “all my relations” – words that resemble an all-encompassing meaning – when acknowledging the people of the land, such as tqeltkúkwpi7 (Secwepemc version of Great Spirit). Their acknowledgement includes or specifies water, ancestors, animals and plant life, all of which are considered to be alive and therefore having a “spirit.”

Indigenous ancestors knew and believed that everything in nature is connected, that nothing exists in the environment for itself as everyone and everything depends on one other for survival. They are simply recognizing the importance of these spirits and connections in the great cycle of life. Everything Indigenous people need for survival, whether it be food or shelter, comes from the land. Indigenous people believe that they are a part of the land and it is a part of them – this forms a basis of their culture and identity. Indigenous people formally announce their intention of being on the land as though they were to speak to the ancestors, including during an acknowledgement of territory or a formal welcome.

Each Indigenous nation will have different stories to share as well as unique teachings from their ancestors from when they travelled on the land or by water. Some stories were of unity or conflict between nations, while some were regarding land or resources. During the time when travelling was a necessity, one of the most important reasons to do so was to trade goods as part of participating in the traditional economy and to establish relationships between neighbouring nations. These times are important to note because Indigenous peoples believed there is strength in unity, which is a principle element of traditional governance. There were natural boundary markers such as rivers, mountains or mythological places, which indicated to Indigenous people which territory they were on or passing through.

When arriving into another Indigenous territory, they would acknowledge being a visitor to the area: First by acknowledging the ancestors and, if there were blood ties (such as through kin or through marriage), those would be mentioned. If there were no kinship ties, then a meeting with the leadership would happen to announce one’s intent.

During an acknowledgement of the land/territory, the visitor first announces themselves by introduction, which also includes any family ties. Second, they acknowledge they are a visitor/settler and speak about their intention of being there. And lastly, they proceed to acknowledge the territory in which they stand. This helps with understanding that there are protocols in place that must be followed, mostly based on keeping good relationships and respect between people.

Meanwhile, a territorial welcome is from a Chief/political representative/elder or someone who is a descendent of the ancestral lands upon which the event is being held. This should be done with the understanding between the person and the event organizer prior to the event taking place. The importance of following this protocol is to communicate intent and show respect to the spirit of the land.

Statement on the Unist’ot’en Camp in Wet’suwet’en Territory

Jan 8, 2019

Reconciliation Canada is deeply concerned over what took place yesterday in the Unist’ot’en Camp on Wet’suwet’en Territory: heavily armed RCMP tactical squads overrunning peaceful and unarmed land defenders.

This event propagates the long-standing practice of using force, based upon a legal system that once enabled the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families.

There must be better ways and different approaches to resolving conflict.

Throughout the history of this country, we have applied the same old approaches that result in the same old outcomes.

In this time of reconciliation, we must all do better as this may very well be our last chance – our final opportunity – to become the country that we so deeply desire to be: a country that is truly equal, just and compassionate.

Without change, there can be no reconciliation.

Our country – the RCMP, the federal government, the provincial government, and the courts included – must get serious about reconciliation and live up to our common values and ideals.

If we cannot change now, then this country may never change.

We must – especially in times of conflict and disagreement – recognize our common humanity and common desire for a better country.

Community Events – January 2019

Dec 23, 2018

A Reading Circle for Reconciliation
Kelowna, BC
Starts January 8, 2019 

From 2010 to 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission listened to and documented the experiences of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the Indian Residential School Experience. In June 2015 they published their final report, which outlined 94 Calls to Actions for Canadians. Okanagan Regional Library will be hosting an opportunity for folks to continue the climb up Reconciliation Mountain. Please join us at a five session reading circle where we will read together the Executive Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Caroline MacKay, Debbie Hubbard and Nan Shearing will facilitate the Circle. The first session will be scheduled for Tuesday January 8. We will meet the second Tuesday of each month for a total of five months: February 12, March 12, April 9 and May 14. The sessions will run from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Pre-registration prior to January 8 is required.


Soup & Bannock: Lunch & Learn Series
Nanaimo, BC
January 8, 2019

This event is open to Everyone. Registration is optional – tickets are not needed for event. This speaker’s series is held by Services for Aboriginal Students at Vancouver Island University and sponsored by various VIU departments. These talks are Tuesday over the lunch hour once a month in Shq’apthut – A Gathering Place and provide the opportunity for students, staff, faculty and community to expand their experience and awareness in current Indigenous topics and various aspects of Aboriginal Ways of Being and Knowing. Click on the link above for more information.


Lunch & Learn Series: Indigenous Women’s Health
Edmonton, AB
January 9, 2019 (12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.)

The Indigenous Health Lunch & Learn Series hosted by the Local Officers of Indigenous Health (Medical Students Association) and the Indigenous Health Initiatives Program in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry is pleased to announce the first of three engaging and informative sessions to help build awareness and understanding of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous Peoples’ health. The first session will focus on issues specific to Indigenous women’s health and will be led by Dr Cassandra Felske-Durksen.


Dance Allsorts: Iskwêwak Osihtâwak | The Women are Making It
Vancouver, BC
January 13, 2019 (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.)

Iskwêwak Osihtâwak (Cree) is a mixed program featuring Indigenous dance practices shared by Salia Joseph, Jeanette Kotowich and Jessica McMann, with excerpts from Spirit and Tradition by the Dancers of Damelahamid. The dance performance starts at 2:00 p.m. followed by a free dance workshop at 3:15 p.m. Pay-what-you-can at the door: First come, first seated.


Community Dialogue: Conservation through an Indigenous Human Rights Lens
Thunder Bay, ON
January 14, 2019 (5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.)

Ontario Nature and the David Suzuki Foundation are hosting a Community Dialogue in Thunder Bay. Join environmental, Indigenous and grassroots activists to discuss how we can protect Mother Earth and its inhabitants in a way that respects Indigenous rights and responsibilities, and honours the interconnection of all life. Guest speakers include federal MP, Romeo Saganash (Critic for Reconciliation and Critic for Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), and Grassy Narrows First Nations’ community elder and distinguished activist, Judy Da Silva. The event is free, but please register to help us plan for refreshments and seating.


Squamish Cultural Competency Training
Vancouver, BC
January 16, 2019 (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.)

Camp Fircom invites you to join us for a workshop on Squamish Cultural Competency led by Jackie Gonzales and Stewart Gonzales from the Ayas Men Men (Children & Family Services) of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation. This workshop is an opportunity to learn more about the Squamish people, their history, their lands, and their truth. We’re inviting the other camps who are on Squamish lands to join us as we seek to be in right relationship with Indigenous peoples.


RISE Blanket Exercise
Edmonton, AB
January 19, 2019 (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

The Blanket Exercise is an interactive learning experience that teaches the Indigenous rights history we’re rarely taught. Join us on Monday, January 21 from 6-8 PM for this interactive workshop, organized by RISE – Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton, to help further your understanding of Indigenous issues.This workshop is free; space is limited. Donations to support the ongoing work of RISE will gladly be accepted.


The Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair with Shelagh Rogers
Victoria, BC
January 22, 2019 (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

Island Health is pleased to present the Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair for a speaking event on cultural safety, truth, and reconciliation in health care. A national leader in truth and reconciliation, Senator Sinclair will advise, inspire, and share his wisdom to help us understand what Truth and Reconciliation truly is, and to deepen our cultural safety and humility learning journey. Journalist and radio host Shelagh Rogers will join the Senator for this conversation, as will invited guests from the First Nations Health Authority, Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, and Island Health. This event will be held in the He’Was Hall at the Songhees Wellness Centre. This is a free event but you must secure a free ticket as space is limited.


Indigenous Knowledges Wikimedia Workshop 
Toronto, ON
January 28-29, 2019

This workshop is being convened to engage the professional community in discussions and practice-based initiatives to work on the ways that Wikimedia platforms will be used to support the work related to Indigenous knowledges and languages in Canada. The Wikimedia project platforms such as Wikipedia, Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons are increasingly being used to enable grassroots initiatives to support language and cultural reclaimation around the world. The platforms are also being used to increase the visibility of marginalized communities and languages. The platforms are also being used to document traditional practices. Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website in the world. The platforms taken together impact the internet, playing a major role in Google search results. Increasing the visibility and accessibility of information about Indigenous peoples and culture show the world know we are here.


Indigenous Storyteller in Residence: Launch Event
Vancouver, BC
January 30, 2o19 (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

Celebrate and get to know the 2019 Indigenous Storyteller in Residence! Discover how the residency will support cross-cultural communication and honour storytelling in its many forms through exciting events, workshops and more. Additional details to be announced in January.


Pathways to Truth and Reconciliation: Creating Space for New Success with Jean Teillet
Morely, AB
January 31, 2019 (7 p.m.)

In our second season of the Truth and Reconciliation Speaker Series we will be exploring the “Pathways to Truth and Reconciliation”, asking speakers to share what they have learned about the Action of Reconciliation through their own journey, case studies and successes and barriers encountered along the way. We believe that the path to reconciliation must always be grounded in the truth before we advance to reconciliation and along the path, intent and implementation may differ. These are the stories we have invited our speakers to share with us this season.

Statement on the attack in the Tree of Life Synagogue

Oct 30, 2018

Our thoughts, prayers and love go out to all the family and friends of the 11 sacred lives taken so ruthlessly at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

What occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27, 2018 is an expression of hatred in its most violent form. These unspeakable acts must stop. We must all stand up to and speak out against anti-Semitism, and against prejudice and discrimination.

Now more than ever, we must uphold our shared values of humanity, dignity, equality, hope and peace. Let us honour the courage of those whose lives were taken by being the purveyors of love.

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