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Mark Winston believes that building relationships is the first piece in creating a reconciled world. This philosophy guided the workshop series held at SFU’s Centre for Dialogue with Reconciliation Canada, for Vancouver’s Year of Reconciliation.

From January to March 2014, SFU held five different events to explore reconciliation and the real actions participants could take to promote it in their own communities.

For Winston, the SFU Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop, which had students exploring the idea of reconciliation, was particularly successful. Over two days, students, faculty and staff from SFU explored reconciliation within the university context.

The students generated many exciting ideas, such as a day of indigenization – in which every course has some Indigenous component—as well as more exposure to First Nation’s culture for students.

A similar workshop involved a number of Vancouver school districts, and saw over 150 high school students, their teachers and administrators participate. In small groups, they learned more about Indigenous peoples and their history and discussed projects to initiate in their own high school. Other events included a poetry event in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library and a workshop on pluralism and reconciliation between various groups in Canadian society who had experienced injustices.

SFU presented Chief Robert Joseph with the 2014 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue for his work on promoting reconciliation in Canada. “Chief Robert Joseph’s honesty and humanity set the workshop’s tone,” says Winston. “We wanted to honor his contributions, but also to create a platform where the ideas of reconciliation could be further explored.”

Winston feels that the model of small diverse groups exploring reconciliation together was critical to the workshop’s success, because participants were able to learn from each other’s experiences in a comfortable, safe environment.

“The workshops allow participants to build relationships and understand which general principals of reconciliation might apply across the board, and across Canadian society,” says Winston.

Winston believes Canadians genuinely want to understand Indigenous history and reconcile past mistakes – and that it’s important to take the time to do so.

For Winston, reconciliation is all about people. “To me, reconciliation means understanding and listening. It means doing whatever we can to learn from injustices and correct them.”

“You can’t do a one hour event to create reconciliation; you have to take the time to reflect,” he says. “For students, who are figuring out their impact on society, it is critical to reflect, listen and explore reconciliation.”

For more information on the SFU Dialogue events with Reconciliation Canada: