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YWCA AGM 2017: A Recap

“History may well be a series of stories we tell about the past, but the stories are not just any stories. They're not chosen by chance. “

– Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian

We chose to hold our Annual General Meeting on National Aboriginal Day (soon to be National Indigenous Peoples Day) to draw attention to the work we as Vancouverites need to do to advance truth and reconciliation in British Columbia.

Amidst the celebration of Indigenous culture and arts around the city, our CEO Janet Austin sat down with Kory Wilson, Executive Director of Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships at BCIT and Dr. Kim van der Woerd, sole proprietor of Reciprocal Consulting and YWCA Canada Board Member. 

It’s easy to focus on the bright colours of Indigenous Art, the strength of spirit, their resilience in the face of colonialism. It’s something Canadians do on reflex, at least once a year. With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report only two years old, reflecting on the history of Indigenous people in Canada as well as their future is of the utmost importance. We cannot gloss over the cost they have paid in this country any longer.

For over 100 years, families were broken apart as children were removed from their homes and put into church-run residential schools where they experienced unspeakable abuse. They were forced to detach themselves from their culture, family and identities.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission aims to repair this relationship by coming to terms with events of the past in a manner that overcomes conflict and establishes healthy relationships going forward. The TRC report states that in order to build healthy relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples there must be: an awareness of the past, acknowledgment of the harm it has inflicted, atonement for the cause and action to make things better.

As individuals we each have a responsibility to pursue what we don't know...to make Canada a great and inclusive country.

– Kory Wilson

So how do we turn reconciliation into concrete action? And what is the ultimate goal?

There are many pieces to consider when it comes to truth and reconciliation, more than can be addressed in a single blog post. We encourage you to educate yourself and seek out sources like CBC Indigenous, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network , Windspeaker and Muskrat Magazine. As mentioned in our National Aboriginal Day post, there are many things you can do on the individual and corporate level to ensure a more equitable Canada. Last night’s panel discussion furnished us with three more tips:

  1. Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Check your personal biases, question where they came from. Challenge them.
    We all have biases. Stories we have heard or tell ourselves about certain groups of people. It’s important that you question where it came from and what purpose it serves. Challenging your own biases gives you a broader look at British Columbia and a greater appreciation of multiculturalism. A good way to challenge your biases is to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer your time working with a group that differs from your day-to-day network.
  2. Check your surroundings, what is the representation of Indigenous people in your network and workplace?
    Many of us go about our daily lives not paying attention to our surroundings. Next time you’re in a meeting, stop and look at the attendees: what is the representation of women in the boardroom? Of visible minorities? People who are ably-challenged? If you’re in a position to adjust your hiring process do so. If you’re not, bring it to the attention of your management, there are times when exclusion is not intended.
  3. Both individuals and organizations can act as megaphones to educate their networks on reconciliation.
    Let people do better. You may have held biases in the past that you outgrew and you should give the same concessions to others. It’s about changing minds and practices that put Indigenous peoples at a disadvantage in the world.

To this end, educate your network on Indigenous rights. Adding your voice to the swell of support for truth and reconciliation helps ensure that we move forward as Canadians towards a future that sees everyone treated equally. You can call on reform to damaging public policies, support inclusion, attend community events and stay up to date on reports on Indigenous cultures.

YWCA Metro Vancouver is working towards the ultimate goal of socio-economic parity for the Indigenous peoples of Canada.  We are working with community leaders like Dr. Kim van der Woerd to establish a truth and reconciliation framework for our organization.  This will include a series of trackable metrics that will be reviewed yearly to ensure we maintain momentum in acknowledging and serving our Indigenous communities in Metro Vancouver. If you’re interested in learning more about our last year, check out our 2016 Annual Report.

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