Last month, in partnership with The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, we hosted the first of a two-part online learning series for local government leaders about the TRC Calls to Action. The series highlights key takeaways from our report The TRC Calls to Action in BC Municipalities: Progress Barriers and Opportunities to Accelerate Implementation.
The next webinar What Local TRC Implementation Looks Like in Practice, will take place on Wednesday, April 26 at 11 am PDT.
In case you missed the event, here is a summary of the first webinar in the series.
Musqueam artist and activist χʷəy̓χʷiq̓tən/Audrey Siegl opened the webinar with a territorial welcome and thoughtful reflection on the importance of the Calls to Action in honouring survivors. Then, WTC’s Co-Chair, Dr. Joy Masuhara, provided context on how the work came about followed. This was followed by Clara Prager sharing insights from research conducted across local governments in BC on the progress made in implementing the TRC Calls to Action. Ginger Gosnell-Myers, SFU Centre for Dialogue’s Fellow of Decolonization and Urban Planning, followed the conversation with insights on how local leaders could advance the Calls to Action in their communities.
Clara emphasized the significance of tracking the level of progress around the Calls to Action in order to identify the common barriers in this process as well as the support that is needed to overcome these challenges. She highlighted that while municipalities have not made significant progress on the Calls to Action, they recognize the importance of reconciliation but face significant barriers in implementing them.
She shared that WTC’s research found that the top barriers slowing action were limited resources and staff capacity, a lack of awareness, knowledge-sharing and education, as well as a lack of clarity and direction from senior governments. Clara also emphasized the need to support local leaders in this process and the essential role that residents play in ensuring that local councils know that implementing the Calls is their priority.
"The TRC Calls to Action are for everyone, non-Indigenous peoples especially, who this might be very new for. You already have permission to do this work, is absolutely correct. You don't need permission from First Nations communities in order to start learning. You don't need permission from First Nations communities in order to say, 'We're going to start building up a capacity internally, learning about local First Nations and learning about our urban Indigenous communities so that we can provide better services, the same services we provide to everyone but that we have omitted Indigenous peoples from it because we felt it was somebody else's jurisdiction.' You don't need to have an Indigenous person leading at this work, this is the work of municipalities already." - Ginger Gosnell-Myers
Ginger Gosnell-Myers shared insights from her time at the City of Vancouver. She emphasized that reconciliation is complex, wide-ranging and deeply relational work. She pointed out that the release of the TRC Calls to Action had been integral during a time of uncertainty about the role of local governments in reconciliation. The Calls provided clear direction into addressing the legacies stemming from residential schools and provided clear direction on the steps that local leaders should actually be taking.
Ginger clarified the relation between the UNDRIP and the TRC, with the UNDRIP providing a global framework for human rights, cultural rights and land rights for Indigenous peoples, and the TRC providing ‘on the ground’ direction for enabling and implementing these rights.
Answering questions involving a lack of will in implementing the Calls to Action, Ginger asserted that a place for local government leaders to start this work was Action # 57, which calls for training for public servants. She asserted the importance of incentivizing cultural competency opportunities for all sectors of society. Ginger further pointed out that Municipalities have a key role in representing and prioritizing services for Indigenous people, considering that 70% of Indigenous people live in Municipalities today. This emphasizes a need for engaging with First Nations, and creating shared initiatives and plans to bring Indigenous identity into Municipalities.
"When I was working in this in the City of Vancouver, we pulled in one or two people from every department and they became our internal champions. They were trying to understand what had previously been done with Indigenous peoples and projects in the past in their department. They shared about what the TRC Calls to Action meant for our work plan and our future planning. I don't think we would have been as successful if we didn't have this interdepartmental learning approach across the city. This work should not be the responsibility of one person."- Ginger Gosnell-Myers
Ginger reiterated the need to build the Calls to Action into existing operations and integrate the work into different streams of work. She asserted that there were ways that work could be initiated even in contexts of a lack of political will and clear direction by provincial and federal governments. Ginger clarified the importance of building relationships with First Nations and how this would enable the work and benefit all parties involved.
A question was directed on how Municipalities could navigate complex Indigenous landscapes and ensure that reconciliation takes place for Indigenous communities who live on reserves as well as those who live in urban settings. Ginger pointed out the need for all actors to form relations with each other. Municipalities need to have an understanding of the Urban Indigenous community and the support they are trying to access, as well as consider how they can forge partnerships with communities on a service provision level. She pointed to the importance of knowledge sharing and suggested that Municipalities have an opportunity to learn from Indigenous communities themselves about the nuances between diverse Indigenous populations.