Regional News: Regional forum brings reconciliation to light

More than 70 elected officials came together for a Community to Community Forum to discuss the topic of reconciliation.

More than 70 elected officials and senior management from Ktunaxa  communities, the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) came together for a Community to Community Forum to discuss the topic of reconciliation on March 10th.

“Reconciliation can be difficult to talk about, but we must move beyond any shame or guilt to start the healing process,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair in a recent press release.

“There are a number of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s ‘Calls to Action’ that are only achievable at the regional and municipal level. We wanted to bring together our colleagues from municipalities and regional districts in Ktunaxa Territory start the conversation about how we can make reconciliation meaningful at the local level.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report released last year began to move toward recognizing residential school survivors and acknowledging their devastating experiences. The 382-page summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report revealed the shocking scale of abuse that First Nations children were historically faced with, and resulted in 94 recommendations to resolve conflicts from the past.

Village of Radium Hot Springs mayor Clara Reinhardt and Coun. Karen Larsen attended the Community to Community Forum on behalf of Radium council.

“It was really good,” Larsen told her peers at the March 23rd council meeting. “It was basically a forum calling on all of the local communities to come forward to learn about the Ktunaxa Nation’s acceptance of Truth and Reconciliation recommendations. It was really a nice forum because it was really personal.”

She felt the forum’s round table discussions helped many participants enhance their understanding of residential schools and hopes the issues will be recognized more widely by society as a whole.

Reinhardt was quite taken with the engaging delivery method of the forum that forced participants to think about what reconciliation means to them and she said it was noticeable how many people sat up, thought about it and participated in the discussions.

“It was a really good workshop,” she concluded at the council meeting.

Later, by email, Reinhardt added: “ I was expecting comparisons of governance models, networking, table top exercises, etc. It was a very different format as (the theme of reconciliation) was explored during the workshop. We started with defining, personalizing, and then applying reconciliation to our roles in relationship to some of the 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We all have a role to play.”

The cultural revival of First Nations in the Columbia Valley is gaining momentum and elected officials from all walks of life are working toward incorporating inclusion moving forward.

“The Community to Community Forum was funded 50 per cent from Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and 50 per cent from the RDEK,” said RDEK vice chair and Area F director Wendy Booth in an email to The Echo.

“This was the second Community to Community Forum that the RDEK has had with the Ktunaxa — the first one was several years ago and the focus was around sharing information and having a greater understanding of the governance of each other.

“It should be noted that the RDEK (Columbia Valley directors) had a Community to Community Forum with the Shuswap in January of this year,” she added. “I enjoyed both forums and the learnings from both were beneficial to my understanding of the First Nation’s culture in our valley.”

The Community to Community Forums as a whole are focused on improving communication networks and building relationships within the region, including local governments and First Nations. The effort to improve relationships between the Ktunaxa Nation and RDEK are expected to continue within the East Kootenay region.

“Reconciliation is more than a single event, rather it is an ongoing relationship that is based on trust and communication,” said Booth.

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