First Nations post facilitates dialogue

Shawn Atleo appointed as B.C.'s first shqwi qwal for indigenous dialogue.

The provincial government is working at relationship building with First Nations people, and some of that dialogue will take place in Nanaimo.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced Thursday that Shawn Atleo will be the province’s – and Canada’s – first shqwi qwal (speaker) for indigenous dialogue.

The office will be based at Vancouver Island University’s Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation.

Atleo was formerly national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada.

“He’s coming home in part to start a dialogue between First Nations, business leaders and government policy makers,” Clark said. “To help us climb that path that will allow us to move forward together, because we all want economic growth, we all want resource development.”

Clark said the appointment follows a gathering in Vancouver in September with her cabinet and 400 First Nations chiefs. The premier said she came away with the message that “it all begins with dialogue…

“We can do this together. We have to do it together and we should do it together.”

According to a press release, the shqwi qwal for indigenous dialogue at VIU will support “engagement sessions” which include First Nations citizens and leaders, government representatives, industry leaders and non-indigenous citizens.

“Recognition and understanding are fundamental to moving forward in the spirit of mutual respect, reconciliation and sharing,” said Atleo in a press release. “Through dialogue, we can together create new paths respective of our history that connect systems and support process innovation for social and economic benefits.”