Aboriginal leaders and legal minds from across Canada gathered to share ideas and form strategies on ways Canada’s First Nations can forward the work of reconciliation at Vancouver Island University.
The Advisory Council for VIU’s Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation held its inaugural meeting on campus Tuesday as part of Reconciliation Road: Join the Journey with VIU, a week of events to engage people in the reconciliation process.
Advisory council members include Grand Chief Konrad Sioui of the Huron-Wendat Nation, former representative of the Assembly of First Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Grand Chief Edward John of the Tl’azt’en Nation, a lawyer and member of the First Nations Summit Task Group; Chief Wilton Littlechild of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, a lawyer, former member of Parliament and founder of International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development; Tsartlip First Nation chief Don Tom, representing the Douglas Treaty Nations on Vancouver Island; and Louise Mandell, one of Canada’s foremost aboriginal rights lawyers and VIU chancellor.
“The Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation was established a couple of years ago and it has those two main themes of activity around the pre-confederation treaties across the country – so it’s national in scope – and also the themes of reconciliation,” said Doug White III, centre director and Snuneymuxw First Nation acting chief.
The centre is small, just an office with a couple of chairs and a bookcase, but an important central point to bring together ideas and efforts by First Nations groups across Canada.
“It is sort of an idea of bringing together these disparate elements that are working in isolation and drawing theme together,” White said.
White cited, as a localized example, the centre’s reconciliation work can help bring together and coordinate regional First Nations, the urban aboriginal population and the justice system, including the courts, police, corrections, and organizations delivering services, such as alcohol and drug abuse treatment and anger management.
“We, I think, can be the glue that brings things together in a way that everybody wants to come together, but haven’t found a way to do it,” White said.
Advisory council members met with students during a lunch break at Shq’apthut: A Gathering Place, where White and others discussed the history of treaties and reconciliation efforts between First Nations and the Canadian government before the advisory council was joined by Shawn Atleo, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, for the council’s afternoon session.