Mission council adopts “9 principles of reconciliation” to guide relations with Indigenous neighbours

Principles to form basis of communications strategy with each local Nation

Premier John Horgan announces Indigenous rights will be recognized in B.C. with the introduction of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press photo)

Premier John Horgan announces Indigenous rights will be recognized in B.C. with the introduction of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press photo)

Council unanimously voted to adopt nine principles of reconciliation on April 19, hoping to attain the label of a “City of Reconciliation.”

The District hired First Nations consultant Gwen Bridge, following staff discussions during the waterfront planning on how to ensure meaningful moves toward reconciliation with Mission’s neighbouring Indigenous peoples.

“There’s not a real consistent definition,” Bridge said, who has 19 years experience working on everything from policy writing to project management. “It’s really about understanding that reconciliation is the resolution of conflict. And so to have reconciliation, we have to understand the nature of those conflicts.”

In 2016, the federal government officially endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Three years later, the province officially legislated its commitment to incorporating UNDRIP into policy, passing Bill 41: The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA).

While there is no requirement for local governments to adopt their own, similar legislation, the relationship between municipalities and local Indigenous communities are crucial to the success of federal and provincial policy, according to the report.

Bridge said various things at the local level, such as establishing an Indigenous relations officer and conducting workshops, could help strengthen Mission’s relationship with the Matsqui, Sema:th, Kwantlen, Katzie, Sq’ewlets, and Leq’a:mel nations, as well as the Sto:Lo Nation Service Agency.

Such moves would help particularly with development projects, and land-use planning in urban and rural environments, she said.

The nine principles are listed in full below:

#1 Reconciliation occurs through the development of government to government relationships based on the recognition of indigenous rights.

#2 Local governments are crucial to the implementation of UNDRIP and the TRC calls to action. Advancement of this work can occur while recognizing the sovereign to sovereign (or Crown to Nation) relationships that occur between Federal, Provincial and First Nations governments.

#3 Plans and strategies for the implementation of UNDRIP and the TRC Calls to Action will be ‘co-created’ with First Nations communities, namely Matsqui, Sema:th, Kwantlen, Katzie, Sq’ewlets, and Leq’a:mel through engagement and collaboration, including ‘Reconciliation Dialogues’ and ‘Community to Community Forums’.

#4 Reconciliation promotes a mutually supportive climate for economic partnerships with regional First Nations communities.

#5 Collaboration with First Nation communities will define how best to communicate and engage on economic and land development policy.

#6 Continuous learning about indigenous peoples, cultural, traditions and laws is a requirement of reconciliation.

#7 Cooperation and collaboration will guide the District’s approach to issues that impact First Nations.

#8 Relationships take time, as does exploring what mutual commitment to reconciliation means; we will endeavour to engage our neighbouring First Nation communities to build those relationships around shared interests and common concerns.

#9 Systemic racism exists and that there are many ways of understanding the world and ways in which societies create and implement laws and that valid laws existed here before Canada.

The District will question assumptions and remain open when faced with different legal traditions and ways of knowing.

The principles will form the basis for developing a communications strategy with each Nation, ultimately leading to an agreement on information sharing and consultation to “meet their needs and expectations,” according to the report.

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