Thursday, December 14, 2023

City's Reconciliation plans highlight desire for independence for those tasked to explore the topic


Monday's Council session saw City Council members move forward with a Truth and Reconciliation program that would see the creation of an Indigenous Relation Committee to seek out membership from those in the community. 

The first task for those that take up the work, will seemingly be to find a new word to replace committee, a word which a few members suggested had colonial overtones towards the project.

The Report for Council provides a look at the scope of what is ahead for those that will work on the project once the City issues its calls for members.

The report and all of its supporting documentation can be reviewed through the City Council Agenda for Monday night starting on page 21.

As the topic was introduced by Mayor Pond, he added one addendum to the Terms up for review:

"Subject to council approval, which is in fact in the document it talks to that is not running against the report, but its just clarifying"

The discussion of the report was expansive with Council members speaking often to the theme that whatever direction the project evolves towards should ensure that the group has the independence from Council to best accomplish its work.

Those who spoke to the need for some independence for the Committee included: Councillors Adey, Forster and Cunningham.

"First of all I'm encouraged to see this initiative moving forward, I think that it's extremely important, I think the conversation with the port indicates that its an initiative that really touches on everybody and multiple institutions and community levels. 

I think that's fabulous that it's moving forward I wish it well. I also think that its' really important that once it's launched that it have the independence from us to operate in the way that is sees fit" ...

"I think to me the key concept is to separate the committee and allow it to be independent of council. 

And I'm confident that if presented with this issue then the group would be able to make an independent decision that makes sense for them in terms of what their path forward seems to be to them. 

But I think the separation of the two bodies is really important in terms of allowing  for that independence to flourish"     --Councillor Nick Adey

"I really appreciated the opportunity to engage in some of this learning with the people who chose to participate. To Councillor Skelton-Morven's idea, I wonder if an option would be to take that to the committee to allow them to make that type of a determination themselves. Versus us approaching it from a bureaucratic perspective where we're contemplating adding people to a committee without the committee actually having that type of an input  ... also starting to look towards the entire intent behind Truth and Reconciliation making it not our choice but up to the committee "  -- Councillor Teri Forster 

"I tend to agree with Councillor Forster that we'll let the committee decide, this about Reconciliation and it's their ownership. 

Even the word committee is a colonial type word and for us to be placing somebody from our Council on that committee with no choice from the committee, I think is the wrong way to start this to begin with.

I agree with a lot of the things Councillor Skelton-Morven is saying ...  this committee is going to be made up of people who are really interest in reconciliation and what happens in our community, not that you're not Councillor, but I think that the committee has to have ownership of that committee.  

And for us as a colonial bureaucracy if you want to say, saying that we're going to put somebody on that I just don't think is the right route to go personally, but that's just colonialist talking about it. -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

From a question on length of term for the project from Councillor Adey who noted it was likely more than one year project, Ms. Stewart,  the City's Manager for Communications, Engagement and Social Development,  provided a thumbnail sketch of what the future may hold for the project.

"To be frank I left it relatively vague so that the committee could help us to weigh in a little bit on the terms of reference and to have that come back to council, so that  they can be more of a part of the process  of identifying what those terms of reference could be.

That's kind of also why we went forward with kind of a roundtable, informal events to collect information from the community and make sure that we are moving forward with their input. 

So I think I would look to the committee membership once it's established to determine what they think for the length of term for the membership should be.

I also just because the way that the committee is funded for the first year, it's funded by grants and I did not want to feather Council's budgetary ability going forward.

So we could come forward with a recommendation about what Council does or does not do with the Budget for the committee going forward and Council can make the determination form there, I think is likely the appropriate protocol."

There was a somewhat of a different view from one council member towards the proposed  hands off council approach recommended by the majority of Council. 

Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven clearly wants to be part of the initiative,  the councillor who continues to participate in Council sessions by remote link from Vancouver,  made his case for inclusion with the collective a number of times during the discussion on the evening.

His first overview was to speak to terminology for the initiative  and then to seek guidance on membership towards it.

"I guess when it comes to structure, I mean obviously I'm in support of the motion just one piece just around language around, could we decolonize the word committee and use something along the lines of an Reconciliation Leadership Circle  ...

A secondary question,  can I get myself on this committee but not in a stipend role, cause I know that there is honorarium for folks I would obviously be unpaid,  this would just be ... cause I'm just trying to find the structure on how we're utilizing or if there is anything that precludes me from participating in that particular committee or leadership council' 

Ms. Stewart noted that the focus as designed to be more community member orientated, an approach that seems to seeking membership outside of the council chamber.

Further into the conversation Councillor Skelton-Morvem noted of his past involvement towards the themes under review and how his potential participation with the committee should be considered.

"I myself have taken part in a lot of those gatherings and discussions. For me I guess, I mean I'm ultimately flexible with however Council wants to proceed with this. 

I mean for me myself being the only Indigenous representation on this council, seems quite fitting that I be a part of those discussions and having those conversations. But that's just you know my own two cents there.

Very seldom do we have urban representation like that to be able build those  bridges, have those conversations and open up that dialogue.

Ultimately again I am sitting in an urban seat in a colonial government structure, so I am more than flexible again to come to the invite of the committee if that's so they desire."

Mr. Skelton-Morven also noted of the structure of other committees that include council membership and how did not see any conflict with his view of the current committee under discussion. He also would note of the irony of the approach council was taking to the project towards having the committee decided on its make up.

"Can I raise a recommendation and just I guess point out the irony of non-Indigenous members of council suggesting it would be too colonial to put the Indigenous member of Council on the committee.

If we could die by irony I would be very concerned.  

But I guess for me I would raise a recommendation if there's a way to approach that so that the option is there. If that's not how they want to proceed, they want to keep those entities separate and everything else I'm more than fine with that"

Now that they have approved the establishment of a Committee or whatever non colonial terminology that they settle on towards the group, the checklist of next steps features six more elements.

On Tuesday the city advised that Invitations to key organizations, as well as a general call out for participants will be posted in early January.  

Those who may be interested in taking part in the Reconciliation work that is ahead should follow the city's Social Media stream for the next advisory towards advertisements for committee membership and other outreach endeavours.

The full council discussion can be viewed through the City's video archive starting at the one hour, 22 minute mark.

More notes from the Monday Council session can be reviewed from our archive page here.

A wider overview of past Council Discussion themes is available here


  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but does council even do a land acknowledgement at the beginning of each council meeting?

  2. The interested parties that the staff have reached out to should choose the members in whatever they consider to be an appropriate and traditional manner. Mr. Skelton-Morven asking the council if he can be on the committee is a colonial or at least top down way of thinking. The committee also should not be put in the position of having to accept or reject his 'option' of being on the committee. His divisive language towards the other council members is also not in the spirit of reconciliation which is a road where everyone is welcome to walk together.