PLEA
Healing journey continues through truth and reconciliation. What does truth and reconciliation mean?

Being An Ally in Reconciliation

Hello everyone,

Saturday September 30th is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a day to honour Indigenous Peoples’ journeys and cultures, and a time to pay tribute to the 150,000 children who were taken from their homes and forced to attend residential schools

On this day PLEA is co-hosting an event alongside Katzie First Nation, Fraser River Indigenous Society and BC SPOKES called The Healing Journey Continues Through Truth and Reconciliation. I believe this journey is just beginning but every step along the way is of great importance. 

As an agency, we continue to reflect on the progress we have made to be an ally to Indigenous Peoples, and to stop and recognize all that we must still do. With this in mind, I wanted to share some of the important steps we have taken, so far, on this important journey. 

Leadership

We have an active agency-wide Indigenous Matters Committee who are guided by a strategic plan. The committee’s top three priorities are (a) to assist programs and personnel to improve knowledge, capacity and competency in providing effective and culturally sensitive services, (b) to develop connections and strengthen relationships with Indigenous agencies and communities and (c) to put forward recommendations and strategies for building and maintaining cultural connections for Indigenous participants. 

Partnerships

We have several partnerships with Elders and Knowledge Keepers on whose territories we reside. These include Katzie First Nation, Kwantlen First Nation, Semiahmoo First Nation and Kwikwetlem First Nation. These partnerships include us being actively involved in the organization of local National Indigenous Peoples Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation/Orange Shirt Day events, of which tomorrow is just one example.

Outside of BC we’ve partnered with the Northwest Territories Foster Family Coalition, supporting them to adopt the specialized, staff supported family care model for youth in care that has been an integral part of PLEA’s programs for almost two decades. Through this collaboration, youth who would otherwise have to move out of territory to receive services are now able to stay in their home community with specialized services and supports.

Learning  

To support the creation of a culturally safe workplace, we’ve introduced mandatory training for all staff through either The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) San’yas Anti-Racism Indigenous Cultural Training or The Path – Your Journey Through Indigenous Canada, by the Canadian Bar Association. 

Additionally, we’ve recently hosted Kathi Camilleri for her Building Bridges Through Understanding the Village workshop, which was attended by 100 staff. Further, we’ve welcomed Dr. Dustin Louie, Director of UBC’s Indigenous Teacher Education Program, who facilitated a two-part training series – open to staff, caregivers, volunteers and external stakeholders and agencies – on decolonizing and indigenizing our practice. 

Finally, training, as well as facilitated and informal conversations, are taking place at the program and team level to ensure each of us understand, share and live what we are learning.

Research

We’ve partnered with Reciprocal Consulting to support us in advancing our work on cultural safety. Reciprocal Consulting is an Indigenous owned research and evaluation firm specializing in Indigenous anti-racism and culturally responsive research. Following a staff survey, several recommendations were received and actions plans have since been formed and implemented. 

Programming

We’ve hired our own in-house Knowledge Keeper, Charles Lafferty, to support participants and staff to embed cultural appropriateness and safety in their work. Program-wise, participants regularly engage in, amongst other things, the planting and harvesting of tobacco (which is then used for gifting to Elders), smudging, cedar weaving, beading, drum-making, storytelling, talking circles and spending time out on the land. We’ve also helped build a Sweat Lodge at one of our locations, which is used to involve and engage participants in cultural ceremony.

Symbolic

We showcase Indigenous artwork in our locations; encourage staff to include a personalized land acknowledgement in their email signatures; open large meetings and events with a land acknowledgement and/or a welcome to the territory; and encourage staff to share their ancestry and land acknowledgement as part of the round-table introductions that take place in meetings.

These are just some of the steps PLEA has taken to be an ally to reconciliation. Of course, we have so much more to do. For those you who have taken your own steps, I invite you to share these with me by emailing [email protected]. They will likely be a good source of inspiration for the future actions we will take. And for any of you who are unsure how to start, I hope these actions provide you with some ways you can begin your own journey. 

Thank you for reading,

Tim Veresh, Chief Executive Officer

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