Mayor Mike Ruttan speaks to the Reconciliation Committee on Thursday, Nov. 30. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Port Alberni holds first Reconciliation Committee meeting

Committee discusses the possibility of creating a ‘made in Port Alberni’ response to TRC

Port Alberni’s first reconciliation committee meeting explored the meaning of reconciliation in the Valley, and the possibility of creating a ‘made in Port Alberni’ response to the word.

The city’s reconciliation committee came about after the walk for reconciliation in March, where members of Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations, as well as concerned residents, walked from Harbour Quay to council chambers to address topics of reconciliation.

The committee is a select committee of council appointed for the purpose of investigating practical actions for the city and community to help foster reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Because it is a committee of the city, it will follow the procedures of the city, as laid out in Bylaw 4380.

The committee has eight members: councillor Sharie Minions was selected as the member of city council. Tseshaht representatives included Cynthia Dick and Anne Robinson. Hupacasath representatives included Jim Tatoosh and Rick Hewson, although Hewson admitted that he was sitting in and that another councillor might take his place. The three residents at large, selected to the committee by city council, are Sheena Falconer, Wally Samuel and Ian Benoit.

Minions started the meeting on Thursday, Nov. 30 by stressing that it was important that the committee lead the process how they feel it should be led.

Mayor Mike Ruttan echoed this sentiment in his remarks.

“This is a really big thing for us to get this going,” he said on Thursday. “The work that you are going to engage in is work that you are going to collectively determine. We have to acknowledge that there have been wrongs in the past. No two people view reconciliation the same way. Everybody is in a different place. What we’re asking you to do is create this ‘made in Port Alberni’ response to that word. Each of you represents many other people.”

The meeting was faciliated by John Rampanen, a member of Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations who describes himself as a “cross-cultural bridge builder.”

“I’m a strong believer in creating things that are uniquely our own,” he said on Thursday. “Looking at the recent past…we can appreciate that it’s going to take time to heal and recover.”

He described a three-part process to committee meetings, first looking at the history of colonialism in the Alberni Valley, then taking a status check to see where the communities are today. The third tier of discussions includes next steps and future goals.

“What does a reconciled Alberni Valley look like?” he asked. “Is it even possible?”

He opened the floor to committee members to ask them for their initial thoughts on reconciliation.

“Words like [reconciliation] can become almost like profanity,” he said. “Having a firm idea of what that could look like gives our community something to support.”

Robinson said, “I want to create a better future for my children and my grandchildren and my great-great-grandchildren.”

She added that she has spoken to the Tseshaht Haw’iih (hereditary chiefs), who are happy and pleased that the reconciliation committee is happening.

Samuel spoke up for members of First Nations in Port Alberni who are not a part of any day-to-day governance.

“We fall through the cracks,” he said. “Being a First Nation in a city, it is assumed we have access. We don’t. We’re not involved with our own governments. We’re hurting from what happened to our people. They need to reconcile with us, too.”

Minions spoke up to say that she went to school in Port Alberni without any awareness of the history of First Nations in the Valley. “I think we need to bring more understanding,” she said, adding that she didn’t want her children to go to school with this same lack of awareness.

Dick brought up the Reconciliation Walk. “It was a memorable day for me because of the outcomes it was able to create,” she said. “The work didn’t end there, it just began. People tend to get caught up in fighting something, rather than creating change. That light hasn’t been there in our community.”

With regards to reconciliation, she added, “It’s more than with the outside community, it’s with ourselves. It’s with each other. Let’s not get caught up on the word. Let’s not let the word get in the way of the work.”

Tatoosh, however, expressed some doubt that reconciliation is possible in Port Alberni, because of some of the negative comments he has read online.

Rampanen emphasized a solution-oriented approach in the Alberni Valley, with “reconciliation” as a neutral word.

“Once we start to find our language around this, we can put the focus on growing stronger together, rather than reconcile,” he said.

Minions and Dick were selected as co-chairs of the committee, with two chairs chosen in case of scheduling conflicts. The committee agreed to meet again in December before a holiday break.

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Coast Guard vessel open for second day of public tours on Alberni waterfront

Talk to marine scientists, learn about research equipment on CCGS Vector

Port Alberni walks for World Food Day

John Paul II Catholic School students walked to end world hunger

San Group announces plans to build new sawmill in Port Alberni

San Group has purchased 25 acres of Catalyst Paper land on Stamp Avenue for its expansion

Two Port Alberni cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Leaf Compassion and Cannabis Club ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Pot sales down by nearly 70% on Day 2 of legalization in B.C.

Several products on BC Cannabis Store are still sold out

B.C. jury finds man guilty of Japanese exchange student’s murder

Natsumi Kogawa was found at empty heritage mansion shortly after she was reported missing in 2016

Most Read