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- 19 January, 2022 The Power of Education in Advancing Reconciliation
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January 19, 2022
The Empire Club of Canada Presents
The Power of Education in Advancing Reconciliation
Chairman: Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada; Vice-President, External Affairs & Professional Learning, Humber College
Chief Stacey Laforme, (Gimaa) Chief, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation
Dr. Tracy Bear, Director & Assistant Professor, McMaster Indigenous Research Institute, Dept. of Sociology, Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University
Chief Cadmus Delorme, Chief, Cowessess First Nation
Kory Wilson, Executive Director, Indigenous Initiatives & Partnerships, British Columbia Institute of Technology
Distinguished Guest Speakers
Penny Favel, Vice-President, Indigenous Relations, Hydro One
Monica James, Regional Manager for Client Diversity, Chair of the Indigenous Peoples ERG, BDC
It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau. Literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.
It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.
Welcome Address by Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon fellow directors, past presidents, members, and guests. Welcome to the 118th season of the Empire Club of Canada. My name is Kelly Jackson. I am the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada, and Vice-President, External Affairs and Professional Learning at Humber College. And I'm your host for today’s event, “The Power of Education in Advancing Reconciliation.”
I'd like to begin this afternoon with an acknowledgement that I'm hosting this event within the Traditional and Treaty Lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the homelands of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wyandot Peoples. In acknowledging Traditional Territories, I do so from a place of understanding the privilege my ancestors and I have had in this country, since they first arrived here in the 1830’s. As farmers in Southwestern Ontario, I imagine they felt a deep connection to the land, and yet likely did not recognize how that connection was built on the displacement of others. Delivering a land acknowledgement, for me, it's always an important opportunity to reflect on our human connection, and responsibility to care for the land; and to recognize that to do so, we must always respect each other, and acknowledge our histories. We encourage everyone tuning in today to learn more about the Traditional Territory on which you work and live.
The Empire Club of Canada is a non-profit organization. So, I need to take a moment now to recognize our sponsors, because they generously support the Club, and they make these events possible, and complimentary, for our supporters to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsors, VVC, the Business Development Bank of Canada, and Hydro One. Thank you to today's supporting sponsors, Edelman, and Nieuport Aviation. And thank you also, to our season sponsors, the Canadian Bankers Association, LiUNA, Waste Connections of Canada, and Bruce Power.
Before we get started today, just a few housekeeping notes. I want to remind everybody who's participating that this is an interactive event. Those attending live are encouraged to engage by taking advantage of the question box; scroll down below your on-screen video player to find it. We've reserved some time for audience questions at the end of the discussion. We also invite you to share your thoughts on social media, using the hashtags displayed on-screen throughout the event. If you require, start a conversation with our team, using the chat button on the right-hand side of your screen. To those watching on-demand later, and to those tuning in on the podcast, welcome.
It is now my pleasure to call this virtual meeting to order. I am honoured to welcome our guests today, Dr. Tracy Bear, Chief Cadmus Delorme, Chief Stacey Laforme and Kory Wilson. They are joining us at the Empire Club of Canada's virtual stage. You'll hear more about them shortly, and you can find their full bios on the page below the video player on your screen. Before we hear from our guests, I'd like to invite Penny Favel, Vice-President Indigenous Relations at Hydro One to deliver some opening remarks. Penny, welcome, and over to you.
Opening Remarks by Penny Favel, Vice-President, Indigenous Relations, Hydro One
Thank you so much, Kelly. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Penny Favel, and I'm the Vice-President of Indigenous Relations here at Hydro One. I'm so pleased to be invited to participate and listen in on this exciting discussion about the power of education to advance reconciliation in Canada. Over my first year here at Hydro One I've had the honour of guiding the company on its journey through reconciliation, and I believe that reconciliation is more than just a commitment to the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report; it's actually an ongoing process for industry, institutions, governments, and most importantly, all Canadians, to undertake and to commit to. And education is such a vital tool and opportunity for all Canadians to learn from the past, to acknowledge present and historic wrongs, and to commit to improving Canada for all of us. Hydro One's footprint impacts over 100 Indigenous communities in Ontario, and I'm so pleased to see the commitment our employees at Hydro One have had to learning more about Indigenous communities, to learning more about the history of Canada, and importantly, the individual cultures, traditions and language of the various Indigenous communities that Hydro One interacts with every single day.
I'm also extremely delighted to be able to introduce Chief Stacey Laforme, elected Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Chief Laforme has been serving his community for over 20 years; first elected to Council in 1999. He's committed to increasing involvement and communication with both on and off-reserve members and elected Council. He's very active throughout the Traditional Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, which actually encompass 3.9 million acres of Southern Ontario land. He's committed not only as a Chief, but as a noted storyteller, a published author, and a poet. I personally had, a few months ago, the opportunity to hear Chief Laforme share one of his poems on a radio interview. And of course, I immediately Googled him to find out more about his poems, and I was delighted to discover not only a renaissance man, but someone who's been committed to lifelong learning.
At Hydro One, we're very pleased to sponsor this event, and we're very proud of our partnership with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, who are our equity partners on the Niagara Reinforcement Project, which is a 76-kilometre transmission line in the heart of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation Traditional Territory. I'm now turning it over to Chief Laforme. Thank you so much.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Miigwetch, Penny. I appreciate that wonderful introduction—I usually cut people off when I'm in person after they just get to my name, Chief Stacey Laforme, I interrupt and say ‘that's good enough;’ but I appreciate it. First things first, I usually go by Giima or Ogimaa. I do answer to Chief, but that's only out of respect for the audience; because Ogiima and Gimaa are more of our keeping than Chief; that's a construct, not of our making. Anyway, I would like to welcome everybody here to this panel discussion on the power of education in advancing reconciliation. We have a wonderful panel here before you, all highly intelligent people, well respected in their fields; and I'll introduce them shortly. But first, I'd like to say, I was asked to be the moderator. Now, moderator is just a fancy term for, you know, if our guests start going on and on, I get use the hook and yank them out of the out of the speaking roles; so, that's my job.
You know, there's one thing that I've often said, and that is that certain institutions, by their very nature, have an obligation to tell the truth—so truthful that it hurts; and education is one of those fields.
I want to start off the panel discussion by reciting a poem that I wrote the day after the uncovering of the 215 children at the Residential School sites—of course, you know, it's well over 2000 children now—and it's called Reconciliation/215:
I sit here crying.
I don't know why.
I didn't know the children.
I didn't know the parents.
But I knew their spirits.
I knew their love.
I know their loss.
I know their potential.
And I am overwhelmed by the pain, and the hurt.
The pain of the families and friends.
The pain of an entire People.
Unable to protect them, to help them, to comfort them, to love them.
I did not know them, but the pain is so real; so personal.
I feel it in my core, my heart, my spirit.
I sit here crying, and I am not ashamed.
I will cry for them, and many others like them.
I will cry for you.
I will cry for me.
I will cry for what could have been.
Then I'll calm myself; smudge myself, to offer prayers.
And know they are no longer in pain.
No longer do they hurt.
They're at peace.
In time, I will tell their story.
I will educate society, so their memory is not lost.
And when I am asked, what does reconciliation mean to me?
I will say, I want their lives back.
I want them to live, to soar.
I want to hear their laughter; see their smiles.
Give me that, and I’ll grant you reconciliation.
So, I wrote that poem in a moment of love, anger, pain, and understanding. And I think that when we've talked about reconciliation in the past, we've just brushed on the surface, and now we're all aware of just how much work that is in front of us, and how much we have to do together to get there. So, Miigwetch.
Now, I'd like to go on to introduce the panel. We have Chief Cadmus Delorme, Cowessess First Nation; Kory Wilson, Executive Director, Indigenous Institution Initiatives and Partnerships, British Columbia Institute of Technology; and Dr. Tracy Bear, Director, McMaster Indigenous Research Institute, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences McMaster University. We are making room so that each panelist has five minutes to do an opening; and Dr. Bear, if you would, please begin.
Dr. Tracy Bear
Hay Hay, Miigwetch. Thank you for that introduction and thank you for beginning us off with that beautiful poem. Tânisi Tracy Bear nitisiyihkâson, Montreal Lake Cree Nation ohci niya, which is Treaty Six Territory. I’m coming to you now from a different territory, an unceded land; this is a land that is governed by the Anishinaabeg, a land of Haudenosaunee, Mississaugas of the Credit, and also, Six Nations. And so, I'm a guest on this land, and very honoured to be here with my esteemed colleagues.
I want to begin today by bringing a little bit of myself to you and my culture. I'm Cree, and I was brought up in many ways, traditional ways, but also, very contemporary realities. And so, one of the things that my family kept is smudging, as was mentioned earlier before, and smudging in my teachings begins everyone off in a good way. We smudge with medicines, and for Cree people, the Four Sacred Medicines are: Tobacco, Sweetgrass, and Sage and we also have Red Willow. So, I have some sage here that I picked in Batoche, and I'd like to start off with the online virtual smudge for everyone, so that we start this conversation in a good way, that we listen with good intentions that we speak with good intentions and that we see and feel things in a good way. So, smudge bowl, Sage, and matches. So, here’s a little smudge bowl that I have, that I was given; and here's the little ball of sage that I have picked from Batoche in 2019 with my sisters. And so, you know how we shower off at the end of the day or the beginning of the day, and you wash off all that dirt and grit? A smudge is like a spiritual cleanse. So, you're smudging yourself as well, not only to start off in a good day, but to also cleanse yourself of anything that might be sticking to you.
So, you light the medicine with a match—these are my teachings—and you can see here the smoke. And I don't know, for those of you that smudge a lot, sometimes it’s kind of olfactory memory so you can smell it. I know when people do virtual smudges with me, I can almost smell the sage. So, here's to you, my good listeners and good folks out there. A smudge for you, and a prayer for you, that we come together in a good way and have a great conversation. Hay Hay. And now I'd like to turn it over to my esteemed colleague, Kory Wilson.
Hello, everyone. Thank you. Thank you for that smudge. That, of course, is not my tradition, but one of the points I wanted to make is that there's incredible diversity amongst us as Indigenous people, and I always appreciate the teachings from my brothers and sisters from across the country. So, Gila'kasla, thank you for that. I'm Kory Wilson, and I'm coming to you today from Musqueam territory, which is the territory of UBC for those of you that know Vancouver, but I’m Kwakwaka’wakw from Northern Vancouver Island, and I've been a guest on Musqueam territory for almost maybe 25 years or so, so I'm very grateful to the Coast Salish people that have allowed me to live work and play on their territory.
I come from the Northwest coast of British Columbia where we Potlatch. It's way too wet out here to grow smudge, or Sage, and the various items that you have, and, of course, we have our own ceremonies. And when I'm thinking about the power of education, I think about my cultural system, which is the Potlatch, which is a system that is everything for us; it's our system of governance, our system of justice, our system of education. And when I think about how we are taught as young people in our system to learn our roles and our responsibilities, it's really by watching and observing it with gentleness and kindness and—but somewhat very pointed, and as we spoke about this earlier, one of the stories that comes to my mind is around, of course, we're taught about the respect for nature. And I remember one time with my granny and her kitchen, there was a huge spider, and it kind of freaked me out a little bit. I was young, I was maybe seven, eight years old, and this spider, of course, I assumed was coming to attack me. So, I stepped on it. And I don’t know how, I still to this day I have no idea how my granny knew, because she was washing dishes, and she's she just goes, ‘hmm’. And she didn't—I didn't see her turn around, and she goes, ‘hmm, I wonder who will feed that spider’s babies tonight?’ So, of course, I just fell flat on the floor and just felt horrible, and now I had these pictures of all these spiders that aren't going to have food, and—but you see in that the lessons and the teachings that happen for Indigenous people where they're told through stories and told through ways that show the connection between and amongst, you know, not only humans, but animals, and the environment, and that type of stuff. And, and it also reminds me of how knowledge is power. Absolute knowledge is the most powerful weapon—you've heard all of the quotes from various incredible people around the world—and that education itself is also formal, very much more of a formal process, the K-12 system, the post-secondary system; but it's also a very informal system as well. And it's something that we have to remember, that knowledge is gained from all areas in all aspects of our life. And it is also an ongoing process that we have to ensure that we actively participate in.
And just to make a few more points as well as one of the things that I really love and would love for you to take away is to recognize that Indigenisation or reconciliation in post-secondary institutions or K-12 is not simply about just adding Indigenous content to the curriculum or hiring an Indigenous person; it is about how do we make true and systemic lasting change in these institutions that of course came from Eurocentric views and values, and recognize that truth and reconciliation is not only the work of governments and communities, but it is the work of all of us as people, as citizens of Canada, as members in various communities that we occupy—it's a very deep, deeply personal role that we all must play, and we must play that with intention. We must also have the courage. I know people talk about safe spaces, and of course, I respect everybody's need to feel safe and secure, but that's not how we make systemic change. We have to have bold and courageous conversations in every room in this country. Whether that's the boardroom, whether it's the Empire Club, whether it's while you're sitting watching your child at hockey practice—we have to have bold and courageous conversations, and we must talk about the elephants in the room, and talk about the ways that we can make the systemic change. And one of the actions is that every single one of us has to examine our own unconscious bias and bias and our own privilege. Deep self-reflection is required to advance truth and reconciliation, and then lead to intentional actions that will make this difference for all of us. And so, I really encourage every single one of us to recognize our role in reconciliation and recognize that much of the work has to be done internally, and then in the places and spaces that we occupy. And it has to be grounded in truth. So, those are my opening comments, and I'll pass it on to the incredible Chief Cadmus Delorme.
Chief Cadmus Delorme
Kinanâskomitin. Thank you, Kory. Good afternoon to the Empire Club. Thank you, Chief Delorme for the introductions and thank you, Dr. Bear, for the smudging and the prayer, and then good afternoon to my friend, Kory as well. I come to you from Cowessess First Nation in Southeast Saskatchewan, in Treaty Four territory. I have been a Chief for seven years now for my First Nation. I look young, that's that reserve water I get to shower in every day, why I look so young.
I wanted to just mention that when we acknowledge land in this country, it's a great thing to acknowledge the territory we share together. One of the things I like to ask as well, as a fellow proud Canadian, but also, an Indigenous person, is to acknowledge something you're doing in your backyard with Indigenous people. When you acknowledge land, it's very respectable, but follow it up with something you're actually tangibly doing with Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, and if there's nothing, then it motivates you to reassess what you're doing. I wanted to mention that in order to really truly get to truth and reconciliation, we have to first accept and understand the truth. You cannot move to reconciliation until you first accept and acknowledge the truth.
One of the things that is really important is, we truly inherited such a unique history in this country. Canada is a developed country, a G7 country, on the Human Index we're sixth or seventh in the world to live. Within Canada, though, we have our challenges when it comes to the relationship between Indigenous people and Canada. There is no Indigenous person in this country that doesn't want to be a part of the growth and the development. The thing that we inherited is the intergenerational trauma, and the lack of participation this country has provided to Indigenous people, and that is something of the truth that we must all dig in deeper in your territory.
There are over 630 First Nations in this country. It is not a cookie-cutter solution. Every nation has its culture, its language, its colonization challenge, its decolonization plan, and we cannot do it alone. We are looking for support, we're looking for people to stand with us as we heal at our pace. I just want to mention when it comes to education, I grew up on my First Nation. I am not a Residential School survivor. I was raised by Residential School survivors; there was a Residential School in my community what I'm a spokesperson today of. One of the things is, just because I'm Indigenous doesn't necessarily mean that I know all the truths that happened to my people. My parents never really talked about Residential School, because they didn't want to really put that—if I can say it more openly—that biased and negative opinion they had living, and to make sure that I was, you know, a pure mind if I can say it like that; they protected me. So, we got to understand when we're working with Indigenous people, that we just can't assume in this country that we all know our history, and the truth, and the pain. We're still figuring it out ourselves, and it was the unmarked graves that triggered a lot of Indigenous people in this country.
In closing, I obtained a master’s degree at one of the most non-Indigenous public policy schools in the Saskatchewan, and I loved it. Because I grew up Indigenous, I went to First Nations University of Canada and got my undergrad in Business Administration, so I know what it is to be Indigenous and the education. But to understand the other side of the coin through the public policy school I went to, Johnson Shoyama, that allowed me to know that there is truly two worldviews in this country; and they're both beautiful. And we must not be afraid to know that there are two, and we must accept it. So, thank you very much for letting me do my opening comments.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Well, thank you very much to our panelists for that. I'll stick into the time limits. That's very, very kind of you. I know that the moderator went over his time. So, thank you for that. I'd like to start off by offering asking some questions. The first one is, what is the fundamental role of education in advancing reconciliation? And start with you, Dr. Tracy, Bear?
Dr. Tracy Bear
Hay hay. So, I think educating oneself is really only half the work. It's a lifelong process, and even from some of my oldest teachers, my Knowledge Keepers and my elders, you know, they'll be sitting there at 98 years old, saying, ‘my girl, I don't know anything.’ And so, they come with a lot of humility, and they understand that this is a lifelong process. So, why shouldn't it be for anyone else? This lifelong process is rooted in action. It requires a lot of humility, ongoing critical and self-reflection, like Kory had mentioned earlier. Being an educated ally, you know, is, it's not a badge of honour; it's, it's a sign of privilege. And I think, to do this, it's really crucial to establish a direct line of communication, and that could be through a friend, or directly involved, as someone that's been impacted by the struggles, or like a volunteer position, an action item within community organization, individuals that you know, or communities. And I'm thinking about the process, through education. People are like, ‘let's get educated,’ but what happens with along that education, and I can tell you, one of my Indigenous friends wrote something called the Indigenous allies. And he talks about these four things; one is, with this education comes the hiring of Indigenous Peoples, people that need to be involved in the creation and ownership of initiatives that are made about them and for them.
Another thing is, properly renumerating and crediting Indigenous people for their knowledge, for their time. When you ask someone to come and speak for you and with you, to your communities, remember that these Knowledge Keepers are often asked to do this a lot, and you're taking time away from their communities and their families, so, that proper respect and honouring of their time is really important. Passing the mic—that’s number three—to Indigenous people at events, as we are doing here today, in the arts, in music and film, in theatre, and making decisions that affect them. And finally, that recognizing that Indigenous Peoples have ownership, they have control, they have access and possession of their information, their knowledge, experiences and stories. These are all things that need to happen along with education. So, final thoughts on that is that it is an ongoing self-reflection, a critical self-reflection and positioning yourself knowing where you come from whose land you're on, and acknowledging that in all the respectful ways. So, I think I'm passing it on to Kory now. Thank you. Hay Hay.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Yeah, that's great. Thank you for that answer. Dr. Kory, did you have another comment you'd like to make on that subject?
I'm okay. I mean, yeah, I mean, I guess the thing I would just say is that it's about truth as well. It's really about having the courage to go forward and to ensure that everything, as Cadmus said, and as Dr. Bear said, it has to be grounded on truth. We know this information. We knew there were bodies buried at Residential Schools as soon as the first Residential School started, I'm sure there was a body buried there within six months. It was articulated in the in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People in 1996. We've consistently told our stories and our truths, so, education and advancing reconciliation is not just about learning the truth, but it's about actually listening to or acknowledging the truths that have been told since the beginning of contact, or the beginning of time as well. And I believe in those truths, and knowing that they are true—I mean, I've said true truth a million times here—but it's about actually believing what we tell you and believing what we say. There's no point, and the same with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Commission, we have said what our people need, what we need to make the lives of Indigenous people better. And if we do that, if my children succeed, your children will succeed, Canada will succeed, our provinces and territories will succeed if we work together, because there's no question that together, we're stronger. But we have to listen and acknowledge the truths that are there and have been there since contact.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Thank you very much, Kory. So, Chief Cadmus, I have a question for you to sort of follow up on that. We've been talking a lot about the truth and how important that is in the education system, you know, understanding the historical contents, the injustices that are occurring. How do we be accurate and truthful, when so often that truth can be overwhelming, not only to our younger learners, but also to our older learners as well?
Chief Cadmus Delorme
Thank you, Chief Laforme. It's interesting to just assess the education system that we have had since 18—I’ll use generations. We got to understand what education has done to us as a country, and the bias when it comes to Indigenous people. And I'm going to make this about Indigenous because I'm Indigenous, so I'm coming out biased just because I see the world view very Indigenous, which is, you know, a good thing in this country—I just want to make sure it's a positive view—is the Baby Boomer generation. What did the Baby Boomer generation truly learn about Indigenous people in the education this country sponsored? My people, the Baby Boomer learned from Hollywood movies: the breech cloth; the paint on the face; the living in teepees; and the peak of Residential School was going on at the time, the very negative things. Then Generation X, the White Paper was taught in education systems, that that was the solution, the 1969 White Paper, to just abolish rights, reserves, land claims, who you are as Indigenous. ‘Just be Canadian. Why do you want special privilege?’ That's a generation that learned that the White Paper was actually a solution. If anybody thinks that, reset your mind right now, because you're wasting your energy. The Generation Y, a little better, but treaties were about surrender, was about living on reserves. Today, our Millennial and Generation Z, they're learning the spirit and intent. They're learning about the truth of Residential Schools. But there's no mandatory 100 class coming to those other generations across this country. It's up to us, as proud Canadians, to realize that we were biased our entire life when it comes to education on the truth. So, Number 57 is a prime example: professional development on the truth in organizations. And so, you know, I would leave my answer there, is, we got our own homework to do as Canadians to reset our minds, so we don't just hand the issue off to our children and children yet unborn.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Thank you, Chief. I appreciate that answer. Dr. Bear, did you have anything you want to answer or to add to that question?
Dr. Tracy Bear
Sure. So, I get asked this question a lot. I do presentations, and ‘what else can I do? Do you have a list of resources for me that I can read?’ and so often I asked, ‘well, where have you looked so far, and why haven't you succeeded in finding anything?’ In a world of Google, if someone wanted a, I don't know, a French Bulldog, they would Google and they would look for it, and they would find it. I don't feel like there's any excuse anymore. I think Indigenous people have been incredibly patient in creating a mountain of resources in all different kinds of media. I led a team for years to create the massive open online course called Indigenous Canada, and over 450,000 people have taken it. It's fantastic, it's a free resource, but even if you're not online, you know, there's public libraries, and there's books for all ages of children; there's comics, there's graphic novels, performances, music, dance—you name it—that all address these histories. And I think even social media is brimming with Indigenous Peoples now telling their stories; there's TikTok, and Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and for some of us older folks, Facebook. You know, there's no excuse that you can't find these truths and the stories anymore.
So, you know, I often compare—my pedagogical approach is really kiss kick, kiss. And you know, these are hard truths that we need to learn. And oftentimes, our histories come through, especially in educational institutions, through a deficit model. And what I mean by that is, when we talk about Indigenous people in education, we jump to Residential Schools. But what's really important, I think, is to ground ourselves and others in telling stories of how we passed on knowledge, what our education systems were like prior to colonization; that's the kiss. Talk about the Residential Schools; that's the kick. And then lastly, you follow up with all the amazing things Indigenous people and communities are doing for themselves; and that's the, that's the other kiss. And these are hard truths, but remember, you know—and Kory said this as well—you need to be uncomfortable, because that's where the real learning happens. It's been uncomfortable for us for many, many years; and it's going to be awkward, and you're going to squirm a little bit, but these are hard truths that need to be faced. Indigenous people live in these contemporary realities based on the consequences of these histories. So, it's really absolutely integral that we all learn these together.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Thank you. So, I have a question for Kory Wilson. You know, in the education institutions, there's a big focus on the truth, and rightly so; but how do education systems move to the reconciliation part of that story, truth and reconciliation? And how do they get students to understand their role in that part of the story?
Sure. So, just to pick up on what the previous speakers have said, I mean, first off, we have to accept all of the truths that are out there. We have to accept that the solutions to the challenges that First Nations people, Indigenous people face in Canada are there in the recommendations from various reports and inquiries—just as Dr. Tracy just mentioned, as well—that all of the resources are there. I'm sure every single one person listening to us has an advanced degree of some sort or another, and you obviously know how to do research. So, Google, and find out what you need to find out; have the courage, overcome the fear, and do that.
So, in terms of post-secondary institutions, I mean, the reality is, is we're all at different places in where we're at in terms of advancing reconciliation. But advancing reconciliation of truth at post-secondary institutions is not just for the benefit of the students; it must also lead to systemic change at the institutions, because otherwise, you're just going to keep perpetuating the barriers and the issues that have kept Indigenous people out of the academy, and in many ways, kept it—you know, haven’t been given the number of tenured professors we should have done. So, one thing I'm really proud of at BCIT, British Columbia Institute of Technology, is we've created an Indigenous vision, where we've built a powerful framework and an example of what education, and the academy can do. And also, within it, it's not just about what we should and could do, but it's also holding ourselves accountable about what we can do. We recognize that advancing reconciliation and truth at BCIT is the responsibility of all schools and all departments. And I completely agree with Dr. Tracy Bear about creating open-source resources; we have the same Indigenous awareness, open-sourced resources, which means everybody can use it. But the reality is, it's everybody's responsibility. So, every senior leader has to be responsible, or has to, at the end of the year, articulate what they've done to advance reconciliation at BCIT. And remember, Indigenisation isn't just about adding content to the curriculum, but rethinking how we do it. We've done a baseline study of what%age of our courses have Indigenous content. Now, we have a metric that we can change, and work to changing.
But just to summarise briefly, I mean, the biggest thing, whatever you do, is ‘nothing about us, without us’—we're all familiar with that saying—so, you shouldn't have any conversations about anything Indigenous, without an Indigenous person involved in those conversations; not to take over, not to control, but simply to consult, to ensure that you're going in the right direction, you're following protocols, and you're being respectful. The other thing is it has to be authentically Indigenous lead. If you don't have a senior—who is your senior Indigenous person at your post-secondary institution? If you don't have one, you need to have one. And does that person, whenever they need to or feel they should, have access to the President? And this goes for companies and organizations as well. Does that senior Indigenous person have the cell phone number of the President or the CEO? If they don't, what's the point? Because that is where we know change can happen from the bottom up. but the reality is, many of the decisions are made at the board level, made at the senior leadership table, so the Indigenous person must have access to that table, to those discussions.
Indigenous initiatives and things that will help have to also be part of core budget. They can't be program funding, or yearly funding that's not renewable, where you can't plan; so it must be part of your budgets. We need allies to do this work, and the recognition, of course, that everybody has a role; and I think one of the biggest challenges in the academy is recognizing. And of course, schools and departments get their funding based on numbers and different things like that, but the academy as a whole has to acknowledge that the Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships Department—or whatever it's called in your institution, or your section in your organization—is really benefiting the entire organization. So, there has to be some credit given to that, and to the demands on people in those departments. So, you know whether that's recruiting new students, helping create a partnership so you can apply for a SSHRC Grant, or whether that's helping you find a community. Whatever that is, it's important that you recognize that there is a lot of lot of pressure on the Indigenous departments, and the people are there because they want to do the work, they believe in it; that department was created because the institution believes in it, but it has to be properly supported, it has to be properly valued. And then it goes both ways, where we can help and support the schools, and the Deans, and the various other people to do the work that they want to do as well; to enhance their programming curriculum, help them build partnerships, help them hire Indigenous people. So, it's really about being intentional, authentically engaging, and recognizing the value that those Indigenous departments or units bring to the overall post-secondary institution. At the same time, the board, and the Presidents, and senior leaderships also, have a role they must play.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Okay. Thank you, Kory. I appreciate that. Wanted to give Chief Cadmus Delorme a chance to weigh in on that? You know, the role of truth and reconciliation? And how do you encourage students. as well—as Kory pointed out—as faculty, and everybody involved, to take ownership and be a part of reconciliation?
Chief Cadmus Delorme
Thank you very much. My wife and I raise a five-year-old daughter; her name is Callie. And Callie—about four months ago, I was outside with my daughter, and there was this plane in the sky. And she's like, ‘Dad, what's that?’ and I said, ‘that's a plane, my girl.’ And she's like, ‘can I drive one of those?’ she says. ‘Uh, yeah, absolutely.’ You want to be a pilot, I told her, you'll be a pilot when you get older. And, you know, next day, I was driving to my meeting, and I'm like, aww my little girl wants to be a pilot, you know? And then the truth landed in my mind after that. My little girl is an Indigenous female in a country where it's the toughest person to be in this country is an Indigenous female. And so, my wife and I have to put in extra work in this country, just to make sure our daughter becomes a pilot. Why, in a country called Canada, does my wife and I have to do that? That's the reality of why truth and reconciliation is so important. Don't do it for your 20 friends on your social media that might be Indigenous, don't do it for the five or six Indigenous people in your faculty or company; do it for the fact that your five-year-old daughter, granddaughter or niece wants to be just like my five-year-old daughter. Doesn't matter what race you are in this country; everybody should be dreamers in a country we call Canada, one of the best in this country. We truly inherited this. Who are the authors of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action? The over 100,000 Residential School survivors who told their story—two them being my parents. So, they can't go back and be five-year-old again, but my five-year-old daughter has a chance. So, take the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, implement them into your personal lives, your social lives, your business lives, and even into the political lives when MPs, MLAs, Mayors, Council come to your door. That should be a standard question today, ‘what are you doing to help with truth and reconciliation calls to action?’ I guarantee you, if we take this that serious, in one generation, we can truly make this country one of the greatest, and that's why it's so important.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Okay, thank you. We have one more question before we go to audience questions. There’s one that's sort of similar to one of the questions, so, our last question for the panel was, who should be doing the educating, telling the stories that need to be shared? Now, this other question I added to it is, if you're not Indigenous, would it be appropriate to include materials in a course in post-secondary schools, and this person's thinking of using a case study about Indigenous small business in Canada? So, I leave that one open to whoever wants to take it?
Well, I'll just say I'm—Dr. Bear has a lot to say as well, but I’d just say, the reality is, is that as teachers, as academics, we teach about stuff that we don't have first knowledge of anyways. If you're an English teacher, and you're teaching about Shakespeare, you weren't alive in the time of Shakespeare, so you're okay to teach other people's knowledge and stories. And I recognize the sensitivity of teaching of Indigenous culture and stories, and you don't want to offend, but the reality is, is you've got to do the work; we have to have others. Tracy and I and Cadmus cannot do all of the teaching to all of the people in Canada that need this. So, we need allies to do this teaching, but you have to ensure that you know the case study appropriately. It's okay to start off and say, ‘you know, I'm not Indigenous, but here's what I've learned; and I've talked to Dr. Tracy Bear about it, or I've talked to the elder about it, and if anybody has anything to add, or if I misspeak, please let me know.’ So, we need people to do that; you do it and other areas of the academy that have the breadth and depths of faculty. So, we've got to do this, you've got to overcome that fear. As Dr. Bear said earlier, and Cadmus has said as well, if you’re afraid to do it, how hard do you think it has been for us as Indigenous people to attend these institutions? Not even Residential School, but to attend public school and to attend universities as the only Indigenous person in the class. You've got to put your fear in context, and you've got to seek out how to get that get further support to ensure that you are being respectful. And recognize that you will make a mistake; and if you make a mistake, you apologize, ‘I am so sorry. Tell me what I can do better next time.’ But we have to go forth with courage and make sure that we do this because, you know, as Cadmus said, in one generation, we could make change if all of us contribute to this process.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Thank you. Obviously, Kory has flipped it over you Tracy, to have faith. Give us some feedback on it.
Dr. Tracy Bear
Beautifully said, Kory; I absolutely agree. And a couple of things I would add to that is, we're talking—and stories are funny things; sometimes there's sacred stories, and there’s stories that, you know, for Cree people we only tell in the wintertime; and those aren't the stories that we're talking about now. The stories that we're talking about now is like histories and et cetera. So, just like any good academic, when you're writing a paper, you're citing everyone, right? You're telling where your sources came from. It’s the same thing in telling and in talking about Indigenous histories and Indigenous Peoples. Where's that teaching from? Give those people that credit, that knowledge keeper. When I have stories, and I tell teachings, this is who I got it from, this is where I learned this. And so, giving the proper—I can't think of another word—proper credit for people is really important, and coming to that with so much grace and humility, that really—you know, I say this a lot in academics, you won't find an academic saying that's very often—you know, I know nothing. I know nothing. And when I'm 98, I will still know nothing, you know, and so there's a humility that has to come with that as well. So, I encourage everyone to also speak about your positionality. Allies can talk about these things, and Kory said that the best, like—we need these allies; we can't do it all ourselves. But make sure you position yourselves as such. Don't go out saying ‘I'm the end all, be all, I have all Cree knowledge.’ You’re not; nobody is. And so, that's always important to remember is to position yourself honestly, with integrity and humility.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Thank you. Those are great answers; and I agree with both of you in that position, that's my position as well. But we have to be honest, there is a fear of there of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing. and it's very realistic. I was an event one time where a very clearly non-Indigenous lady, and she said that, tried to incorporate some Indigenous knowledges into her class. And it was mostly an Indigenous audience; and she got verbally, you know, stripped down in that meeting from the educators in the room, so much that she broke down crying. I went and talked to her after and talk to her about it, but there were in my mind, there was two things that were wrong there. One, she didn't do enough research to understand, and two, the people in the room weren't—and this was 10 years ago—weren’t maybe ready to have a non-Indigenous person take a lead role in talking about education, and the truth of our histories. So, I'd ask if Chief Cadmus would like to comment on that role, and how we move forward from there?
Chief Cadmus Delorme
Thank you very much. In my first university class, when I went in very preserved, biased. I grew up on my reserve, and I just want to say, when you live on a First Nation, especially in the prairies, when the cities are more than an hour-and-a-half away, your life on the reserve is 10 kilometres an hour, and it's lovely. When you get to the city, it's 100 kilometres an hour, so it's like, you either sink or swim, so I'd usually enjoy being on my First Nation. When I got to university, I didn't really know too much of my history, even though I grew up on Cowessess. But I just want to give you a picture of the question here—and I'm going to be quick because I know our time is limited—my professor walks into this class of 100 people, and he is Black, and I'm like, ‘I'm an Indigenous Studies class;’ and my first thing was, ‘why do all these non-Indigenous people want to learn about Indigenous people?’ I’m like, ‘my professor ain't even Indigenous.’ By the third class, she debated in such a manner, I was her biggest cheerleader in there, I was like, ‘you tell them Professor!’ And one day, she's like, ‘let's hear what Cadmus has to say.’ And I was so nervous because I didn't public speak at the time; and I just gave them the truth. And so, where I'm going with this is, there's a literal approach; and that is the truth. People don't have to be caramel coloured skin to teach the literal side. But when it comes to the spirit side, the spirit and intent, please, please make sure you reach out to your local Indigenous Nations, because that is a very, very sacred part of our history that needs to be taught. So, literal: please do it correctly; I need allies out there to do it. But the spirit and intent, please reach out to your local Indigenous Nations.
Chief Stacey Laforme
All right, thank you very much. I really appreciate your comments. And I want to make sure that—I would like to take more questions, because there's some good questions, but we really don't have time. And I want to give our panelists at least a couple minutes to give us some final thoughts. And we'll start with Tracy, if you don't mind.
Dr. Tracy Bear
Sure. And speaking of citing people, I did say a friend of mine talked about Indigenous allyship, and his name is Dakota Swift Wolf. He did Indigenous corporate training, and I love his approach in allyship and co-resistorship as well. Closing remarks. So, I love Martin Luther King; the man had an incredible sense of spirit and community that I think is reflected in many of our Indigenous teachings. And he tells us, “In the end, it's not the hateful words of our enemies that hurt, it's the silence of our friends. Our lives begin to end the day we can become silent about the things that matter.” So, educate yourself. Get a grip on the colonial history of Canada and Indigenous Peoples. Education is an ongoing process. Change is never easy, and that uncomfortability—remember, that's where the learning starts, and great things can happen. You'll never be an expert on Indigenous challenges and what it feels like to be a nêhiyaw-iskwêw, a Cree woman in Canada, but you can work on yourself, and you can work on allyship and co-resistorship. Hay hay. Kinanâskomitin.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Miigwetch. Kory, would you like to take couple of minutes now?
Yeah, thank you for that, and thank you for all of the comments that have gone ahead of me. And just to add to what Dr. Bear said as well, is that diversity is a reality; inclusion is a choice. We have to decide. We're here, obviously, as Indigenous people, we are still here, even though policies were orchestrated to ensure that we would no longer be here, to kill the Indian child, to be absorbed into the body politic. that was what was said about us. But we are here, we are strong, we are proud, we are recovering of course, in some ways, we know that, we are at the negative end of every social economic indicator. That must change, and that will require all of us as Canadians to ensure that that changes. So, every single one of us has a role to ensure that this change happens.
I believe that when people know better, they do better. Certainly, finding that knowledge sometimes, and getting those teachings can be challenging. But just as Dr. Bear said, it's not just about knowing it. Once you know it, you must do something about it. So, once you know better, you must do better. It's not enough to sit by and just watch this continuously happen. What can you do in all of the places and spaces that you occupy in your work life, your personal life, your family life, what can you do in all of those places and spaces to make a difference? If you walk into a room, and everyone looks like you, well, you need to figure out why. Why is that? Why aren't there Indigenous people in the room? We haven't achieved parity yet for women in Canada. So, we have a lot of work to do here, and it's not just about listening, and it's not just about learning. But once you do learn, you have to go to that next step. It's about honouring, it's about elevating, and it's about incorporating. And it's about doing, as Chief Delorme said, doing that hard work. It's about doing that really challenging work. You have to be uncomfortable, and we have to focus on systemic change, not just tokenism, placating, all of that. We have to really break down and break through the postcolonial door. Thank you, and Cadmus?
Chief Stacey Laforme
Chief Cadmus Delorme
Thank you, Chief, thank you Kory, thank you Dr. Bear. It's about relationship. This country is going to be the greatest in the world in the coming generation, I feel that. But the thing is, is what is it about relationship? Internally, this Charter of Rights and Freedomsthat drives us all is about vertical lineage; it's about mom passing knowledge to daughter, daughter passing knowledge to granddaughter. And we have to strengthen that, we have to invest in that. Our youth are so disconnected with our adults and elders today, Indigenous and not. All we need to do is search within Indigenous ideologies to strengthen all families in this country. That vertical lineage is really important to keeping our country as truly Canadian as possible. We have to stop trying to think that the Western ideology is the solution. The moment that we welcome in Indigenous knowledge, I guarantee you this country is going to be, it's gonna be set in many different ways. And I truly believe that the Indigenous people are awake, we are ready. And that question is, is Canada ready for the amount of knowledge we're about to share with Canada to make this country, the greatest in the world. And I think it's forums like this that allow us to drop those truths, put our shield down, and be able to speak honestly, and to take it in a way that let's implement it somewhere. So, thank you very much for letting me share.
Chief Stacey Laforme
Thank you. You know, I really appreciated the three panelists. You must be my favourite academic people I've listened to in a long time, because the truth that you give is what you've learned, but it's also part of who you are. And that makes it such a more interesting conversation, because sometimes academia focuses solely on the study of certain specific things, and not always does it come from the heart as well as the mind. So, I really appreciate the panelists. I thank the Empire Club for hosting, and the viewers for coming in, and I hope that the viewers demand that these speakers come back again and talk again, because I think they have a lot more value to add to this conversation—you can invite me back if you want, that doesn't matter. But I'd like to say that, you know, I wrote a short poem—I won't read it because we don't have time—called Common Ground; and when I read that poem, I read it from the perspective of the Indigenous people when I wrote it, but when I read it out loud at certain settings, I realized it was a part of everybody. That everybody in the audience heard or saw themselves, at least a little bit, in that poem. And so, that taught us that we're never so far apart that we can't find common ground, and I think that's very important to moving towards reconciliation. The other thing I would like to say by ending this is, you know, it’s not enough anymore, to just provide education. We have to raise consciousness; and I think that's what this panel does. And so, Chi Miigwetch, and thank you. And I'd like to pass it back to Kelly. Kelly?
Thank you. And thank you so much to our panelists, our guest today, for a very enlightening conversation. There are so many, I think, really important items for us to take away, reflect, think about, and an act; that's the other piece, right? The education piece is critical, but action is also where we need to head. And I also just want to say that I'll probably be quoting Dr. Bear, talking about citing people; specifically wrote down ‘an educated ally is a sign of privilege,’ and that is something that is, for me, just deeply resonating at this conversation. I'd now like to take this opportunity to welcome Monica James. Monica is the Regional Manager for Client Diversity, and Chair of the Indigenous Peoples ERG, which is an employee resource group, at BDC, Business Development Bank of Canada. Monica is going to deliver some appreciation the next Monica, welcome.
Note of Appreciation by Monica James, Regional Manager for Client Diversity, Chair of the Indigenous Peoples ERG, BDC
Thank you, Kelly. Wow, what a powerful, truthful, and insightful conversation; it might have been hard for some of us to hear. One thing we have to remember is that, as Canadians, we must have the courage to have bold conversations. We also have an obligation that we need to tell the truth, and what's so critical and so important, which key Chief Cadmus shared today, is that we need to let Indigenous people heal at their own pace. Growing up, I didn't get to learn about my Indigenous history and culture because my mother wasn't allowed to talk about it. Today, I'm a proud Cree woman from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, and I'm a guest on Treaty One lands in the homeland of the Métis Nation. Miigwetch, to Ogiima Laforme, Dr. Tracy Bear, Chief Delorme, and Kory Wilson.
I want to thank you for your time, for your wisdom, and for the beautiful teachings that you shared with us today. For Indigenous people, we get asked all the time to speak and to provide our viewpoints, and what non-Indigenous people really need to learn is, it causes us deep pain. So, I want to make sure that you take the time that you need to heal from today. And everybody in the audience, we also have to make sure that we need to honour all of these amazing Knowledge Keepers and the information that they share with us today. I want to thank the Empire Club. This is your second Indigenous event in less than a year, big kudos to you. This is a healthy example of reconciliation. We need to remember that it's a journey, and it's not meant to happen overnight, or by hosting a few events.
And last but not least, I want to thank everybody who showed up today. You know what? You could have made other lunch plans, but you chose to be here, and thank you for that. Thank you for listening with an open hearts, and empathetic ears. We have to remember that what was shared with you today isn't meant for you to keep and to hold for yourself; it's meant to be shared. Reconciliation starts when non-Indigenous people use their voice to educate others and stand up for those that have been silenced. The decisions that you make today, from what you heard, will impact others and the organization for many years to come. So, let's remember that reconciliation is about giving Indigenous people, culture, and history, the time and space we deserve to be heard and to be understood. So, let's make sure that today's teachings aren't lost, and that they live on for many generations to come. Miigwetch.
Concluding Remarks by Kelly Jackson
Thank you, Monica. And thanks again to BDC and all our sponsors for their support. And thank you for our guests, everybody who joined us today, or who will watch later on-demand. Our next event is on January 28th, at 12 noon Eastern Time. Join us as we hear from the Honourable Todd Smith, Ontario's Minister of Energy. Mr. Smith will be talking to us about the province’s clean energy advantage and its role in generating economic growth. More details, and complimentary registration are available at empireclubofcanada.com. This meeting is now adjourned I wish you a great afternoon take care and stay safe.