Description: Indigenous leaders discuss how the public service should be approaching its mandate for reconciliation.
Date: February 8, 2017
Creator, we thank you for this wonderful day.
Why we're here today is to address something that is going to become paramount in your jobs as you deal with Indigenous Peoples. Reconciliation is not about closing a sad chapter of Canada's past but about opening new healing pathways of reconciliation that are forged in truth and justice.
These are the first steps, from a traditional perspective, to give acknowledgement to the people of the territory and also to bring in elders because they are an important and essential component to our knowledge system.
You must think about these steps with your heart. I know the government has always got tons of paperwork with mandates, with Commissioner's directives, with policies, and all these things come into play for the government because they're responsible. But as an elder, I am responsible to people to explain to them in what I feel is the first step.
Since we've seen the mandate letters and since we've seen that each one of our departments has a role to play, we've been taking stock as to what that means. What does reconciliation mean in each of our federal departments? As public servants, what does reconciliation mean to me? So we've been asking ourselves that question, and that is the appropriate first step to take.
How you do things is a key question. I think that certainly from the public service perspective there is a way of doing things. The concept of reconciliation means that we're looking at things from a different perspective, and that perspective might mean that we have to change.
Reconciliation means balance, to balance out that which went before and where we're going, and that's what this feather teaches us, is balance on both sides of the feather. You have different components in the idea, and a lot of teachings around these feathers are about balance and honesty. That idea of those first steps is like these little ones here at the very beginning, where you see they are quite frail. You can blow them. They move around quite a bit because at the beginning of every journey towards balance there are these very first steps that you take which are very tentative.
It's important for the public service to engage with Indigenous Peoples, and certainly public servants have a large role to play in the direction that Canada can take in its engagement on a societal level with Indigenous Peoples. I think we've reached the time now where it is not only possible but we are given the permission and the mandate to actually pursue this and see how we can do things differently. So it is important from all those different levels and layers.
For many of you as public servants as well, it's working on different issues and files or different departments in different sections but also finding the time to work, if you can, in communities.
Different people that I have met since I've been working down in this area, they'll come to me and say "Well, we want to ask you this but we don't want to offend you." I say, "You will not offend me, my dear friend, let us sit and talk. Just let me hold your hands and we'll smile and we'll laugh and I'll share something with you."
The first thing you can do is ask the question. Ask around you. Ask your manager, or ask people you know, people you work with: "What do you think I can do to contribute to this particular commitment?"
I'm thinking of a traditional teaching that an elder once gave to me when I was talking about how I personally engage on a particular issue. The elder was saying, "Well, around the circle, the way that we plan as Indigenous Peoples is four components: think, talk, plan, do. So you think about things, you talk about things, you put it in your planning process." Then he said, "But if you don't do it, don't count."
There's a lot of opportunity, and I encourage leadership across the public service at all levels to step forward on these issues.
It is up to the federal government to not only set a standard but to set a tone, to show and to lead and to take a position which says that we have a great deal of influence and if we use that influence correctly, we can make great changes, which is of course possible, and I think it's a good start down that road.
Let us all go forth, be kind to each other, and let us…
It's important that we take the initiative for reconciliation. We do need some clarity and direction from our senior management.
It is our responsibility, to be able to do more, to do more every day and to continue to raise awareness of this important conversation.
If look in our Canadian history today, Aboriginal people are mentioned in passing but there's not really any content to our history in Canada. So people should be learning about our history, and these kinds of events are a way to kick-start interest in people that maybe have wondered about maybe learning and weren't sure how to go about it.
And I say meegwetch. Meegwetch.
Thank you all.