The City of New Westminster wants to pick up the pace on tackling truth and reconciliation.
On Monday, council endorsed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report, Honouring the Truth, as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 “calls to action” and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The city will use the declaration as a framework for truth and reconciliation.
New West resident Brendan Vance, a member of Force of Nature Alliance’s New Westminster community action team, urged the city to move forward with reconciliation.
“Force of Nature is a strong supporter of meaningful actions towards reconciliation,” he said. “We recognize the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We support the TRC’s 94 calls to action and, since 16 of these 94 items pertain to local government, we believe that the city of New West must now answer the call. It is a matter of human rights, it is a matter of restorative justice, it is a matter of public health and it is our duty as Canadians and as citizens of the world.”
Last November, council approved a motion that the city make a commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, particularly those that apply to municipal government responsibilities, and to find ways to name and rename civic assets that reflect reconciliation, acknowledge the unceded territory of the Qayqayt First Nation and Coast Salish people and demonstrate diversity and inclusivity. That came after several community members appeared before council in April 2017 to ask the city to meet its responsibilities regarding reconciliation.
“This is an issue I feel strongly about. I want to see the city move on it,” said Coun. Nadine Nakagawa, who was a member of the delegation. “I think it’s a balance between making concrete commitments of what that means and actioning them, but also strongly indicating that we do endorse these actions.”
Nakagawa said the motion she put forward to council Monday night doesn’t stand in the way of the city making a plan to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action but provides a “strong statement” on the city’s commitment to that process.
“What I am hoping is that this kind of motion will move us forward a little bit faster than we have been,” said Coun. Mary Trentadue. “I know there is a lot of work to be done behind the scenes but I think in the next year I would like to see the city come back with some very concrete plans and processes that take us through this.”
Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said the colonial period wasn’t the end of the mistreatment of First Nations people in New Westminster’s history. He said he’s proud to support the motion, which is an “excellent initiative” that will get the city to move forward on reconciliation in more comprehensive and meaningful way.