B.C. making progress toward reconciliation

The Truth and Reconciliation report includes many recommendations that can and are being addressed by the B.C. government

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation

VICTORIA – Responding to the “calls to action” in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the B.C. government has strongly reaffirmed its commitment to advance the process of reconciliation with Aboriginal people.

“Given our history and the impacts of the federal Indian Residential School system, reconciliation was never going to be an easy journey,” said John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. “But our commitment to reconciliation with Aboriginal people is unwavering and we are making significant progress.”

Directed primarily at the federal government, the Truth and Reconciliation report includes many recommendations that can and are being addressed by the B.C. government. With the guidance of First Nations leaders and Aboriginal people, the Province is contributing to meaningful reconciliation in a broad range of important areas.

“Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission we feel this is an issue, not just for First Nations, but for all Canadians,” said Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, Reconciliation Canada Ambassador. “We are grateful to see the Province of B.C. working on a number of fronts – education, advanced education, health, child welfare and the justice system – to address the ongoing impacts of residential schools.”

In education, B.C. is about to take a major step forward that will respond to one of the primary calls to action. Aboriginal history, culture and perspectives have been integrated into the new K-12 curriculum about to be released to teachers and schools. The integration of the history and ongoing legacy of the residential school system will be further enhanced in the new curriculum – particularly when students study topics such as discrimination, inequality, oppression and the impacts of colonialism.

“With education comes positive change,” said Peter Fassbender, Minister of Education. “Through the revised curriculum, we will be promoting greater understanding, empathy and respect for Aboriginal history and culture among students and their families.”

The Truth and Reconciliation report also calls on governments to improve health services and eliminate employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

The new First Nations Health Authority is the first such entity created in Canada and is working with First Nations, Health Canada, the B.C. Ministry of Health and the provincial health system to implement the BC Tripartite First Nations Health Plan to improve First Nations and Aboriginal health programs and services, as well as fostering a health and wellness approach that reflects the culture of First Nations.

The Province is investing up to $30 million over three years for skills training in First Nations communities participating in LNG opportunities.

The Province also commits $8 million annually to community and employer partnerships. Aboriginal persons are a priority for these initiatives. These projects help to ensure Aboriginal people have greater access to jobs, training, and education opportunities and support B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint goal of adding 15,000 Aboriginal people to the workforce within 10 years.

B.C. and First Nations have also achieved well over 300 economic and reconciliation agreements – more than 200 within the past five years.

These agreements provide economic and social benefits for First Nations and greater certainty about land use and resources.

 

These are just some of the many ongoing steps the B.C. government is taking to redress the dark legacy of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools system and seek reconciliation with Aboriginal people. Achieving reconciliation is a priority for government and will provide long-term benefits and opportunities for all British Columbians.