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A step towards truth and reconciliation in Central Saanich

Central Saanich, Greater Victoria Public Library plan more activities on reconciliation.
Tsawout First Nation chief Harvey Underwood (centre)

Zeb King, councillor with the District of Central Saanich and one of the trustees on the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) board, is helping facilitate a step towards truth and reconciliation with area First Nations, with fellow trustee and Esquimalt councillor Beth Burton-Krahn.

“The reconciliation process is deep and it includes understanding and recognizing the historical wrongs and not sweeping them under the carpet or forgetting about them,” said King.

With this year marking Canada’s 150th anniversary as a country, many municipalities have chosen to highlight this year as the year of truth and reconciliation.

The first part of a motion brought forward recently was on seeking further actions the GVPL can do as a library when it comes to reconciliation. The second was on recognizing where they meet as a board, on traditional First Nations territory.

“It would be recognizing the traditional territories as part of our process as a library,” said King, adding if they were to meet at the Central Saanich branch, they would be on the territories of the WSANEC people.

Central Saanich is also one of the municipalities that have declared this year as one of reconciliation. The District recently had a training session at the museum with staff and members of council, and that reconciliation training is ongoing.

Most recently, the District took part in a review of Douglas Treaty documents with members of the Tsawout First Nation.

“It’s a process that the Chief Administrative Officer (Patrick Robins) for Central Saanich laid out (with) some actions and that’s working its way through,” said King.

King said he sees his recent motion with Burton-Krahn as a suggestion that libraries are seen as the living rooms of the community. He is asking how that living room can be made more welcoming to indigenous peoples and include important history such as information on Canada’s residential schools.

The motion passed Feb. 14 at a GVPL meeting.

“It certainly fits in with our strategic plan in terms of welcoming community spaces and developing responsive services,” said Maureen Sawa, chief executive officer of the GVPL.

The library, she said, is committed to accessibility and inclusion and is funded by 10 municipalities.

Just recently, the GVPL held a speaker series, which they did with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.

And Sawa said there’s more to come. She said one of the things that’s important is that librarians are representing every region of the country.

She said they are working together on the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, which has established a truth and reconciliation committee call to action as a priority for libraries across Canada. There are going to be recommendations that will promote education on indigenous issues, support reconciliation and meet the needs of indigenous communities,

“At the national level and the provincial level this is something that libraries are very much engaged in,” said Sawa.

Jennifer Windecker, director of public services said the priority for 2017 is to align themselves with the national and municipal focus.

A priority, she said, has been creating programs and events and outreach activities that focus on indigenous history past and present.

The first event, which took place last week, was a four part speaker series presented in partnership with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. The series focussed on reconciliation and opening the door to conversation.

There will be more speaker series coming up throughout the next few months including Deconstruction of Colonization in each of our Lives, Building Bridges Through Understanding and more.

King said from his point, the motion was not only for staff and councillors, but for the community at large, and what a better place to do that, he said, than the living room of the community.