Resetting Land Acknowledgments

  • June 01, 2019
  • Kerry L. Simmons, QC

Kerry L. Simmons, QC"We acknowledge that we have gathered on the traditional and unceded territory of the… .”

And so…???

Since the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action were released in 2015, more and more non-Indigenous peoples, and many governments and organizations, including the CBABC, have embraced the practice of acknowledging the Indigenous peoples on whose traditional territory an event takes place. The practice among Indigenous peoples to acknowledge the territory, language and culture of another group when visiting them and their land dates back centuries.

As more and more non-Indigenous peoples seek to learn the truth of Indigenous peoples as a foundation for a journey of reconciliation, the practice of making a land acknowledgment has become part of those efforts, a small, but important and useful step. By seeking information about the land and the Indigenous peoples who were part of that land when settlers came to Canada, we have the opportunity to learn about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in the area, their relationship with the land, and the history of the Indigenous peoples and settlers.

But for many people, the land acknowledgment has become a little too informal, seemingly devoid of that positive purpose, or perhaps in fact, incomplete. When those hearing it feel like the acknowledgment was part of a checklist or was said so quickly that the content became meaningless, we must change what we say, how we say it and what we do in follow-through. If we have now learned the basic fact of whose traditional territory it is, the next step is to share more information or for the speaker to share what this means to them. With this addition, those gathered may be inspired to learn more or think about the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in that area.

So, over the next few months as CBABC supports its volunteer leaders of Sections, committees and Provincial Council, the “resetting” of the land acknowledgment in our work will be part of the conversation. We will talk about why we make the acknowledgment, how to do it, and be proactive in encouraging further discussion.

Last June our Truth & Reconciliation Working Group presented its Final Report to Provincial Council. Over the past eight months, we incorporated the Report’s directions throughout CBABC’s member services, advocacy, volunteer leadership development, and staff education. This is not a one-year plan, rather it is a dynamic, ever-evolving enhancement of what our association does and how it does it.

This summer, the Reconciliation Response Plan resource for law firms will be available to help lawyers incorporate the Calls to Action in their business. New professional development webinars and archived recordings will launch in the fall. We are strengthening our relationship with the BC First Nations Justice Council (“BCFNJC”) to advance our Agenda for Justice initiatives that align with the BCFNJC in the areas of restorative justice, Indigenous courts, child protection reform, and more.

Our work today rests on the work of the Aboriginal Lawyers Forum (“ALF”), which facilitates social networking, mentoring, professional development and a celebration of Indigenous culture for Indigenous lawyers, law graduates and law students and those who support that mandate. On June 20, in Richmond, ALF hosts the 12th Anniversary National Indigenous Peoples Day Reception and Auction (see bit.ly/bt0619p5-1 for more information). Featuring Butterflies in Spirit, a Vancouver dance group, the Reception and Auction allows us to gather together in reflection and celebration, while raising funds in support of Indigenous law students. The online auction 32auctions.com/NIPD2019 is open for a week and you can bid on items from anywhere in the province. Also on that day, ALF presents the 8th Annual Retreat on the theme of “Promises, Prosperity and Justice: How the law can impact economic prosperity for Indigenous peoples.”

See you there.


 

 

 

Kerry L. Simmons, QC
ksimmons@cbabc.org