Port Alberni residents are invited to show support for reconciliation in the Valley next Monday by walking together from Harbour Quay to City Hall.
The walk is meant to demonstrate the power of unity and solidarity on the topic of reconciliation.
Hupacasath First Nation elected councillor Jolleen Dick said the idea for the walk came from a toolkit from the Reconciliation Canada website. It was arranged as a group effort, partly between herself and Tseshaht elected chief councillor Cynthia Dick, but also as part of a larger grassroots movement to bring about reconciliation efforts in the Valley.
“It doesn’t feel like there’s much happening,” said Jolleen Dick.
The walk will take place on Monday, March 27, starting at Habour Quay at 5:30 p.m. Participants will make their way up Argyle Street before stopping at City Hall, where Jolleen Dick and Cynthia Dick will be presenting a joint delegation to city council for their meeting starting at 7 p.m. at city hall.
“We just want to provide our response and our recommendation for what meaningful reconciliation will look like in the Alberni Valley,” said Cynthia.
A report was submitted to council on Feb. 14 which provided a few options for discussions around reconciliation in the Valley. Council ultimately determined that staff should work with local First Nations government and service bodies on protocol agreements, engagement and other efforts.
“Tseshaht and Hupacasath have agreed to do this to bring us together in solidarity and unity,” said Jolleen. “This is our opportunity to publicly respond.
“This is what a process looks like to us as First Nations people,” she continued. “Our values have to be on record at city hall. To continue working with First Nations people, a lot more public dialogue needs to happen.”
The topic of reconciliation was really brought to the forefront of people’s minds following a controversial motion to consider renaming “Neill Street” after the discovery that A.W. Neill was once an Indian agent and a vocal opponent of Japanese immigration to Canada. The motion received dozens of letters in both support and opposition. In the end, city council voted down the motion to even consider renaming it.
“I know a lot of people were dishearted by the decision on Jan. 23,” said Jolleen Dick. “There was no dialogue. There hasn’t been much action. This is us creating our own action.”
Cynthia Dick agreed that this is a chance to put more action towards the recommendations that have come up. “Over the past little while, it’s really been brought forward about what we need to work on,” she said. “So this is the next step. We need action. It’s been a lot of talk. We just want to make sure we’re doing our part.”
All residents are encouraged and invited to join. Those who are unable to walk can meet at city hall for a bit of dialogue before the meeting.
“It’s meant for everybody,” Jolleen clarified. “Not just Indigenous people.”
There have been meetings between councils where reconciliaiton has been discussed, but Dick said it hasn’t been enough so far. “At the government to government level, there needs to be more work done and more education,” she said.
Cynthia added, “Really the intent is to bring the community together as a whole. I think that’s exactly what this community needs.”