Relationship protocol a step in the right direction

This week Lakes District News wrote about the relationship protocol agreement that is being developed between municipalities and First Nations within the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN).

This week Lakes District News wrote about the relationship protocol agreement that is being developed between municipalities and First Nations within the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN).

The purpose of the agreement is to promote “shared understanding and ongoing education opportunities that lead to the parties mutually benefiting as a result of their relationship.”

Although having municipalities and First Nations working together is certainly positive, the second draft of the agreement does not include any specifics on how that purpose will be achieved.

“In this protocol, we seek to forge a relationship that will give us a better understanding of each other and show the next generation how we can all work together for the betterment of all,” is an example of the language used in the agreement.

But despite not being clear on how those objectives will be achieved, any relationship improvement is a step in the right direction.

Government and industry have never been more aware that having First Nations on board is the only way to achieve anything meaningful. First Nations provide a unique perspective on projects, and their partnership and insight can only add value to how communities operate.

Local governments and leaders have a lot to learn from the traditional knowledge of First Nations, and that’s why this protocol is not something to be taken for granted.

It’s also clear to see why such a protocol agreement would be necessary. As you may recall, last year our newspaper wrote about some of the fears expressed by RDBN directors during discussions about the first draft of the agreement.

Some directors feared that the acknowledgement that the RDBN is located on unceded First Nations territory could expose the regional district to risks such as having to pay a portion of taxation revenue to First Nations or even being “kicked off the land.” Other directors weren’t entirely sure of what “unceded” meant, or if they could believe it (it’s easy to see why the protocol focuses on “ongoing education opportunities”).

Despite all the progress made in the past few years, when it comes to relationships between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding, hidden fears and resentments. These issues need to be addressed, and if that starts with a symbolic protocol agreement, that’s still something to be celebrated.

Part of the progress made so far can be credited to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which released a report with 94 recommendations in 2015, highlighting the role of education in reconciliation and calling for the development of age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools.

Lakes District Secondary School has developed several projects since then, educating hundreds of students on these issues.

I hope the next generation won’t need a relationship protocol agreement, and that working together – without resentments and misunderstandings – will be the norm.

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