Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps wants non-Indigenous allies to show that reconciliation is not dead after meeting with Indigenous youth at the B.C. Legislature on Friday afternoon.
In a personal blog post published on Sunday, March 1, Helps said she was moved to speak up after meeting with the Indigenous youth. The post comes moments after Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and senior government ministers had reached an agreement.
Helps was scheduled to be part of a panel Friday evening at the Victoria Urban Reconciliation Dialogues hosted by the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. After learning she would be asked by panel host Shalegh Rogers what ‘the role of Indigenous youth in the future of reconciliation’ would look like, she decided to ask the Indigenous youth at the legislature.
anti-Indigenous racism has risen in the wake of the anti-pipeline movement
“When I heard these Indigenous youth say that they are afraid, when I heard them say that our country has failed them time and time again, when I heard about the sacrifices they are making – putting their own lives on hold and at risk – I [was] moved to speak up,” Helps wrote.
In previous weeks the Wet’suwet’en opposition to the pipeline has promoted solidarity protests, resulting in numerous arrests and injunctions.
Helps states that anti-Indigenous racism has risen in the wake of the anti-pipeline movement. She writes that it is up to non-Indigenous allies to speak up against racism and denounce it.
After her experience at the legislature, Helps is sympathetic and understands the struggles of Indigenous youth. She believes that it took too long for a conversation to begin between the Canadian government and the Wet’suwt’en. During the time that it took for dialogue to start, Helps notes that the arrests that took place during the weeks of protest resulted in the continued displacement of Indigenous people from their homeland.
Helps believes that the conditions required to meet with the hereditary chiefs shouldn’t have taken so long.
“Reconciliation is not dead if we as non-Indigenous community members are committed to decolonizing Canada, to working together to create a new story. This means being committed to honouring Indigenous rights and title and ensuring that Indigenous legal orders can exist side by side with the Canadian one.” Helps wrote.
After attending the Victoria Urban Reconciliation Dialogues, Helps is hopeful that reconciliation can be achieved by working with each other and not against.
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