Saanich recipient of Order of B.C. shines a light on Aboriginal issues

Paul Lacerte says award recognizes collective effort of everyone supporting Friendship Centre movement

Paul Lacerte says he is honoured to have been named a recipient of the Order of British Columbia, but he can’t take all the credit for the work he does.

“I’m so blessed to come from a ceremonial family, and our culture really speaks to the fact that you move as a unit and that change doesn’t happen based on any one individual, it’s based on collective effort,” said Lacerte, executive director of the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. “This recognition is really a recognition of the strength of the communal effort from my family, and the strength of the B.C. Association staff and of the Friendship Centre movement.”

The 43-year-old Saanich resident has helmed the BCAAFC for 19 years, and has helped it grow to a staff of 30, with more than 1,000 staff working at Aboriginal Friendship Centres in B.C.

“The mission of the organization is really in alignment with my own life. I was dislocated, like a lot of native people are, and looking for a place to call home. And the Friendship Centres as organizations are really that home away from home for native people.”

Lacerte is being recognized for working for more than 20 years as an advocate for improving the lives of Aboriginal people.

In 2011, he and his daughter began the Moose Hide Campaign, to shine a light on the issue of violence toward Aboriginal women and children. Supporters wear a 1-inch by 1-inch square of moose hide over their heart, which acts as a conversation starter.

“I wear it every day, and it causes me to have five to six conversations with strangers. It starts as them asking what it is, and it allows me to speak out to end violence toward Aboriginal women and children,” Lacerte said. “It’s not good enough to just not be an abuser. We need to find strategies to activate men. The conversation is a very important step in that regard.

“I’m blessed to play a leadership role to help to nurture all those conversations and change the way people think about native people in this country.”

Lacerte sees the Order of B.C. award as recognition that the work he and his colleagues do is making a difference. He hopes the award will shed even more light on the Friendship Centres and the issues they’re trying to address.

A ceremony will be held at Government House in November to honour the recipients.

editor@saanichnews.com

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