Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps

MAYOR’S MESSAGE: Witness Reconciliation Program a new direction for the City of Victoria

Local First Nations brought further into the fold for municipal operations

Before the City transformed the Inner Harbour into an outdoor stage and launched the 11-day “Spirit of 150” event, culminating in a well-attended event on Canada Day, we did something very important.

On June 16 at the Aboriginal Cultural Festival, we launched the Witness Reconciliation Program with a traditional witness ceremony.

In so doing, we began a journey of reconciliation with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations on whose territories the City of Victoria is built.

Together, the City and the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations have created a program reflecting indigenous family witness ceremonies.

The Witness Reconciliation Program brings together indigenous witnesses from both the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations’ Councils and a ‘City family.’ The program is fluid, flexible, adaptable and will evolve to foster resilient long-term relationships between the City and our indigenous partners.

The program will focus on building and nurturing the relationships needed to facilitate trust, and demonstrate the City’s ongoing commitment to doing the work for as long as needed.

The indigenous witnesses will be the chief and councillors of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, who have been chosen by their people as leaders. The witnesses will provide guidance and oversight for the program, coming together two to three times a year in a traditional witness ceremony to hear, reflect, comment and advise, witnessing and guiding how the program moves forward.

The City family will meet regularly to collaboratively generate ideas that will lead to actions. The ideas generated will be presented through a witness ceremony.

After the advice of the witnesses is heard, the City family will facilitate actions to realize those ideas.

We can expect to see changes in our city based on this work – changes in the ways we do business, changes in the landscape of the city and other changes generated by the program. The program is an agile and evolving process that will make the culture, history and modern reality of local indigenous peoples become present and apparent throughout Victoria.

The City family will initially be comprised of Songhees representative Brianna Dick, Esquimalt representative Katie Hooper, noted artist Carey Newman, Camosun College Indigenous Studies Chair Janice Simcoe, Victoria councillors Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Marianne Alto and myself.

This is a new way of doing business for the city. And it will be new for the public, too. Reconciliation begins with truth. We must first confront the truth that Victoria is still a place where racism towards First Nations is very real. We must take actions as a community to un-learn racism. This can only happen through listening, building understanding and creating a shared path forward.

One thing that is already clear through launching the Witness Reconciliation Program – this path must honour indigenous ways of being, doing and knowing.

Lisa Helps is the mayor of Victoria.

Lisa Helps

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

HarbourCats players celebrate winning the North Division Championship Series in 2019. (Christian J. Stewart/File Photo)
Victoria HarbourCats locked out of team Facebook page

Management hires legal team to solve issue

Leila Bui with her parents Tuan Bui (left) and Kairry Nguyen at the end of the trial that found Tanessa Nikirk guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Nikirk is back in court for her sentencing hearing. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATED: Court hears letter from driver convicted of hitting Saanich girl

Leila Bui has been in a non-responsive state since she was hit in 2017

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Victoria police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Victoria police are looking for high-risk offender Douglas McPherson. (Courtesy of VicPD)
UPDATED: Victoria police arrest high-risk parolee with history of bank robbery

Citizen alerts cops after spotting parolee on Pandora Avenue

(Black Press Media file photo)
Police arrest suspect in Saanich liquor store break and enters

Windowpane removal key component in string of thefts

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Freighter drags anchor towards Boulder Point Oct. 22. It came within 730 metres of the shore, according to maps from the Port of Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
MacGregor introduces bill to address freighter anchorages along the South Coast

Concerns about the environment, noise, pollution and safety abundant

B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Harvesters participating in the extended commercial halibut season will need to land their catch in either Prince Rupert (pictured), Vancouver, or Port Hardy by Dec. 14. (File photo)
B.C.’s commercial halibut season extended three weeks

COVID-19 market disruptions at the root of DFO’s decision

Campbell River's new hospital, July 2018
Nurse diverts opiates and falsifies records at Campbell River Hospital

Nurse facing disciplinary action for moving opiates out of the hospital

Most Read