PSAC Atlantic panel on Truth and Reconciliation
The Atlantic region of the Public Service Alliance of Canada held a panel on Truth and Reconciliation during the PSAC Atlantic union school Building Back Better Together: A union school for activists working in solidarity. The panel discussion was moderated by two Indigenous PSAC staff representatives, Alex (Vital) Stuit and Genevieve Babineau. They provided an Indigenous female and male perspective while moderating, to ensure a respectful balance was being observed.
The panel included three Mi’kmaq chiefs of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) and their community representative Knowledge Keepers (Elders). As a sign of respect (and traditional protocols), the Knowledge Keepers were invited to sit with their respective chiefs on the panel stage. Chief Roderick “Junior” Gould and Indigenous Knowledge Keeper Stephenson Joe were representatives from Abegweit First Nation. Chief Darlene Bernard and Indigenous Knowledge Keeper Kipten James Bernard were representatives from Lennox Island First Nation. Chief Lisa Cooper and Indigenous Knowledge Keeper Louise Lamothe were representatives from the Native Council of P.E.I.
The panel discussion encompassed Reconciliation and the Peace and Friendship Treaty process. The panel started by discussing the importance of Treaties. Panelists discussed that Treaties are like our constitution in Canada, they act like the laws and rights of the Indigenous peoples of the land or nation. Other responses were that treaties promote peace and friendship, and they are the foundation of various agreements between the Indigenous inhabitants and the settlers of Canada.
Before opening the floor to questions from observers, the panelists discussed the important question of how we can reconcile our shared history. Answers included truth comes before reconciliation, and it must be unpacked because it is different for each person or family. An important observation was that history was only taught from one perspective in schools, therefore we need to create more accessible information about the First Nations’ history and change the future for tomorrow’s history.
Our Truth and Reconciliation panel ended with questions asked by observers. A member asked, “how can we celebrate, promote, and support National Indigenous History month in June, and National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21?” Responses from the panel included attending celebrations and events on First Nation reserves, displaying signs, having educational sessions, and promoting seminars and workshops with staff and employers in your workplace.
June is National Indigenous History Month and the PSAC Atlantic recognizes that this is a time dedicated to honouring the unique achievements and the history of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities across Canada. We know that our members were able to listen and learn from this Truth and Reconciliation panel, and we hope that all members take these suggestions this month, and every month, to work towards reconciliation.