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Vancouver Park Board hires first reconciliation planner

November 16 2017

“We are thrilled to formalize the work begun in the early days of this Park Board’s tenure at a historic meeting with Coast Salish First Nations,” said Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe.

Rena Soutar

The Vancouver Park Board has approved a new position in its 2018 budget to support an ambitious reconciliation agenda.

The role will be assigned to the park planning and research team and consult widely with aboriginal leaders and communities on Park Board initiatives, policies and programs.
 
The new reconciliation planner, Rena Soutar, will work with colleagues at the Board and City of Vancouver to advance mutual goals and create lasting relationships between municipal governments and indigenous communities.

Respectful relationship

 “We are thrilled to formalize the work begun in the early days of this Park Board’s tenure at a historic meeting between the three host Nations and our elected Board,” said Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe.

“We've continued to support this work, and the reconciliation planner will lay the permanent groundwork for an authentic and respectful government to government relationship with the Nations.”

Soutar has worked with the Board since January of 2016, contributing to arts, culture and reconciliation initiatives. Previously, she worked with the three local First Nations during the 2010 Winter Games and is the author of the book “Songees”.

Advance work of Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group

In her current role, she will focus on implementing the Board’s 11 reconciliation strategies and advancing the work of the precedent-setting Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group.
 
The Intergovernmental Working Group was formed three years ago when the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations collectively expressed the desire to work with the Board to create a long-term stewardship plan for the park and to address concerns about archeological practices in parks.
 
In response, the Board worked with the Nations to hire the first municipal archeologist in Canada in 2016 to work exclusively on indigenous issues. Geordie Howe’s responsibilities include a review of current archeological practices to ensure that aboriginal protocols are respected in all park developments.
 
Howe and Soutar both sit on the Intergovernmental Working Group, which is composed of staff and representatives of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. The group addresses issues as they arise, such as a Board motion to engage with First Nations about re-naming Siwash Rock.

Integrating indigenous history and heritage

The reconciliation planner will also work with park research, planning and development teams on other significant projects such as park naming, and review monuments, memorials and public art processes and policies to ensure integration of Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices.

The Board recently piloted a unique collaboration with Coast Salish nations in the enhanced New Brighton Park Salt Marsh. It is the first Board site to feature culturally appropriate ecological signage created, approved and translated by First Nations into traditional languages.

A kiosk featuring cultural educational content will be built next year as a collaboration between the Board, Musqeuam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
 
Another key focus for the new planner are the 11 strategies adopted by the Board to advance the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The strategies address critical themes, including:

  • Language and culture
  • Commemoration
  • Professional development and training for public servants
  • Education for reconciliation
  • Youth programs
  • Sports

Specific measures adopted by the Board include a “360 degree” approach to programming in culture, health, and sport to increase support for First Nations children, youth, and elders in Board programming.

In addition, the Board will carefully consider aboriginal rights in granting permits for special events and sport hosting and will establish a program for artists to collaborate on works inspired by reconciliation themes.