We all have a responsibility to advance reconciliation

September 29, 2022
Greg D'Avignon

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an important opportunity for all Canadians and individuals living in Canada to reflect on the painful and lasting impact the residential school system has had on Indigenous people and their families.

For those like me who grew up in British Columbia and those who moved here from other places around the world, in my view, we now all need to be part of this journey towards reconciliation through RECONCILI - ACTION.

Each day, we can take steps as individuals and as a society to advance meaningful reconciliation through listening, gaining greater understanding and recognizing our shared history. In doing so, we can move our country forward to a better future through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.

Action through collaboration

At the Business Council, we are committed and are taking steps that will support greater economic certainty, self-determination and sole-sourced income for Indigenous communities around British Columbia. We base this work on respect, mutual understanding, building trusting relationships and a shared vision for the future.

Through our partnerships with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the B.C. First Nations Climate Initiative and the First Nations Major Project Coalition, all of us are actively collaborating on solutions to sustain prosperity and enable the full and equitable participation of Indigenous peoples and communities in the B.C. economy.

Our joint efforts include a committee of Indigenous Chiefs and CEOs called the Champions Table, who have worked to explore and act on implementing UNDRIP and establishing joint decision-making processes. Together, we have created the Indigenous Intern Leaders Program, which has placed over 80 Indigenous youth into meaningful employment around the province. Our collaborations have created a platform for dialogue on important issues, including Indigenous access to capital, expanding economic opportunities, and addressing climate change.

Learning from the past and lifting the next generation

Together, we are also supporting Indigenous youth through sport led by an initiative with my childhood friend Terry who grew up in Chilliwack alongside the Sto:lo Nation and Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe.

Terry’s mother was a residential school survivor. Her trauma and the harm inflicted on her led to poverty, an uncertain childhood, and generational impacts on Terry and other members of his family. These are aspects of Terry’s life he did not share with his friends until the recent discoveries of unmarked graves of children from residential schools. This tragic news brought forward many stories like Terry’s and his mother’s and brought a dark aspect of Canada's history into the light for all of us.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and every day, is about confronting these truths and healing. It is about how we change and construct a better future and make material strides to close the social and economic gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living in B.C. It's also about building a province where every child matters and has equal access to the same opportunities that most British Columbians take for granted: a good education, opportunity, respect, safety and meaningful, family-supporting jobs.

My friend Terry is an inspiring example of perseverance. He has not only overcome many of the challenges faced by the legacy of residential schools, but also thrived at the highest levels of sport globally and as a father and community leader in California, where he lives today. Most importantly, he is returning to B.C. to help the next generation of Indigenous youth excel in life through the inclusive power of sport.

While much has been done, more work is needed, collectively and individually.

I encourage all of you, whether as business leaders, employees within your organizations or community organizers, to pause and reflect on my friend Terry. Someone who lived the impacts of residential schools, resiliently preserved in sport, business and life, and is now giving back to Indigenous youth to lift them up so that we can all help face the future stronger together.

Terry’s example and his faith in creating a better tomorrow collaboratively by supporting one another with respect is what reconciliation means to me. I believe through friendship, trust and working together, we all can contribute to making a difference for a better Canada and B.C.

Greg & Terry, 1978
Greg (front row) and his childhood friend Terry (back row) on their hockey team in 1978

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