A message from Brenda Kuecks, President, Ecotrust Canada

With this week’s scheduled meetings between Canada’s native and non-native leaders, it seems plausible to hope for some positive change. This fair country has, for at least 100 years now, held an abysmal track record when it comes to the status, health and wealth of its first peoples. Over several generations our country’s care and concern has run the full gamut – from benign neglect to overt racism – and it is fair to say that there is little to be proud of when the stories get told.

The recent deplorable housing news coming out of Attawapiskat is symbolic of year over year policy-making and program design that has at best been misguided and at worst deliberately debilitating. Whether it has been referenced as aboriginal, indigenous, northern native, First Nations, reserve, and/or remote, the record is abundantly clear.

Because the focus of our work is in rural, remote BC, Ecotrust Canada’s initiatives more often than not include First Nations communities that have considered this geography their home for time immemorial. This means that engaging the members and leaders of these communities in the task of problem-solving and solution-building is part of our everyday business, and our team has witnessed repeatedly the genuine value of having aboriginal values and approaches in full force at every turn.

Without romanticising, our internal evidence of the benefits of creating systems that allow for the complete and honest participation of Canada’s first peoples in our collective and necessary efforts to rethink/restructure/redesign the future of this country’s economy are compelling. Wrapped up in a unique combination of humility, inter-generational learning, respect for the wisdom of elders and a deep commitment to place, First Nations’ culture and knowledge offers Canadians at large a unique window on the world and an incredible opportunity to get the future more-right.

I, for one, hope that the conversations kicked off in Ottawa this week set a new tone – which is really an old, long forgotten and favourite tune – about what it means to embrace different world views, create space for real dialogue, and introduce the kinds of policies that will change the tides of time.

For a look at the work Ecotrust Canada is doing with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations in Clayoquot Sound to address issues of housing and showcase the possibilities that exist when First Nations take new approaches to common issues, while incorporating traditional values and knowledge, watch the clip online at CBC The National.