Discussions around reconciliation with First Nations will continue in the Alberni Valley, following a report brought to a Feb. 14 meeting of city council.
Mayor Mike Ruttan first started with a response to some of Hupacasath councillor Jolleen Dick’s questions that she had presented at the end of a Jan. 23 meeting of council. She had expressed dissatisfaction regarding the council’s decision to keep the name of Neill Street the same, rather than changing it in the spirit of reconciliation.
“Council’s motion to consider reconciliation in a broader context means that we can consider a more comprehensive process to work together with First Nations to develop a number of community-based actions, not just one street name change,” Ruttan said.
He added that this dialogue could lead to changing place names in the future.
Deputy city clerk and communications coordinator Jake Martens then reviewed a report which provided a few options for discussions around reconciliation.
“The report before you really just provides a starting place,” he emphasized. “It does not provide a recipe or a list of ways that we can achieve or check off reconciliation,” said Martens.
Most councillors agreed that all of the options were worthy of consideration, but particularly liked the option that would see city staff continue to work with local First Nations government and service bodies on protocol agreements, engagement and other efforts.
Councillor Chris Alemany said, “I think we have a good set of options here, but what’s missing is we haven’t presented this in any way to the Hupacasath or Tseshaht or the NTC [Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council],” he said. “So I think that needs to happen, and we need to hear from them.
“And really the process of reconciliation has to come from them, not directed by us. I think that’s absolutely vital.”
Councillor Ron Paulson noted that in 2007, Port Alberni was the first city in the province to sign onto the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it was first brought to national attention.
“What I’m afraid of is although we gave service to it, we haven’t really done anything about it,” he said. “I think this is the opportunity where we can carry it forward to the next level.”
Alemany made a motion, and council agreed unanimously, that city staff should work with local First Nations governments on the other options that are identified on the deputy clerk’s report.