by Jennifer Nichols, posted on 4:33 PM, December 12, 2011
Published: December 08, 2011 7:00 AM A workshop held in Williams Lake Dec. 1 focused on building respectful and effective aboriginal/non-aboriginal relationships.
Sponsored by the City of Williams Lake and the Fraser Basin Council, the workshop attracted 40 participants from First Nations bands, aboriginal organizations, social service organizations, and education and health service providers from local communities.
Focusing on ways to learn about each other and to better understand the context of First Nations history and governance, facilitators encouraged participants to talk about shared interests in making communities a better place to live.
Mayor Kerry Cook said the City is committed to moving forward in its relationships with First Nations.
"We have set this as a priority in our new Official Community Plan and with this workshop we have taken a major step in understanding and building those relationships."
Participants identified some concrete issues and strategies to support moving forward, including a desire to meet again in the new year as well as a commitment to building cross-cultural understanding.
Esk’etemc (Alkali Lake) chief Fred Robbins? attended the workshop and said it went well.
"We’re all on the same page when it comes to funding issues, especially in this day and age with the economy being so bad. We do need to start looking at other options. Whether it is working together or creating new relationships, it could benefit all communities."
The workshop, he added, was a first step to understanding where everyone comes from.
"I started the round of discussions with an introduction of myself culturally. My grandparents told me if you’re going to begin a relationship, the people you’re going to work with need to know where you came from. I explained my ancestry and then it just fed around the room and everybody started to realize that relationships have to begin somewhere."
While he said nothing was signed and participation needs to be finalized for the next round of workshops, Robbins thought the workshop was "a good start" and said "there needs to be a follow-up workshop to see how First Nations, municipal and regional district governments will work together."
The City says a report will be created by the workshop facilitators summarizing the feedback from the day, distributed to all participants and used to guide the direction for the next steps.