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Vancouver’s Indigenous cultures must be at the centre of Canada’s birthday celebrations

Vancouver needs to use the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation to walk our talk as a City of Reconciliation, writes Trish Kelly.

More than 70,000 people took to the streets of Vancouver in September 2013 as part of the Walk for Reconciliation.

Elizabeth Hames/Metro File

More than 70,000 people took to the streets of Vancouver in September 2013 as part of the Walk for Reconciliation.

Many of us have already spent much time wondering what kind of year 2017 will be.

Not even a month through 2017 and we’ve already cringed through the U.S. inauguration, soared with hope after impressive turnouts at worldwide women’s marches, and probably slacked on a few personal resolutions we dreamed up three weeks ago. In 2017, we also hit an important national milestone: our 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Vancouver’s municipal government doesn’t usually play a big role in Canada Day celebrations. Sure, the deputy mayor will show up at some events, but the city usually leaves the Canada Day planning to the community itself. But the feds are pretty keyed up for the big 150 and have been waving around a lot of cash for Vancouver to make a big fuss. Vancouver has agreed to come on board, and it’s a moment when we can be very proud of the city where we live, and the people who run it.

City Holler:

Over the course of the year, Vancouver will host as well as support a variety of festivals, and public art exhibits under the title of Canada 150+, recognizing the Indigenous history of Canada which dates back well before our official Confederation.

The idea, which city council is expected to vote on Tuesday, originated from the city’s Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee, who suggested that the city use the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation as a time celebrate Indigenous culture, and walk our talk as a City of Reconciliation.

Vancouver is doing its homework. The City is in the process of signing Statements of Cooperation with the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, and already has one signed with the Squamish Nation. They’re also working with Reconciliation Canada, and partnering on a Reconciliation Walk set for Sept. 24, 2017.

The walk will be one of three signature events produced by the city itself. The other events are a Gathering of the Canoes for the three local partner First Nations, and The Drum is Calling Festival in July, which will include interactive programming of traditional and contemporary Indigenous and cross-cultural performances, sports, fashion and of course, food.

Total spending from federal, municipal and other sources is estimated at $6.2 million. That should be enough to put on one heck of a party, but it’s important for another reason. For 150+ years those who colonized Canada have profited at the expense of Indigenous peoples. Our settler governments used public funds to conceal the abuse of First Nations people and continue to use funds to fight legal battles against First Nations over resource extraction while denying adequate funding for basics like safe drinking water.

Any commemoration of our nationhood must include these tough truths and measurable actions to repair this internal rift in our country.

Trish Kelly lives and writes on unceded territory. Follow her on Twitter @trishkellyc.

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