Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature, called “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online Sundays.
Each school trustee was asked the same question: In the wake of the flag raising ceremony, what are the next steps in Indigenous reconciliation that the district should undertake during the coming year?
Board chair Rod Ross
A. The learning from the “flag raising” is that reconciliation is not something we do to our Indigenous community… it is something we do with our Indigenous community.
If I wronged a family member… I would consult with that family member and explore ways to make it right. It would be prudent to sit and listen to their suggestions, and together determine a way forward.
In the same way, we as Canadians have wronged our Indigenous brothers and sisters, we must not presume we know the answer to moving forward… but to patiently sit, and quietly listen to our friends and family, to their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.
One of the First Nations’ principles of learning, which I think we need to reflect on, is that learning involves patience and time.
Our problem as a society is that we are not patient and want to make a decision today. “Be Decisive, Act Now” is our mantra.
There are Indigenous committees in place that the district is in relationship with and it would be prudent to “listen” to them before we go any further down this road. Let us learn from the mistakes of the past… and that will give us all hope for reconciled relationships in the future.
Trustee Shelley Coburn
A. This trustee failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.
Trustee Charlie Fox
A. Firstly, let me date that reconciliation is a journey not an event or celebration, it is a journey that sees no end in a year or two years, it will be ongoing.
The Langley School District made a commitment to the reconciliation journey back in 2015, and we have had many opportunities and events through the years that have recognized that commitment.
Now that the flags have been raised, we need to, as a district, continue to recognize our strong relationship and partnership with ‘ya:yestel’ – with whom we consult and listen to through the reconciliation journey.
The district has made a commitment to creating a more permanent way to honour the losses evidenced at the residential schools throughout the province and country. This is a project that will need consultation, design work, and we must see through to fruition in whatever form it may take.
In the next year, we must also work at replacing the beautifully carved house post which is presently ‘on loan’ and situated in the lobby of the school district building.
A big step was recently taken on June 24, when we signed an ‘Education Enhancement Agreement’ with our partner nation, the Kwantlen. This document focuses on educational outcomes and is an important step in our relationship and focuses on the partnership in educating their children and youth.
Our journey with reconciliation will always be in the form of consultation with our four nation partners and be carried out in a respectful manner honouring their past and present – so we can move forward together.
Trustee Suzanne Perreault
A. Reconciliation is a journey to our heart and must start within the individual’s heart & mind, moving to the collective of people, then the organization.
That being said, we need to continue to evaluating where our blind spots are occurring within ourselves and our structures to further create healing.
Organizational steps need to be made in relationship with our four Nations in consultation through our ya:yestel partner group, which we draw learnings and wisdom.
Steps in place for our upcoming board, to which this board has voted unanimously on, is to have cultural safety training.
It starts at the leadership.
I believe we must continue to expand how we create spaces in each of our schools for cultural practice, supporting language – building community.
Ongoing offerings for supporting staff learning opportunities will continue.
Marking our school board office with a house post would be a punctuating steps in this path.
Trustee David Tod
A. Our board needs to listen, consult, listen, and hold space for reconciliation.
We walk together with our First Nations, uncovering the truth along the journey of reconciliation.
Trustee Tony Ward
A. To presuppose that we need to take particular steps toward reconciliation “in the wake of the flag raising” seems to me, at first blush, too directive and quite possibly counterproductive.
We need to continue the long road toward reconciliation, working together with our Indigenous partners with “one heart and one mind” as we move ahead.
Perhaps it is wisest to not prescribe a ‘particular path’ forward.
Rather, we need to humble ourselves, step back, and listen to our Indigenous leaders and friends, while we remain open and attentive to their input as we all navigate, and embrace, our shared and united future.
Trustee Marnie Wilson
A. I am very proud of our board for the work it did keeping the flags at half mast to honour residential school victims and survivors; there was much pressure to raise them as all other districts had done, but we felt it was important to consult and listen to our Indigenous partner groups.
The district’s ya:yestel (Aboriginal education advisory board) is now working with local Indigenous nations to create a permanent monument to residential school victims.
Our district has worked diligently to create good working relationships with the Matsqui, Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo First Nations – whose unceded traditional territories we work on.
The naming of our newest elementary school, Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary, was another testament to our board’s commitment to reconciliation. Naming a school after a strong Indigenous woman who continues to be an inspiration and integral part of our community, is something I’m very proud of.
We are in the midst of renewing our Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement, our curriculum has a strong base of Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching through an Indigenous lens.
Our staff are trained in trauma informed practice.
What I feel are the most important steps towards reconciliation are simply consulting and collaborating with our Indigenous partners. We have learned we need to work together to truly achieve reconciliation, we must not make decisions for Indigenous people, we must make decisions with Indigenous people.
Next week, Langley MLAS are being asked: Have current and past governments done enough to upgrade dike systems in North Langley and Glen Valley?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.