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Rick Jeffery

President & CEO, Coast Forest Products Association

The Path To Reconciliation Is Mutual Understanding

Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to listen to a panel of First Nations lawyers share their thoughts about reconciliation.  One of the panelists in particular stood out in my mind when he stated that recognition is a necessary critical first step to moving down the path to reconciliation. He went on to say that recognition is achieved by identifying the real issues – and then developing an understanding of these issues.  He summarized his belief by saying that the duty to consult is ultimately the duty to learn.

The provincial government of British Columbia is committed to working in respectful partnerships with Indigenous peoples to move towards meaningful reconciliation.  The Honourable Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, notes that, “this means doing things differently” as he moves to advance his mandate to establish a clear, cross-government vision of reconciliation in his first months as minister.

The coastal forest industry in BC is focused on increasing participation of Indigenous peoples in the forest sector. With a focus on respect, collaboration and opportunity, the industry has a significant track record of building business relationships with Indigenous partners though strategic cooperation, business ventures, sustainable forest management, employment and training opportunities, hiring of First Nations contractors and knowledge sharing.  Coastal forestry companies also contribute to the health of Indigenous communities by investing in capacity building and making investments in communities.

However, coastal forestry is evolving and always looking for ways to do things better.  And, so, as I thought more about the idea that the duty to consult was the duty to learn, I wondered how we could put that into practice.  How can we collectively move past barriers, adopt more collaborative approaches and solutions that are interest-based and create even more win-win-win outcomes?

It strikes me that the next logical step on the path to reconciliation is one that includes tripartite discussions between Indigenous peoples, the Government of BC and the forest industry. Within these discussions, everyone would consider the value of the duty to learn and understand as part of their own contribution to the partnership as it moves down the path to reconciliation.

If approached this way, reconciliation requires continually building partnerships and strengthening cultural understandings between Indigenous communities, the provincial government and the forest sector.  By bringing together the brightest minds to explore approaches and ideas in good faith, identify and take steps to better understand the real issues, we can all learn from each other and build meaningful, lasting reconciliation.