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Walking together

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,

It is hard to believe that this is the last post for the 2022-23 Reconcili-Action YEG writers. After spending a year learning and sharing about Reconciliation, the Calls to Action, and the many systemic issues facing Canada’s Indigenous people, I have learned that reconciliation is a huge topic, requiring the full engagement of all Canadians. In the words of my fellow graduating classmates, Casey Caines and Scott Parker, in order “for us to reconcile Canada’s dark history, everyone has to be involved.”[1]

Reconciliation requires the participation of everyone, including settlers and non-Indigenous people. Together, we must walk forward towards a future where Canadians and our legal system not only recognize but celebrate the Indigenous right to self-determination, Indigenous laws, traditions, and values.

The authors son celebrating Indigenous culture at his first pow-wow.

We were fortunate enough this year to be able to write on some of the progress Canada is making toward achieving the Calls to Action. We were able to write about how mandatory Indigenous courses have become common practice at law schools throughout Canada. We covered stories on elementary schools educating the next generation of leaders on reconciliation. We applauded a province for recognizing the Cumulative Impacts of economic development on treaty rights. And we jumped for joy when an Indigenous woman was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

For as much progress as Canada has made, there are many more left to be discussed. It was particularly frustrating/disappointing when a group of Alberta lawyers called for a vote to remove the rule that mandates education, in the wake of a new Indigenous course. But with every storm, there is always a rainbow. It was inspiring to see Hero Laird, Sarah Kriekle, Hadley Friedland, and Koren Lightning-Earle rally the troops to ensure the mandatory education continued. Lasting change starts with education, both within and outside the legal system. That change will take time; I am personally dedicated to working together to help change Canada for the better.

As we enter our last month of school, the UofA Faculty of Law is preparing for its 100th graduating class. One hundred years ago, the first graduating class was made up of twenty all-white male students. Today, as I prepare to cross that stage, I get to watch as our valedictorian Reconcili-ACTION writer, Casey Caines, a Cree/Dene mother from Fort Nelson First Nation led our class into our future. It is a sign of how far we have come, and the work we have left to do.

My journey through law school has provided me with a foundation to recognize and understand how the systemic issues we face today continue to exist. Most importantly, my amazing professors have provided me with a tool kit to enable me to stand up with my Indigenous peers to support them as we work towards a Canada where their perspectives are considered, valued, accepted, and most importantly, incorporated into the colonial law system.

Sharon Kootenay and Jason Symington art installation "Transformation."

Before I sign off for the year, I would like to encourage our Edmonton-based readers to take a moment to visit an art installation in Churchill Square. One of the pieces is called Transformation, by Metis-Cree Artists Sharon Rose Kootenay and Jason Symington. The quote on the installation concludes more beautifully than I could ever write my feelings as I end my time with Reconcili-ACTION. “As we walk into the moment, we recognize the commonalities of our human experience- the passage we have traveled that have shaped us, the wisdom we have gained, and the unknown and great adventures that lie ahead. In all these things, we wish you luck, love, and all the best.”[2]

I am honoured to have spent the last year working beside and learning from my talented co-authors and I hope that I have done the previous year’s writers proud as I walk in the giant shoes they have left behind. Thank you for taking the time to walk with me as I began my journey through reconciliation. I hope we continue to walk together.

For the last time,

Kate and Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG

[1] Casey Caines and Scott Parker, “Reconciliation Requires Participation from non-Indigenous people” (28th February 2023) online: gateway < -participation-from-non-indigenous-people/>.

[2] Sharon Rose Kootenay and Jason Symington, “Transformations”, art installation in Churchill Square Edmonton, April 2023.

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