British Columbia

Vancouver Park Board hires reconciliation planner

The Vancouver Park Board has hired a reconciliation planner, after approving the new position in the board’s 2018 budget.

'We are starting to see things change already,' says new planner

The new reconciliation planner will work with Aboriginal leaders and communities on park board initiatives, policies and programs. (David Horemans/CBC)

The Vancouver Park Board has hired a reconciliation planner after approving the new position in the board's 2018 budget.

Rena Soutar, who is Haida and has worked with the board for almost two years, has been appointed to the position.

Soutar will work collaboratively with the park board, the City of Vancouver and First Nations communities on a range of issues, including reviewing the plaques and monuments in city parks.

She will also focus on implementing the 11 reconciliation strategies adopted by the park board to advance the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

"Everything about parks is a cultural expression," Soutar told CBC host of On The Coast Stephen Quinn.

That is part of what makes parks an important location for reconciliation and an incredible archeological resource, she said.

'Starting to see things change'

The creation of the position aligns with previous moves by the park board to focus on Indigenous history and issues.

In 2016, the board hired the first municipal archeologist in Canada to ensure that Aboriginal protocols are respected in all park developments.

Last month, the park board voted unanimously to work with the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations to rename Stanley Park's Siwash Rock.

"We are starting to see things change already, we are putting that lens on all of the activities that happen in the park," Soutar said.

Next steps

She said there is still room for improvement in how Vancouver's parks, First Nations communities and the park board are portrayed.

Reconciliation projects are the "flavour of the day," she said, but fulfilling such projects must still be done in a sensitive, respectful way.

"We're built in a colonial institution, as the park board, and so we are trying to figure out how to rewrite our policies, rewrite our processes so that we can respect language sovereignty, respect the [First] Nations going forward so that they are in the driver seat about how and when their culture gets expressed," she said. 

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from On The Coast.