Nova Scotia

Dialogue on decolonization: N.S. group offers web series on Indigenous rights

The co-host of a new webinar series on Indigenous issues launched by the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia says she hopes to bring attention to "uncomfortable lessons and uncomfortable stories."

'We have so much history here that people want to learn about'

The Decolonization Learning Journey webinar invites people to learn more about Indigenous people and their history and heritage, with a view to reconciliation. (Membertou Corporate)

The co-host of a new webinar series on Indigenous issues launched by a Nova Scotia group that works with non-profits says she hopes to bring attention to "uncomfortable lessons and uncomfortable stories."

The Decolonization Learning Journey is a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action. It will cover such things as Indigenous rights, social challenges and incorporating reconciliation in everyday life. The first four sessions ran this month, with three more series scheduled for the fall.

Each session is led by a Mi'kmaw leader or elder. One of the first included a 90-minute talk from Clifford Paul, moose management co-ordinator at the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources.

He spoke about how harvesting fish and animals has changed throughout time, but the Mi'kmaw people's respect for nature remains the same.

"The birds, the mammals, the trees, the insects, the fish — they are all made up of the same parts that come from our territory," Paul said in the webinar.

"When I die or anything dies, it goes back into the ecosystem and it supports life and maybe something else will come out. That is our spiritual connection."

Clifford Paul is the moose management co-ordinator with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources. (Holly Conners/CBC)

The discussion is timely, said Marybeth Doucette of Membertou, one of the webinar co-hosts, given what is happening politically in the world around issues of diversity and racial discrimination.

"Just having a dialogue is important and, especially in Nova Scotia, Indigenous rights are so important and we have so much history here that people want to learn about," she said.

The sessions were originally designed to be held with small groups from the non-profit sector in Cape Breton, but with the onset of COVID-19, organizers decided to record the sessions and put them online.

Doucette said the format is working well. 

"In the comfort of their own home, while listening and learning about what often ends up being uncomfortable lessons and uncomfortable stories, I really see it as contributing to this changing dialogue that's happening in Canada overall, " she said.

On average, more than 500 people from across the country tuned in to each of the June sessions.

"It'll be interesting to see in the fall whether that interest remains or whether it's just a matter of people seeing this as an opportunity to change what they're listening to because they are stuck at home," said Doucette.

Marybeth Doucette is a co-host of the Decolonization Learning Journey webinar series and an assistant professor at Cape Breton University. (cbu.ca)

The webinar has been broken up into four series, each containing multiple sessions. It was launched by the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia and is hosted on its website. The first series started June 2 and ended this week.

Nicole Cammaert, associate executive director of the council, said learners have shown a real appreciation for the webinar.

"The majority of participants have assessed their own knowledge around Indigenous history as being really either fair to poor and that they're incredibly interested in learning in this way," she said.

"A key piece is the reflection part of this. We're really encouraging people to make this learning personal so that in the fall, when we start to move people towards a conversation about action, that they're actioning from a place of wisdom and empathy."

Cammaert said organizers wanted to make the webinar free and as easy for people to attend as possible.

"An intentional part of our design of this program is we wanted to make it as barrier-free as possible, so there's no cost to learners at all," she said.

"You simply register, you show up on the webinar and listen in deeply."

The next series focusing on Indigenous rights, governance and residential schools will begin in September.

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