Re-imagining Reconciliation and the Future of Canada

A powerful, simple and essential message is delivered by Doug White, presenter of the fourth annual Vancouver Island University Indigenous Speakers Series. He challenges us all to begin and end our relationships with each other with one thing: love.
Doug White, a former Chief of Snuneymuxw and current Councillor, delivered the keynote address at the Vancouver Island University's fourth annual Indigenous Speakers Series

A powerful, simple and essential message is delivered by Doug White, presenter of the fourth annual Vancouver Island University Indigenous Speakers Series. He challenges us all to begin and end our relationships with each other with one thing: love.

Four myths about reconciliation

Doug White's experience as a lawyer, Chief, negotiator and father allows him to see the best path forward right now to both reconcile the past and make Canada stronger for all. He believes that "we can no longer afford a relationship premised on mythologies. These myths maintain ignorance which we all know is the fuel of fear and conflict".

He goes on to identify four myths impeding the way towards true reconciliation. These myths centre on reconciliation's mission, the issue of consultation versus consent, the overgrown role of courts, and misperceptions on the progress First Nations relations with Canada right now. 

Myth #1: Reconciliation's mission

The first myth is a foundational one, from which the others ultimately stem. It is a myth of our mission and how we talk about reconciliation. Namely, we have become very good at speaking about reconciliation in its political, legal, economic, social and cultural dimensions – all vitally important, but at the same time we have often failed to talk about it in terms of basic foundational values and capacities we hold as human beings. And in particular, that of love…It is about creating a new dynamic rhythm of caring and love between all of us. It is not about merely learning to tolerate each other.

Myth #2: Consultation vs Consent

The predominant view in public discourse is that consent is something to be feared. That it is an economy killer. We are also told that consent is a veto that will cause uncertainty across our land. This is false. Indeed, I would say that it is exactly wrong. One need to look no further the source of our current challenges.

The very reason we need reconciliation today, the very reason we have spent billions of dollars and decades before the courts, the very reason launching projects is so hard in this country is because we failed to honor the principle of consent. When it was supposed to be honoured, consent has always been the first principle, not consultation.

Myth #3: The role of the courts

Lawyers and courts serve a purpose, but they are a blunt tool in reconciliation work... If I came to any of you and said: 'Hey, I need some help reconciling – who should I call?' Would any of you say. 'Yeah, call your lawyer.' No none of us would, I don't think. Because lawyers are trained in focusing on division and distinction, on how to be ration adversaries and not agents of coming together. They are trained to focus on the specific and the minute, not the direction and path to walk together. And no matter how much good courts may be able to do – they can settle matters, order change and compensate wrongs – they can't make us love each other. Indeed, they often do the opposite.

Myth #4: Progress

I want to confront the idea that we are well on our way [towards reconciliation]. The path of reconciliation is one that is only just opening. Now don't get me wrong. Important work is happening and this work is accelerating and all Canadians should celebrate these efforts... [But] we have to grapple with the simple reality that there has been no real legislation in this area since the Indian Act more than 100 years ago.

We must talk about the fact that we have economies that are structured on the wrong ideas… much of what is taken for granted as the structure and the patterns in our society must change, and it will be hard.

I do recognize that this last mythology discussion sounds potentially in tension with the first discussion around love. But it isn't, if we truly accept one another as equals with dignity and autonomy; and [if] we love them, then we are willing to sacrifice. That is the dynamic of all healthy human relations.

Lacrosse vs. love

I played across for 12 years. You learn how to fight. You know the mode of always being prepared to protect yourself, and your family, and your people to be in postures of defense and attack… I went in part to law school to learn how to fight in a different way, to fight with words, to use words in a more powerful way to understand the way that the Canadian legal system functions and how it may be used to assert and to help.

The outcome of all of that for me was a real understanding about the kind of world I want to create for my children and grandchildren. Am I going to be able to create it by bashing people over their heads with lawsuits, or by fighting in the streets skirmishing battling?

I realize that I want my children to be in love with other Canadians children. I want them to be loved by them. I want their hearts and their minds to be turned towards each other far beyond mere tolerance. I want to get to love.

**This episode was produced by Anne Penman.