Porcupine Episode 4: Water and Reconciliation – CWRA Live Taping with Eric-Lorne Blais, Kerry-Ann Charles, and Natasha Overduin
This special live-taped episode of Porcupine Podcast features water experts Eric-Lorne Blais, Kerry-Ann Charles, and Natasha Overduin. These three take on difficult questions about Water and Reconciliation in front of a live audience at the Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA) 2019 Conference.
Merrell-Ann Phare (00:05): I’m Merrell-Ann Phare and I’m one of the hosts of Porcupine Podcast. My cohost Michael Miltenberger, isn’t here to be with us today, but he sends his hello to everybody. We’re very happy that you are able to be here with us and to be part of our first live taping of Porcupine Podcast. And thank you very much to the Canadian Water Resources Association for hosting this for us and making this available.
We want to acknowledge that we’re on the traditional territory of the Haudensaunee, Anishinaabe, Huron-Wendat, Odawa and Métis people. Today, this place is also home to the Saugeen Ojibway Nations. The Chippewas of Saugeen and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded Territory. What that means, that land acknowledgement is that we ultimately, we need to fulfill the treaty promises.
In this podcast series. We are exploring reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. We’re looking at its funny, educational, touching, and difficult aspects. We would call those the ‘prickly questions,’ the things that are, we have to lean into the hard questions. How do we do this? Our podcast is called Porcupine because there’s this joke that I heard a long time ago. It asked, how do two porcupines hug? Carefully. And that’s the story of reconciliation, at least so far.
The hard work of getting to know each other and work together is actually being done by a lot of amazing people.
I’ve had so many opportunities to meet fascinating people, Indigenous people, and non-Indigenous folks that work together that are working on reconciliation. I think they’re actually doing the hard work of reconciliation, but they’re kind of the unsung heroes. They’re not, not too many people know necessarily about what they’re doing. And so that’s the reason we’re doing this podcast. We wanted to be able to share some of the amazing stories of people who are doing this work.
What we hear about the politics at the high level and the media is how controversial and hard it is and whether politically it’s something that politicians are really behind. But I think the hard work of getting to know each other and work together is actually being done by a lot of amazing people. So that’s what the podcast series is about. It’s actually meeting some of those people and talking to them interview style.
We are very honored to have three amazing guests here today who will help us unpack some of that. And we have Eric-Lorne Blais, Kerry-Ann Charles and Natasha Overduin. This is our third episode, and this episode is about reconciliation and water.
Meet Eric Blais
So Eric Blais is a water resource scientist with over 35 years of experience, he works for Wood Consulting. It’s a consulting firm based in Winnipeg. He is on the board of the Canadian Water Resources Association, and he has been the national chair for the Canadian Society for the Hydrological Sciences. And he says he has a network of friends, quote, I’m quoting Eric, a network of friends across Canada to provide perspectives on the complexities of water management projects. So we’re hoping that we become added to Eric’s network of friends by the end of this podcast.
Meet Kerry-Ann Charles
We also have, very happy to have Kerry-Ann Charles here. Kerry-Ann is a member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation. And she has been the coordinator of lands and climate change for Cambium Aboriginal since 2017. That’s an Indigenous consulting firm is she’ll talk about her work with that company. She served her community though before this for 17 years, or maybe even longer than that, and as also in the role for one term as a politician. So she’s got a wide, as counselor, a wide range of experience coming at the issue just from different directions.
Meet Natasha Overduin
And our third guest is Natasha Overduin. Natasha works with me in part of my job in the Center for Indigenous Environmental Resources, but she also, she works in a position that’s shared with the POLIS Institute and she works with First Nation partners and non-Indigenous groups and governments in identifying water governance, challenges, and solutions.
Welcome to all of you to the Porcupine Podcast. I just wanted to start with around the table. Can you tell me a little bit, I gave the bio piece, but I want to know kind of what brought you from where you are to here? Like what do you work on in water? Kerry-Ann, do you want to go first or?
How did Kerry-Ann start working in water?
Kerry-Ann Charles (04:22): Sure. so I am from Georgina Island First Nation . So I guess sort of gives you an idea of my connection to water. I actually live on an island, so I’ve grown up surrounded by beautiful Lake Simcoe. It wasn’t that I woke up one day as a kid growing up, going, I want to work in an environment. It was actually a path that sort of chose me. I give credit to my community for allowing me to play the roles that I’ve been able to play in my community to be able to get a fulsome picture of how everything in life is so connected to water.
So being able to work in the environment field which is sustained by water as well as being an Indigenous woman, I actually get to learn about who I am as a person, my culture, my traditions, then share that with, with other people and try to help them understand what that connection looks like, is supposed to be like, and hopefully reach a balance.
Merrell-Ann Phare (05:20): You actually look out your window when you’re working, and do you see Lake Simcoe. Is that the water that you’re right beside?
Kerry-Ann Charles (05:25): Absolutely, yeah. My, my office is Lake Simcoe.
How did Natasha start working in water?
Merrell-Ann Phare (05:30): Beautiful. Natasha?
Natasha Overduin (05:32): I can start, I guess by saying I’m 29 years old. For the first 20-ish years of my life, I was quite ignorant to issues of reconciliation and our shared history. So I’m trying to catch up, I don’t know if you can ever really catch up. There’s no end point, but trying to do everything I can to contribute in a positive way.
And my day-to-day involves a lot of discussions with people who are working on water issues in their own communities. Some of them are developing the specific legal tool or policy instrument that they want to apply to govern their waters. And others are asking, where do we get started and, and who needs to be involved? What does it look like? How do we do it with no money? So my role is to try to support them wherever they’re at to move forward.
How did Eric start working in water?
Eric-Lorne Blais (06:28): So I guess I ended up where I am today, a bit it’s been serendipity as usual. Graduating out of university with a degree in fluvial geomorphology didn’t give me a lot of job opportunities in Manitoba. So I ended up with the Province of Manitoba and their flood forecast group. And we went through the drought of the eighties and the conservative government decided they didn’t need flood forecasters.
Eric-Lorne Blais (06:58): So I went out on my own and there was a process in there because at one point I was out of work and tried to decide where my passion lies. Doing a lot of soul searching, my passion was still water. So I continued on the consulting side. I say this to all the people I work with or hire: find your passion.
In a couple of sentences, explain reconciliation to a 10-year-old.
Merrell-Ann Phare (07:23): Before we launch into the questions, I just want to show of hands from the audience. How many of you feel right now that if you were asked, you could explain what reconciliation is in a couple of sentences to a 10-year-old? Put your hands up. Okay.
And the second question… So whether you’re Indigenous or not, or what your background is, how many of you would feel like reconciliation? You’ve heard the word and you know what to do next. Okay. I’m going to now turn this to the, to the guests. What do you think reconciliation means? And how would you explain it to a child?
Tell Me What You’re Sorry For
Eric-Lorne Blais (08:04): I can only think of it on a very human basis. You know, you’ve harmed someone or someone has been harmed. And the person who did the harming has to somehow make up for what they’ve done wrong. And the person who’s been harmed has to see it as adequate. Now there’s two parts of that. The person who did the harm also has to be the one who can acknowledge what they did. And it’s like when you come home and your wife is angry at you. You say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ And she goes, ‘Tell me what, you’re sorry for.’
Merrell-Ann Phare (08:42): Be very, very careful in what you say next.
Eric-Lorne Blais (08:50): Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But, unless we are able to say what we did wrong, how can that apology or anything else be meaningful?
Telling The Truth about Bad Things That Have Happened
Natasha Overduin (09:03): Reconciliation means telling the truth about bad things that have happened and that are still happening. And then making sure that those bad things never happen again. And that the people who got hurt have everything that they need to heal and are equally involved in what happens next.
Kerry-Ann Charles (09:27): Telling a child what reconciliation is… I really can’t say that I can describe what reconciliation is because I don’t even know myself, what that looks like. I just sort of feel it. If you feel that you’ve been done wrong by, or you’ve done wrong to somebody, you need to be able to agree on what that was that happened. And you need to know your past, to know how you got here in order to be able to move forward in a good way in the future.
Do you get a sense that people understand our history?
We’re doing a poor job of educating people.
Merrell-Ann Phare (10:01): When you think of the people around each of you in your lives, all of you have a common theme of understanding our past, understanding the history and the world we all were born into. Do you get a sense that people understand that history? Like how far do you think we have to go?
Kerry-Ann Charles (10:20): So we’ve got a generation of people coming up now understands what the real history is. But on the other side, we have to ensure that, you know, the people that didn’t get that history lesson are learning as well.
Eric-Lorne Blais (10:33): We’re doing a poor job of educating people, in general is my fear.
Kerry-Ann Charles (10:39): I think it’s, again, it’s, it’s stepping back and understanding each other and understanding each other’s needs through, through a dialogue and just being people and being able to have that emotion attached. That’s, that’s one of our big problems. I think now in our society is that there’s no emotion. People are just cold. We need to step away from that. And we need to start feeling for each other in order to, in order for any change to happen.
Merrell-Ann Phare (11:07): How well do you think that’s going, Natasha?
We need to find a way to extend what we’re talking about out.
Natasha Overduin (11:09): I think it’s really easy to look at kind of our broader society and get discouraged because you see people who are so, have values that are so different that you think, well, reconciliation is going to, you know, it might be possible between these groups, but there’s some people who are just never gonna get it. And I feel like we need to find a way to extend what we’re talking about out, because it is going to be something that everyone needs to support.
One of the, the reasons I wanted to talk to each of you here, is because you’re all in one way or another, working on this issue through water, through direct relationships with First Nations who have been impacted by water.
Integrating Reconciliation and Water
Merrell-Ann Phare (11:53): Natasha, I know you’re doing really interesting work in BC. Could you explain a little bit about how are you integrating or do you integrate the concept of reconciliation into your, to your work? Or is it something that you see as outside of your work? Something that’s somewhere else?
Natasha Overduin (12:10): Myself and the people I work with, great people that I work with. I’ve put a lot of thought and research and time into trying to understand kind of, okay, what, what does it look like? What does the system look like if it’s working for watersheds and working for co-governance?
And so we have these, these ideas that are grounded in research, they’re good ideas. And a lot of the time they really apply and they resonate. But in most of the community partnerships where I’m working with First Nations, I, I’m usually just listening. And sometimes it’s making me reevaluate the ideas that we had or where the ideas still might be very, very good, but they’re going to apply in just a slightly different way. And so it’s really been about trying to, to understand where the people I’m working with are at, and then what my role could be to support what they want to do.
Learning How to Work With People Is a Process of Reconciliation
Merrell-Ann Phare (13:06): That process of working back and forth with a community, it sounds like you’re saying that’s a process of reconciliation itself, just learning how to work with them.
Natasha Overduin (13:18): Yeah. It’s, it’s kinda funny. Cause when you were talking about it, being a feeling like it’s just, it feels very like these are just person to person relationships. So I’m not thinking actively about reconciliation where we’re just working together.
Is reconciliation a responsibility of governments, or of people?
Merrell-Ann Phare (13:32): So one of the things that I think when you go back to the media and the big public discourse about reconciliation is it seems like people think it’s something that governments do is reconciliation a responsibility of governments, or is of people?
Eric-Lorne Blais (13:44): The stuff that government does that’s as I say is out there somewhere and that’s a whole different responsibility, but as people, we also have to do it on a very personal level.
Merrell-Ann Phare (13:56): So if you’re a person who lives in downtown Toronto, downtown Winnipeg.
Eric-Lorne Blais (13:59): Yeah.
Merrell-Ann Phare (14:00): How do you do that?
Eric-Lorne Blais (14:02): To be able to, to truly understand that other person, you have to sit there and have coffee together.
Truth and Reconciliation
Kerry-Ann Charles (14:10): People that I talk to on a daily basis that are like that have no idea what truth and reconciliation is. They just know that that’s something, a term that the government uses, right? That there’s the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, but nobody knows what the contents of that is. And I think that’s the big problem is that left to our communities to help people understand what that is. But, you know, it’s, it’s up to everybody. Everybody needs to take that little bit and, and pursue their own path of what reconciliation is to them and what it means to them.
Natasha Overduin (14:44): Yeah. We should all care about who we are, I think, and where we came from, like everyone cares about that.
Merrell-Ann Phare (14:50): Like as Canadians, what our history is.
Natasha Overduin (14:50): If you feel connected in any way to the, to the future or feel any responsibility for, for the future, then you have to care about who you are and where you’ve come from.
How does any of this relate to water?
Merrell-Ann Phare (15:01): So let’s talk a little bit about water. How does any of this relate to water? Is there a reconciliation and water piece?
Eric-Lorne Blais (15:11): It’s so essential and it’s so far, we’re so far from reconciliation on it. You mean you take my home province, there’s hardly a drop of water that hasn’t been touched by some process, some reservoir, some control structure. And the values that were put on that water when it was touched is not necessarily the ones we’d put on it, if we were looking at it from the broader environmental humanistic experience.
Merrell-Ann Phare (15:49): Which is still the thinking.
Eric-Lorne Blais (15:53): That is definitely still the thinking right now.
Merrell-Ann Phare (15:54): Yeah.
Eric-Lorne Blais (15:55): I mean, you and I know that what’s going on in Manitoba right now is still single sort of focused without looking at how that affects wildlife habitat for bearing animals or anything else.
Merrell-Ann Phare (16:13): Well, you know, Eric, I’m going to disagree just a little bit on that, just because I do think people look at how it affects it. I just don’t think at the end, the decision is any different. That’s what I’m wondering about.
Eric-Lorne Blais (16:22): But that’s the checkmark. Oh, we looked there’s the checkmark, but the value they put on it is not there, which to me is, is the big missing piece. I can, I can do an EIA (environmental impact assessment), but if I ignore all the results of that EIA, what’s the point?
And, and I think, unfortunately I see more of that than I see, you know, the holistic look. One of the big problems with water is I’ve been to ones where flooding is the issue. That’s all we talked about, flooding, irrigation, where can we get more water? That’s the issue. Well, okay. At the end of the day, we gotta look at the whole thing, the whole hydrologic cycle and how water affects everything else in the environment.
Merrell-Ann Phare (17:16): Natasha or Kerry-Ann did you want to deal with, how does all of this relate to water, reconciliation?
Kerry-Ann Charles (17:22): None of us would be here if it wasn’t for water.
Merrell-Ann Phare (17:25): Pardon me, I’m thirsty, just give me a second.
Kerry-Ann Charles (17:25): It is it is the lifeline to everything and everybody. So it’s something that we’re taught in school at a very young age. I can’t remember what grade it is, but we’re talking about the, when we talk about the web of life and how things are, things are so connected and everything is connected to water. That’s where it all begins.
Natasha Overduin (17:45): We are always drawn to water. It’s always what we want to see and have around us. And so I think it is somewhere where we can find some commonality and common ground. I think it’s very, very powerful. And if we’re going to fix any of our water issues, we have to be able to work together.
Where do we start?
Merrell-Ann Phare (18:02): And so where do we start?
Kerry-Ann Charles (18:05): You need to think here first, before it comes out in order to really connect. Um one of my elders actually calls it your mind heart. So you need to be able to feel in order to make change. Right? So I think being able to connect with water and having everybody be able to connect with water would be an awesome place to start reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
Merrell-Ann Phare (18:32): There’s a history of how we have been in relationship or not with water and with the environment. And by we, I mean, I’m a non-Indigenous Canadian. So I know what my history is in terms of that. You have as Indigenous people, you have different histories, but we have a history in that relationship. So there’s our relationship with each other. Then our relationship with the thing that sustains us all and does reconciliation extend to that?
Eric-Lorne Blais (18:57): It has to, it has to, I mean, water has been used as a weapon because the values placed by First Nations on, if you look at some of the communities across the prairies, they chose because of their proximity to water, because it, supplied them with food, supplied them with, fur, et cetera. We come along and we go, that’s not our value. We can flood it, we can dry it up, whatever it doesn’t matter. I mean, when, when we might not be able to turn back the clock, but we at least have to understand the values placed by First Nations. If we can’t look at the world through somebody else’s eyes, then how do we ever get past what we’ve done?
Kerry-Ann Charles (19:51): I think it’s just as easy as coming back to keeping it simple. Water gives life and water also takes life away. You got to have that respect. You got to have that respect for water. It’s that connection, right? People need to understand that when you turn your tap on in your house, where that actually comes from. What has happened and what is happening that in the, in the world, from that disrespect of water, that’s going to wipe us all out. You know, mother earth doesn’t need us. We need her. If she doesn’t want us here and she needs to heal herself, she’ll wipe us out with water.
What do we need to do differently?
There’s a whole bunch of people who are listening and that, you know, have choices to make in terms of this.
Merrell-Ann Phare (20:26): So I’m going to push you guys a little bit, cause I want to know what we, what do we need to do differently than like, what would you say? There’s a whole bunch of people who are listening and that, you know, have choices to make in terms of this. So if you’ve got somebody who’s there with you, they’re onsite, they agree, reconciliation, water. I’m there. You guys live this stuff, you work in it and have for a long time. What do you think they need to do?
Natasha Overduin (20:48): I think that people need to appreciate water as a baseline thing in their day to day economic reality. There’s that saying about, we know the worth of water when the well runs dry, it goes something like that. But that concept needs to be real before we actually run out of water or water makes our kids break out in rashes or whatever. So it needs, there needs to be an economic consequences at some point, I think before it becomes real for people. So I think we need…
Merrell-Ann Phare (21:19): You mean like pricing?
Natasha Overduin (21:20): Pricing. Yeah.
Merrell-Ann Phare (21:22): You have to pay for water.
Natasha Overduin (21:22): We have to look at who’s using what, the questions of governance, water governance. Who’s using water? How much? When? What about the six, eight week period in the year where there’s really not enough? So I think we..
Merrell-Ann Phare (21:33): Not enough for people?
Natasha Overduin (21:34): And ecosystems. And where prior rights have been denied and ignored.
Merrell-Ann Phare (21:42): Prior rights meaning like…?
Natasha Overduin (21:43): Indigenous water rights.
Merrell-Ann Phare (21:44): People who are here first.
Certain things need you to take an active position on.
Eric-Lorne Blais (21:47): I think, I think part of it is developing networks and getting people together with so they can speak with one voice. Certain things need you to take an active position and you need to have that network of friends to stand together and say, Hey, this is important. No municipality puts a value, on the actual commodity. They may put a value on what it costs them to get it from point a to point b. Well, okay. That’s only part of the equation.
Eric-Lorne Blais (22:20): That’s why people can irrigate piles of sand. There’s a value to that. That goes far beyond what I can grow, the economics because we don’t put a value on, on the environmental how it supports the environment in that stream or river. We don’t do a full accounting. And I go, I go back to a talk I went to many, many years ago by someone from the World Bank. He says, we have the natural bank or natural environment bank. And we have manmade value or economics. He said, when we take from this, we should always be trying to balance what we’re taking from the natural environment to make sure we’re not putting ourselves in a deficit. Well, right now, if there’s no value on water, how do you manage it? How do you, how do you say we’re doing it properly?
We need to redefine things.
Merrell-Ann Phare (23:20): So this is one of the new, I would love to hear what you have to say, Kerry-Ann, cause this idea of valuing pricing, water, paying more for it, valuing what it does that I know some Indigenous communities who are good with that and then many Indigenous communities that, that language really puts them off. It’s not something that they’re willing to talk about. What do you think about that? Because remember the question was ultimately, what are the things we need to do differently to, to care about this, to have this reconciliation of water to move forward?
Kerry-Ann Charles (23:52): I think, I think what we need to do is we need to redefine things. One of our school teachers had a conversation with her actually just the beginning of the school year. And she was telling me about our land based program that I helped when I was in my position as the environment coordinator, get some stuff going.
And, and she was telling me how she had changed the title of the program instead of ‘working on the land,’ to ‘working in the land’ because of the fact that there’s already a predefined definition of what working on the land looks like. We need to start redefining or re-terming things because the language that we’re using right now already is predetermined on what that looks like.
And putting a price on things, especially when you’re, when you start talking about putting price on, on the environment, that’s, what’s gotten us into the problems that we’re into right now. People have valued it and then fought over it because now there’s, there’s a monetary value.
Eric-Lorne Blais (24:44): But when I, when I’m talking about the natural capital and, and manmade capital, I’m not talking about necessarily putting, but putting a value to it so that…
Kerry-Ann Charles (24:55): There needs to be a personal value to it. Right? You need that connection again.
Eric-Lorne Blais (24:59): But, but, but at the end of the day, we know that decisions are not, they’re not all going to be from the heart. It’s going to be based on, on economics, et cetera. But if you put no, I mean, one at one point in time, Ducks Unlimited said a duck is worth $25, okay. Whether a duck’s worth $25 or not to the economy, at least there was a value. And, and that’s what I’m speaking of, not, not necessarily, well, I can suck that much money out of it, but let’s put a value on what we haven’t screwed up yet.
“We need to stop thinking about our environment as commodity and start thinking about it as community as it once was.”
Kerry-Ann Charles (25:32): So when you value something, it automatically just enough, this is how our society works. Now there’s already, there’s a dollar value on it. And then there’s somebody there that will jump on that. And I hope that everybody carries this away with you today. We need to stop thinking about our environment as commodity and start thinking about it as community as it once was.
Merrell-Ann Phare (25:50): Is there an example you can share? On that?
Kerry-Ann Charles (25:52): The Toronto Fire Council. It’s an Indigenous group in Toronto and they have a youth group called the Little Embers. Some of these Indigenous youth have never been in a community they’ve been just surrounded by pavement and buildings, their whole life. So being able to bring them out to our community, but allow them to go fishing right, and, and catch fish and frogs.
And it’s something that changes their life because the fact that they were never there, they learn about it in school. They, you know, have books and stuff, but when you do things for real it sticks with you. So I think we need to start making more of those opportunities to be able to connect and touch and feel and share with each other the value of the environment, rather than just talking about it.
Merrell-Ann Phare (26:35): So what’s interesting about this is that it just struck me that we don’t have a reconciliation language. Like, I can feel from each of you that you care about the water. But the language that we each use, it misses each other because we come from different disciplines or different perspectives, whatever. Like what would be the language of reconciliation when it comes to water? Because yeah, one set of words, places it in an economic discussion, another set of words, places at somewhere else that they just pass like two ships in the nights kind of thing. Fascinating.
I just wanted to know what’s the most sort of challenging part for you in terms of reconciliation? You can tell there just really hard questions that people are afraid to ask. I’m trying to get at what are some of the, the most challenging pieces that you’d like to share? Similarly, if you have something rewarding, something really rewarding that, that people can get a mental image of, well, it can work. Look at, there’s something that these people have each experience that’s really inspirational. So challenging, rewarding.
Natasha Overduin (27:45): Challenging: people really believe that they’re doing the right thing. And they have these really good intentions about trying to fix things and people, I think there’s all this stuff happening in the world and we just want to make a difference and there’s this huge intention to make a positive difference. So what I’ve found hard is creating good relationships and relationships like we were talking about before this started as this word that we throw around all the time, what does it mean? Think it means being vulnerable and transparent.
And I think there’s a real danger that we can get very easily kind of swept up in our own kind of idea that we have a good intention and forget to be gut checking on whether our own sense of, you know, the answer is going to be blinding us to other things that we need to be aware of. An Indigenous colleague of mine a couple of years ago challenged me with this question… “What if all our communications, all your emails, all your texts was totally transparent. Anyone could read anything that you said?”
I was like, yikes, are you crazy? Like nothing would get done. That’s not how the world works. The world works by how good you are at manipulating people. And that was his point. Like that was his point. Stop trying to out manipulate each other with your idea of the solution. THE solution. Like go to listen to each other and stop doing that.
But I think that means we need places, tables, where we can have those conversations. And it’s really hard. Like it’s really hard to, for people to open up and look stupid and say the wrong thing. And yeah, that’s the challenge. That’s the human challenge
Merrell-Ann Phare (29:42): At the end of the day, something has to change, right? Like if, we’re saying right now, this isn’t working, then somebody has to be willing to say, that’s not right. Like, or this has like, and position people in positions of…
Eric-Lorne Blais (29:59): The real challenges is what you’re willing to pay on a personal level to do that.
Merrell-Ann Phare (30:05): See, it seems to me that reconciliation should mean that there isn’t a price to pay for being honest in that way. Particularly if it’s in the service of life affirming, healing decisions. Right? There really shouldn’t be, I understand that that’s…
Eric-Lorne Blais (30:21): That’s, that’s the ideal world, which unfortunately we don’t live there.
Merrell-Ann Phare (30:25): Yes. Kerry-Ann Did you?
Kerry-Ann Charles (30:28): I guess a lot of challenges, but I guess in my my head, I don’t really see them as challenges. I actually had a conversation was sort of a, it got, got a little messy at another conference that I attended it was very small gathering about racism and people feeling microaggression and, and that kind of stuff. And I didn’t always grow up in my community.
There was about five, six years that I moved off and I lived in an urban setting and I was clearly the only native kid at the school. I never felt racism or discriminated against or anything like that. I still don’t to this day. And I, I have talked to a couple of my elders about that and it’s, it’s about perception, right?
So I’ve, I’ve always taken comments or whatever as a learning opportunity, I guess, to then put it back on the other person about why I would just say that or what makes you think that? I don’t really see a lot of challenges, I sort of look at them as sort of opportunities.
Merrell-Ann Phare (31:34): I feel like we’ve got this set of ideas at the very high level about reconciliation, and you hear, nation to nation, government, to government, all the high level stuff. And then you have these kinds of conversations where it becomes clear it’s about people sitting around a table and getting to know each other.
And my worry, and what I think is the big challenge for the future… How do you fill in all that middle stuff? To me, I call that governance. It’s like changing all the institutions and the laws and the processes and all of this stuff and figuring out how to work together in that middle chunk.
Kerry-Ann Charles (32:09): In my head. I like to think positively that, it’s the grassroots and it’s empowering people and sharing knowledge and doing the right thing and, and showcasing that stuff that, eventually the grassroots is going to hit that glass ceiling. And there’s not going to be any room to push back down. Right? So that push down is, is going to stop as long as we keep pushing up, in the good way and you know, for the, for the right reasons, you know, things, things will change. I’m hopeful, anyways.
Natasha Overduin (32:36): It really is rewarding working with Indigenous communities because of the incredible resilience of those communities and the ideas. I find Indigenous languages like mind-blowingly cool and inspiring. So there’s a lot about this that’s rewarding too.
Kerry-Ann Charles (32:54): If you do anything in your, the rest of your life now is just, you just mentioned to one person something that you learned about truth and reconciliation and, and have, have, have it be meaningful and make them feel how you feel, sort of, you know what I mean? Have that emotion attached to it. We just all just need to be people.
Eric-Lorne Blais (33:15): Well, and occasionally you need the courage to say you’re wrong. Your perception is wrong. Occasionally, you have to stand up and be candid. I mean, it’s too easy to listen to somebody at the table next to you, ramble on about garbage. Now, it’s uncomfortable, but sometimes you just have to do it.
Merrell-Ann Phare (33:39): So on that note, I wanted to thank you Kerry-Ann, Natasha, and Eric for being our guests today. And thank you to Steve for being such a great support in getting this all together and to CWRA, and also very much to the audience for asking questions and having the courage to do that. So thank you very much, everybody.
Audience: (34:06): [Audience Claps]
Merrell-Ann Phare (34:08): The Porcupine Podcast is produced by myself, Merrell-Ann Phare and Michael Miltenberger. We’d also like to thank our co-producer and audio technician, Hannah Gehman, and our writer, Debra Bowers, thanks to you for listening to porcupine podcast. We hope you return and please feel free to rate and subscribe. Bye for now.