FortisBC employees join Canadians on a Walk for Reconciliation
October 6, 2017 by Tanya Laing Gahr
FortisBC has a history of positive and collaborative relationships with Indigenous communities and is continuing to strengthen those relationships. Our gas and electricity infrastructure crosses more than 150 Indigenous traditional territories and our company also provides service to 56 Indigenous communities. We believe that understanding, respect, open communication and trust are key values in our relationships with Indigenous communities, and these values are embedded in FortisBC’s formal Statement of Aboriginal Principles. So it’s important to the organization that we not only talk the talk—we also need to walk the walk.
The Walk for Reconciliation, which was attended by almost 50,000 people in Vancouver on September 24, is an annual event that acknowledges and honours the survivors of the Indian residential school system—as well as those whose lives were lost. FortisBC employees who took part in the Walk for Reconciliation describe the day as being both somber and hopeful.
Staff taking part in the Walk for Reconciliation were inspired and moved by the day’s events.
“I felt humbled, inspired and very emotional, particularly during the opening addresses” said Joanne Hunton-Sehdev, community and Aboriginal relations liaison. “But I also felt a sense of peace and happiness at being part of something so significant.”
“There was a sense of hope, unity and pride,” agreed Ariana Arguello, C&EM program specialist. “People seemed proud to be part of the event and to be active participants in co-creating a future that is just and that recognizes the value of diversity and inclusion.”
The Walk for Reconciliation acknowledges the survivors of the residential school system.
Reconciliation is one of the most important issues in Canada as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians work together to form positive relationships. The process involves non-Indigenous Canadians learning about the impacts of colonization and the residential school system.
“I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work extensively in First Nations communities over the course of my career and have made many friends who have shared their stories and lives with me,” said project compliance coordinator Ron Finch. “I have also made a personal effort to educate myself and I believe strongly in supporting Indigenous Canadians in their struggle to recover from the harsh and often criminal treatment inflicted upon their communities by colonial powers.”
FortisBC staff were all smiles but said that tears were also shared listening to survivors’ stories.
While Indigenous communities are in the process of reclaiming cultures that were damaged by government policies, non-Indigenous Canadians are working to heal their relationships with Indigenous peoples. This is what reconciliation is all about. And it’s why FortisBC conducts business in a manner that respects the social, economic and cultural interests of Indigenous communities.
“I believe this is a subject that needs to be understood and highlighted for the community at large, and to have greater emphasis in our schools as part of the social and history curriculum,” said Hunton-Sehdev. “This was a great way to raise awareness.”
The theme of the day was “We are all one”.
The Walk for Reconciliation is an annual event, and those who took part would like to encourage more Canadians to join them at next year’s walk.
“I definitely encourage others to take part in the Walk for Reconciliation at every opportunity,” said Finch. “The path to moving forward in a meaningful way —with the spirit of ‘we are all one’—is to help educate, empathize with and support one another in a loving and positive way.”
FortisBC made a donation to Reconciliation Canada on behalf of employees and family members who took part in the event.