I had the privilege of recently attending a Royal Roads “Change Maker” Speaker Series event, where the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould was the keynote. Her new book, focused on Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation, traces her journey as a Canadian Indigenous woman, lawyer, leader, author and former MP and Federal Justice Minister on the path to Indigenous Reconciliation in Canada.
She is compelling, open, direct, passionate and bluntly honest about her experiences, both as an Indigenous woman alone at the Federal Cabinet table and about her continued advocacy as a provincial, national and international voice for Indigenous Peoples and communities across the country.
She is a self-described “in-betweener,” a term she has created to demonstrate how strong leadership that creates tension and discomfort, can be an effective tool for bridging differences and creating meaningful change. “We must be relentless” about breaking down silos that separate us and coming together to make change. “It’s time for loving, open and meaningful conversations together,” she says.
While she appreciates the performative and symbolic efforts and activities that recognize Indigenous history, culture and achievement, and the communities and governments who endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Ms. Wilson-Raybould believes it’s now time to ACT on Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation.
As leaders, Ms. Wilson-Raybould suggests that we must address long-standing inequities and inequalities, reflected in archaic and destructive initiatives and legislation such as the Indian Act, the Indian Reserve Act, the tragedy of residential schools and the lack of clean water on reserves. She admits that reconciliation is sometimes “confusing and uncomfortable” and is an “ongoing struggle.”
She calls for “massive shifts in understanding and inclusion” that will address the “what and why” of colonialism. She suggests that “the silos that separate us have been hardened and deepened and are destructive.” But she believes that through the “utmost courage to confront challenges and threats” and by “collective stock-taking,” we can change “the fabric of how we move forward together…to bring about transformational change.”
As Ms. Wilson-Raybould wrapped up her presentation, her message is clear — we, as leaders and communities, have the ability and capacity to develop greater knowledge, inclusion, equity and equality. She left us with a renewed sense of hope for the future and the audience left her with a standing ovation.