Vancouver park board hires reconciliation planner

Vancouver’s park board announced this week the hiring of its first reconciliation planner.

“We are thrilled to formalize the work begun in the early days of this Park Board’s tenure at a historic meeting with Coast Salish First Nations,” board chair Michael Wiebe said in a press release.

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The board approved the position Tuesday in its 2018 budget with the aim of supporting an ambitious reconciliation agenda.

“We’ve continued to support this work, and the reconciliation planner will lay the permanent groundwork for an authentic and respectful government to government relationship with the Nations,” Wiebe said.

The new reconciliation planner, Rena Soutar, will work with the park board and City of Vancouver to advance mutual goals and create relationships between municipal government and Indigenous communities.

Since January 2016 Soutar has worked with the board contributing to arts, culture and reconciliation initiatives. She previously worked with the three local First Nations during the 2010 Winter Olympics and is the author of the book Songees.

In her reconciliation role, Soutar will focus on implementing the park board’s 11 reconciliation strategies and advancing the work of the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group.

The group was formed three years ago when the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations expressed a desire to work with the board to create a long-term stewardship plan for the park and to address concerns about archeological practices in parks.

Last year the board also hired the first municipal archeologist in Canada, Geordie Howe, to work exclusively on Indigenous issues, reviewing current archeological practices and ensuring that aboriginal protocols are respected in all park developments.

Howe and Soutar both sit on the working group, which is composed on staff and representatives from the three First Nations.

In her role as reconciliation planner, Soutar will also work with park research, planning and development teams on other projects such as park naming and review monuments, memorials and public art processes and policies to ensure integration of Indigenous history, heritage values and memory practices.

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