Canadian Biomass Magazine

Opinion: Road to reconciliation includes equity, empowerment and collaboration

November 20, 2023
By Percy Guichon

Percy Guichon. Photo supplied.

In the context of Truth and Reconciliation, the journey toward equity and empowerment is a winding road, mixed with challenges, yet marked by significant progress. I have witnessed both the strides and the obstacles that define this path. As an individual who has been to a residential school, previously was an elected Chief in my community, and am currently a councillor, I am deeply engaged with balancing my personal experiences while harnessing a progressive business perspective. From my role as an executive director of the Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. (CCR), my beliefs have been reiterated that reconciliation is not just about acknowledging the past; it’s about reshaping the present and future to embrace the ideals of unity, opportunity, and collaboration.

One significant arena of progress lies in our interactions with governmental entities. The evolution is palpable – supportive local forest districts extending direct contracts that bypass the traditional bidding processes, and organizations like the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia (FESBC) supporting us through the aftermath of forest fires and mountain pine beetle infestations. These examples acknowledge that we have the ability to complete complex forestry advancements paired with our traditional and cultural practices within our territory. However, it’s imperative to acknowledge that despite these steps forward and gestures of good faith, a broader transformation is still required.

A multitude of governmental agencies exist. Some show commendable co-operation and confidence in our pursuits, while others lag behind unable to reconcile with the Truth and Reconciliation protocols. A fundamental shift is necessary, a new approach that aligns governmental initiatives with the very fundamental principles of reconciliation.

Education and understanding are the key drivers of this transformation. There is a promising movement as certain agencies recognize the need to partner with Indigenous companies and to work collaboratively to harness and support our economic ambitions. Yet, in some cases, opportunities remain elusive due to lack of capacity, resource availability, or even preconceived notions that limit access. The offer of forest licenses, for instance, can be a gesture of goodwill, but it requires substantive follow-through to truly empower communities. Here, the challenge is not just economic – it’s about dismantling boundaries that perpetuate imbalances, creating a level playing field for Indigenous peoples to participate fully in resource management.

My personal journey underscores the urgency toward the need to make a change in this industry. My own experience of being taken from my mother at the age of seven to attend a residential school echoes the broader themes of disempowerment, cultural loss, and generational trauma. This trauma reverberates in the lives of many survivors I’ve encountered, some battling addiction and hardship. Today, more than ever, the reconciliation we seek is not merely economic – it’s about creating safe spaces, restoring dignity, and ensuring no one is left behind. We stand at a crossroads where the government’s commitment to helping remote communities must be translated into tangible change on every level, where collaboration supersedes isolation, and where the collective well-being of our youth and communities becomes a shared mission.

Through my involvement with CCR, I’ve witnessed positive change. Collaborations with Natural Resources Canada, local forest districts, and FESBC not only bring economic progress, but also help uplift the community as a whole, demonstrating that progress is attainable when there’s a genuine willingness to reconcile, trust, and recognize the competence that we have. These alliances are not just business transactions, they are a testament to the spirit of unity driving our shared objectives. I view CCR as a beacon of progress. It is an illustration of how to approach business with Indigenous communities. It should be a standard practice that we continually improve upon.

In this pursuit, it’s crucial for institutions, organizations, and government agencies to dismantle silos and operate in tandem. My message, on this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is clear: don’t just acknowledge us. Engage with us. Listen to our voices, understand our needs, and work alongside us to shape a future where opportunities are not selective, but equitable. I urge everyone involved to continue this transformative journey, to bridge the gap between past and present, and to embrace the unifying force of reconciliation—a force that, when harnessed, can propel us all toward a brighter, more just future. 

Percy Guichon is the executive director of Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. (CCR) and councillor of Tŝideldel First Nation.

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