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Concrete steps toward reconciliation

Inaugural recognition hosted by Battlefords Regional Community Coalition.

NORTH BATTLEFORD — Brenda Evans, elder advisor and executive director, along with Brad Swiftwolfe, are happy to share news of their first annual day of celebration, recognition and sharing held at the Western Development Museum, May 23. The goal was showing appreciation of everyone’s contributions to date to the success of Battlefords Regional Community Coalition.

Evans said inspiration for the event’s creation came from Chief Crystal Okemow in 2020, who began to champion for change and began the hard conversations around racism in the Battlefords.

“Her passion and direction are what really began this journey and she was the main award recipient. Recognition and raising awareness are what inspired this event … racism is still a huge issue in the Battlefords,” says Evans.

Between 90 and 100 people attended, who came by both personal and open invitation, and included federal and provincial attendees.

Evans said some of the highlights included the emotion and political will and buy-in for change.

“The recipients’ commitment to continue to champion this work is another highlight and our organization hopes to see more engagement and participation from the chamber of commerce as well as local business,” adds Evans.

Honourees and the reasons for recognition were:

Prairie Merchant – “Your participation and continuous support has made all the difference in our work to champion change – thank you for your kindness and generosity.”

Each of Cenovus, BATC CDC, ISC and the Province of Saskatchewan – “Your contribution has made all the difference in our work to champion change – thank you for your generosity.”

Each of the City of North Battleford and Town of Battleford – “Your continuous support and contribution has made all the difference in our work to champion change – thank you for your participation and generosity.”

Sarah Chileen – “Thank you so much for the generous time you have given the BRCC –the time you have volunteered is most valued and appreciated.”

Dana Martin – Thank you so so much for the generous time you have given the BRCC – the time you have volunteered is most valued and appreciated.”

The special recognition given to Chief Okemow included these words, “You make a difference. Your contributions as a regional leader have made such a meaningful difference in the lives of those you serve – thank you for your kindness, compassion and generosity.”

This industrious and monumental organization, BRCC, began when the Battlefords Regional Community Coalition held a series of meetings in 2018, and a workshop that included a number of specific community organizations that served Indigenous people such as BATC, BTC, Prairie Health, RCMP, both municipal governments and several First Nations and Métis representatives.

The BRCC made the decision at a critical point that had revealed deep divisions in Canadian society. Significant events exposed separations; they did not create them.

Evans told the News Optimist and SASKTODAY.ca, “These activities gained the input to promote a more comprehensive and collaborative approach to identifying local needs and priorities. Crime and addiction issues were identified early in the process as well as opportunities to make change working together. All participating First Nations and both municipal governments provided direction from conception.”

A breakfast meeting hosted by the City of North Battleford in June of 2018 had no set agenda but humble conversations started the foundational talks of building the Battlefords Regional Community Coalition.

Evans says, “In February of 2019 Brett Wilson and his Prairie Merchant team attended our first formal meeting of the BRCC – in that meeting direction was given to the BRCC project manager by the five Firsts Chiefs of Saulteaux First Nation, Sweet Grass First Nation, Moosomin First Nations, Lucky Man Cree Naton and Little Pine First Nation as well as the City of North Battleford and the Town of Battleford to create an agreement to guide this new and unchartered relationship.”

Evans goes on to outline that, June 21, 2019, four short months later - the “Sacichawasihc Framework Agreement” was signed by five First Nations governments and two municipal governments. The agreement is a jointly developed regional community framework that provides continuity and relationship sustainability moving forward. It provides a long-term approach to system change and regional issues management through a collaboratively designed process.

Evans and Swiftwolfe: “Local and national governments, businesses and organizations have important roles to play in addressing racism, discrimination and fostering equitable outcomes and respect for all citizens.

“Racism and discrimination perpetuate the historical disadvantage experienced by Indigenous peoples. Issues of inequality, racism and other closely related concepts are deeply rooted and complex.”

At the annual SUMA awards in February of 2020, an award was presented to BRCC in recognition of its work.

Post-Covid, 2021 to date, the work continues to build a better Battlefords regional community, better province and better nation.

Evans concludes by stating, “The big picture and the path forward for success: The Collective Impact Anti- Racism Project is a major undertaking. The BRCC has engaged the Anti-Racism Network to begin actionable work in our region with achievable benchmarks. This work of course could not be given attention without the generosity of industry, the private sector, government funds and the people who care for engaged inclusive positive change. Together we will make a difference.”