REPORT

Conference on UN Declaration yields insights on building a sustainable vision for the Salish Sea

A Special Report from The Declaration: Finding the Path to Shared Prosperity


By Vanessa Scott


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On January 14, 2020, The Declaration convened a historic event on Indigenous rights and our shared future that was unlike any other event before it. Rather than ending on the fact that Indigenous rights must be translated into action, this is where the dialogue started. How do we achieve historic transformations in all our communities and act on the principles of UNDRIP? Led by Indigenous voices from across British Columbia and the Salish Sea, this convergence on the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was the first major event to dive so deeply into this critically important and timely issue.

For the first time in Canadian history, British Columbia has become the first jurisdiction to pass legislation that commits our provincial government to bringing all of its laws and policies into alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The event agenda showcased the full range of respect and vision, success stories and challenges from which we can all learn to do better going forward. 

This is our first Special Report from UNDRIP 2020: an in-depth feature on the signature discussion panel, Sustainable Vision, Cumulative Effects and Long-term Trade in the Salish Sea. This discussion among three First Nations, whose traditional territories all lie on the Salish Sea, explores how BC’s Bill 41 (the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act or DRIPA) will be experienced in this culturally significant zone. 


Moderator: Dr. Michelle Corfield, Chair of the Legislative Council of the Ucluelet First Nation. Dr. Corfield is a facilitator, mediator and Indigenous entrepreneur, and until recently served as Vice-President to the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Formerly chair of the Nanaimo Port Authority, she currently serves in advisory roles on the board of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, and as Executive-in-Residence for a Business program at Simon Fraser University.


Panelists: 

  • Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation.
  • Braden Smith, Chief Administrative Officer, Tsawwassen First Nation.
  • Deborah Baker, Councillor, Squamish First Nation.


Background

Stewarding the Salish Sea’s Great Heritage for Future Generations

The Salish Sea is one of the world’s largest, most widely celebrated and most productive inland seas. Mixing the Pacific Ocean with freshwater from the Fraser and dozens of the world’s largest remaining wild salmon rivers, the Salish Sea nurtures a globally significant biodiversity of life. Nowhere else on Earth have human societies evolved in such close integration and harmony with marine ecosystems.

Spanning British Columbia and the US State of Washington, bordered by the Olympic, Vancouver Island and Coast Mountain ranges, the colossal abundance of this land and its waters has sustained Indigenous cultures from time immemorial. Materially rich societies have thrived here since the last Ice Age retreated 10,000 years ago. 

The name ‘Salish Sea’ honours the Coast Salish peoples, the region’s first inhabitants. Before European contact, the Salish Sea supported more than 50 distinct Indigenous societies, each with their own laws and relationships to their territories and resources.

After European contact, the Salish Sea became the heart of BC’s transportation triangle linking the earliest port cities and serving as “the gateway to the riches of the BC Interior” – which it remains to this day. Now a megalopolis or network of major port cities that stretches from West Vancouver to Olympia, the Salish Sea contains 28 deep-sea cargo terminals, including the largest and busiest port in Canada, the Port of Vancouver. 

When the coastal waters off Southern BC were officially renamed the Salish Sea by the BC government in 2010 in an international act of reconciliation, BC’sthen-lieutenant governor Steven Point, of First Nations ancestry, stated: “Coast Salish peoples have traversed these waters for thousands of years, and this name pays homage to our collective history” and “the growing understanding and appreciation of our cultures”. 

The Salish Sea is arguably the single most important natural feature of our province, as its hundreds of islands, estuaries, bays, sounds, straits and waterways have functioned as the cradle of our Pacific Northwest societies. The Salish Sea’s cultural influence endures everywhere – from business names, art, literature and architecture to cultural festivals and even the use of killer whales, salmon and bears to represent our cities and sports teams. However the Salish Sea’s ability to sustain and thrive is under increasing pressure from rapid population growth, lack of public awareness, urbanization, economic development, historic degradation, and the present and future threats of climate change. 

Given its incredible natural features and the spiritual connection of Indigenous Peoples to the Salish Sea, the entire region qualifies as a “cultural landscape” (UNESCO). Though not officially recognized as such, only 35 sites around the world achieve these characteristics: to “honour traditional Indigenous knowledge; recognize the importance of land, air and sea for cultural evolution and social organization; and underscore the idea that the environment is not a ‘wild’ or ‘pristine’ space from which people should be excluded, but rather a territory that people themselves have shaped in light of their unique ways of life: a home.”

As stated in The Sea Among Us, if the Salish Sea “has been a shaper of the region’s special culture, it is also destined to be a barometer of our success in balancing the competing and often contradictory priorities of sustaining society itself.”  Sustainability, restoration and stewardship of ecosystems – like implementation of Indigenous Rights – are urgent moral issues that bring into focus the greatest challenge of our times: how to achieve balance in continuing our ways of life.

This Panel Session, with representation from Indigenous communities around the Salish Sea, concludes with the clear outlook that our path forward depends on mutual understanding and the Coast Salish worldview of responsibility and interconnectedness. 


The following is a transcript edited for clarity with additional links to the materials, initiatives and projects referenced by the speakers and moderator.

  

Moderator: Dr. Michelle Corfield, Ucluelet First Nation - How do you see UNDRIP legislation in BC impacting the Tsawwassen First Nation as a Treaty Nation?

Background: When the Tsawwassen First Nation celebrated the 10th anniversary of its treaty in 2019, TFN Chief Bryce Williams said the agreement had “restored our inherent right to self-government….We are now on the path to achieving our strategic vision of a community that is united, proud, and prospering.” More information is available from TFN about its constitution and treaty here, or download the outstanding 10-Year Celebration document Building Prosperity, Shaping Our Future. 


Braden Smith, Chief Administrative Officer, Tsawwassen First Nation

  • We’ve been implementing our treaty for the past 10 years. UNDRIP and Bill 41 reflect work that’s already been established and entrenched in our processes.
  • This legislation for UNDRIP is like “an appendage to our existing treaty” for TFN.
  • Always look at the intent of legislation and how it is going to be implemented.
  • What I heard this morning in the initial conversation is how Indigenous societies are based on community, that is a fundamental principle. That really resonated. 
  • Understanding community is the foundation of the treaty process and should also be the foundation of UNDRIP and Bill 41.
  • We all need to rally around these common principles of community.
  • The word ‘community’ has an English language etymology that means “coming together to defend and fortify” – the Indigenous worldview is very specific with responsibilities included. ‘Community’ means: “Together, we defend and fortify.” 
  • Economic prosperity is a theme that I hear especially with Salish Sea Nations; through economic prosperity we can all work to fortify and defend the area.

Deborah Baker, Councilor, Squamish First Nation

This means a lot to see everywhere here today. Whether you’re from industry, government, First Nations, consultants, academics, wherever you may come from, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is so important. Thank you for making that effort to make it important to yourselves. 


Q. The Squamish Nation undertook its own environmental assessment for Woodfibre LNG. How do you see UNDRIP helping or supporting that endeavour? 

Background: The Squamish Nation took an historic step when its council conducted their own environmental assessment of Woodfibre’s LNG proposal. The full Squamish Nation Environmental Report on the Woodfibre LNG is available here. This first-of-a-kind assessment obligated Woodfibre, the pipeline company Fortis and the province of BC to meet 25 additional conditions set by the Squamish Nation. When the majority of the Squamish council voted Yes to the project and its Impact Benefits Agreement (IBA) in 2018, it put the community “at the forefront of how to do meaningful, respectful consultation….”  

Deborah Baker, Councilor, Squamish First Nation.

  • Before the decision was made on moving forward with the IBA with Woodfibre, the Environmental Assessment outlined 25 conditions that included Fortis and the province of BC, and these conditions were all negotiated and adhered to, hence we moved forward. 
  • With respect to UNDRIP, I really believe the proponent “put their money where their mouth is” because everything we requested, all the changes we requested, were implemented. 
  • That’s what it’s about to me: actually putting words from the Declaration or any other agreement into play when you’re working with First Nations. 
  • That’s the most important factor, because if Industry or Government goes away after saying one thing, and you come up with different plans or ideas, then obviously you weren’t listening. So the key is to listen, to be patient, and you’re probably already aware of that but at the end of the day, it is about building trust and creating that relationship. Moving forward that’s what will be a win-win for everyone, building relationships, not only for today but for future generations. 


Q. The Semiahmoo First Nation is a small nation (population 98) and part of the Salish Sea. How do you see UNDRIP helping your Nation?

Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation, Chief

  • I’m grateful to be here – it feels good for our community to be remembered.
  • What this legislation can help with as mentioned already is building relationships.
  • As First Nations we have a very specific worldview with responsibilities that come along with that. Our community was cut in half by the US-Canadian border.
  • What have I come to present, what do I want to get across? 
  • Original Indigenous words for Settlers meant “‘the hungry ones’ and we still experience that hunger, that need to feed, with industry.”
  • I always say our community has been too quiet for too long. I see this legislation as an opportunity to build relationships and an understanding of our worldview.
  • Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples “may never have the same worldview but we need to bring ourselves into alignment so we’re standing side-by-side.”
  • We can build the respect, relationships and understandings about our cultures. We have opportunity in this day and age to share without fear. Through this opportunity we have, Nation to Nation conversation with Canada.
  • Our perspective of the world says what we do has intergenerational effects, my great grandchildren will feels the impacts of my choices and decisions, and that is a huge responsibility. 
  • I heard industry in the past, looking at this area like other Port cities in the world, estimating tens of thousands of ship passages annually – are you kidding me? 
  • I think the biggest step is to create a safe forum to build that relationship, and we’re only at the infancy, this is a newborn, we don’t know what implementation looks like yet but this a good place to start. 

Braden Smith, Chief Administrative Officer, Tsawwassen First Nation

  • On the note of collaborative discussion, we have a commitment as a modern treaty leader to work with other First Nation partners in the area. 
  • For cumulative impacts considerations in the future, we can talk together as First Nations communities about the impacts and expectations we have using this UNDRIP legislation as a bedrock foundational document. 
  • When we review proposal on a project-by-project basis, whether intentional or not, I heard my council ask about community level impacts that are missing. 
  • When we talk about building a regional economy in the Salish Sea, First Nation communities need to be part of those conversations early, not at the project level but at the conceptual level, and at the regional level. 
  • We need as much as possible to bring a unified voice to the table.
  • UNDRIP legislation – if it’s implemented and resourced appropriately – will allow us to carve out that space for First Nations to come together and build capacity to have one stronger voice at the table early and in a meaningful way. 

Deborah Baker, Councilor, Squamish First Nation.

  • When we talk about cumulative impacts, the environment and the ecosystem, our elders are adamant that we don’t avoid speaking about the spiritual aspects of our territories and our ancestors.
  • The spiritual is not the Western model of discussions around the environment but at the end of the day it’s important to our people that those discussions happen.
  • In 1989 Macleans published an article about how Howe Sound was “dead” from industrial pollution, whether it was mining, logging, other impacts. But today there are many articles, studies from the University of British Columbia about how it is recovering and now alive and well. 


Background: The return of whales like orcas and humpbacks, dolphins, porpoise and herring to the waters of Howe Sound after a near 100-year absence is a victory for conservation – though some runs of salmon for example remain at-risk or endangered.

  • What we are see in Howe Sound today, we hope that future generations will too.
  • It can’t just be a conversation among the leadership. It has to be an everyday conversation just like the weather. We need to come from the place of a ‘new path’, we’re all evolving, every Nation. We need to take this conversation home. 


Moderator: Dr. Michelle Corfield, Ucluelet First Nation

All of you have spoken about three key issues:

  1. the need to come together 
  2. how project-by-project is dangerous for cumulative impacts assessment
  3. and we need to find ways to support First Nations coming together

  • The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Expansion Project is going to impact both these Nations (Tsawwassen and Semiahmoo) and with Woodfibre LNG in Squamish territory, we have a lot of activities occurring or proposed in the Salish Sea. 
  • Everyone is doing their project-by-project assessments but the cumulative effects don't just stay on the mainland here, they impact Vancouver Island too. 
  • At no time, so far, have First Nations ever come together to do regional planning. 
  • I’m excited to hear regional planning is part of this discussion. So a takeaway is this question: How do we get First Nations to come together to plan trade? 
  • We have to include the federal government because everything that leaves the Port of Vancouver is going through the Salish Sea, through somebody’s territory. 


Live Audience Questions Segment 

Q. With all the proposed projects in the Salish Sea, how can Indigenous Nations exercise self-determination and obtain parity as a regulatory body?


Deborah Baker, Councilor, Squamish First Nation:

  • I think that’s a really good question, thank you. Self-determination definitely very specific to each First Nation. 
  • Self-determination is really about asserting who we are and why it’s important for us to be able to that say at the table: this is who we are, this where we come from, and this is where we want to go. 
  • The regulatory body component is what excites me: when I look around this room at the people who are involved at various levels, our moderator, and Kim Baird… this is what we really need. We need to have Indigenous people at the regulatory body. That is where we’re going, and I hope you all agree. 
  • The way you make it happen, look around this room and many others, there are amazing Indigenous leaders – whether they are elected officials, academics, or in industry itself. This is an exciting time for our people and those who step forward to take on those roles. 

Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation, Chief

  • What I’m hoping to get across here is our perspective, our worldview especially as Coast Salish people, is that we understand the connectedness of all things. 
  • When we talk about cumulative effects, we don't just talk about water, or waterways, we talk about our relatives that live in the water.
  • I look specifically at the lower Fraser River and think of the phrase ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ 
  • Our people settled here because of the bounty it had. After the flood, we settled here because of all of the things that it gave us. That’s why everybody else came here as well. And how we find that balance between environmental protection and love for what we have here, as well as industry.... How do we bridge? How do we find a sense of balance?
  • For example, what is the cap on shipping in the Salish Sea? When do we say this is the maximum amount of traffic that we can get through the Salish Sea? How can we plan for the future if we don’t know where our ceiling is? I don’t know if it’s higher, it could be substantially lower in order to maintain what we have…
  • We as First Nations have to maintain the integrity of our cultures but we have also bought into a mainstream Euro-Canadian society. But I still need to protect this land for my grandkids. I have to. That’s my responsibility as leadership. 
  • So it is about being able to find a balance and, as Deborah said, having that voice at the table. And until recently, we haven’t had that voice at the table, our demands have fallen on deaf ears, or in a couple years the government changes. Now we have a law, UNDRIP and DRIPA, that says this is what we’re able to do. 
  • So I encourage industry to open dialogue with their neighbouring Nations and build that relationship, to be the agents of change so we can have a better future for all of us, not just First Nations but everyone that’s made this area their home.


Q. Do you think having UNDRIP and DRIPA will reduce uncertainty? 

Chief Administrative Officer Braden Smith, Tsawwassen First Nation

  • As a modern treaty nation, no, I do not think it will change the certainty that is within our treaty framework on TFN lands. As a planner, I’ve worked 15 years in development across the country, and our development plan is on par with any progressive, fast-paced environment large or small in Canada. So I think our treaty has already given us the tools to give businesses on our treaty lands the certainty to develop and build. 
  • We have 1.2 M square feet of commercial retail, one of Canada’s largest malls at Tsawwassen Mills; and significant industrial development on our treaty lands that move quickly to market because of the tools we have in our treaty.
  • Outside our treaty lands it is a different story.
  • There we need to engage two issues: not knowing what are the expectations from other levels of government; and seeing the commitments from other levels of government about what early, ongoing and meaningful participation means to the business interests outside our land.
  • The rubber hits the road after the legislation – it’s about resource allocation for implementation. As a treaty nation for the past 10 years, despite good words and policy, what I can say is it all comes down to implementation. 
  • For example, we have to continually work on and refine and address things that weren’t anticipated when the original treaty was signed.
  • UNDRIP needs the resources to have a strong work plan. The BC government needs to provide resources to First Nations and to its government to make sure implementation issues are addressed.

Deborah Baker, Councilor, Squamish First Nation:

  • We’re fortunate to work with our neighbouring Nations the Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam on MST Land Development here in Vancouver, it’s very significant. 
  • Background: The MST Development Corporation is a historic partnership between the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, which together have regained ownership of significant lands within their shared territories, currently valued at over $1 billion. The MST Development Corporation oversees these properties to “create growth, opportunity, and well-being for our members and the region.”
  • We’re also excited about the Squamish Nation’s opportunities for development at Senakw, also known as Kitsilano. 
  • Background: Considered the largest single development on First Nations land anywhere in Canada, the Squamish Nation voted in December 2019 to move to the next stage of approval for The Sen̓áḵw Project, a housing development, saying it “will transform the Squamish Nation by providing immense social, cultural, and economic benefits to Squamish Nation members for generations to come.” 
  • Certainty is there. What’s happening today is due to the good work of many negotiators and others. These tools or legal instruments will only enhance this.
  • We’re talking about putting words into action at the federal, provincial, municipal, industry levels – take us to heart. Talk to your grandchildren, your employees, because we’re not going away, and we’ve said that for many generations. 


Q. How can all of us support First Nations to develop the capacity so that FPIC (free, prior and informed consent) is possible? How can industry support this?

Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation, Chief

  • Again it’s about the relationship and mutual understanding.
  • I heard a lot in my short time in leadership about the problems that governments and industry have in overcoming obstacles and issues with First Nations, but we all have that underlying interest in balance – it might be front and centre. So how do we do that, and find balance, between environmental protection and industry?
  • Lower Fraser Nations here are all doing our own things in our silos, but one of the things that we can do with the support of governments is to come together and have that larger regional conversation, and come together as people. 
  • Our worldview, our underlying belief is the same, in this level of protection and respect and the understanding that we’re all connected. We all have that belief.
  • Our vision is of the generations to come. So one way we can help is holding a forum to bring First Nations together and having a conversation about our similarities and our differences. Because that’s how our old people would have done it. Coming together to share. 

Deborah Baker, Councilor, Squamish First Nation:

  • Free, prior and informed consent truly is challenging not only for our leadership and proponents, but especially for our membership and citizens. 
  • Most First Nations are aware of this but I don’t know how many of you are. What happens when we make a decision about development on reserve, we have to go through a process with ISC (Indigenous Services Canada) which is called a referendum. We did this recently on December 9, 2019 – we had to have our membership’s support to move forward with Senakw. The impact benefit agreement decision was made by council, however we did have information sessions and engage members, but not to the same extent off-reserve.
  • What we need to do as leadership is change that process to ensure that, whether off or on-reserve, that project engagement is just as sincere as a referendum driven by the federal government process.


Q. What are your thoughts on designated seats on Port Authority boards for Indigenous representatives? 

Dr. Michelle Corfield, Ucluelet First Nation

  • As former chair of the Nanaimo Port Authority, I can say that every single port in BC has First Nations representation and in some cases more than one, and that is without having a designated seat. 
  • There’s representation in Port Metro Vancouver, Port Alberni, Prince Rupert, and Nanaimo. So everyone needs to know the federal government is encouraging Indigenous people to participate in boards, become CEOs, and take high positions on boards.


Q. What advice can you give to industry when needing to consult with multiple Nations where there are conflicting interests and territory disputes between them?

Deborah Baker, Councilor, Squamish First Nation:

  • My advice, there has to be at least in my opinion some kind of common sense in how you approach individual First Nations.
  • We’ve been fortunate the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh in working together but at the end of the day, when we were up in North Eastern BC where the gas is located we had a lot of questions with some First Nations, and there is no real answer but what I believe is: If you can listen to all sides of the situation, then allow the First Nations to resolve their own issues, some may be historical.
  • If you offer to mediate, that might be a good way to work together.
  • Elders really need to be brought in, those who can assist and have capacity to help in those situations of conflicting interests and territory disputes. 
  • Have patience and recognize there are things that happened way before you came along as an industry. One thing I have to acknowledge, I’ve been fortunate to travel across BC and Canada, and if you don’t know this already, some of our elders and colleagues have a great sense of humour. Food and feasting helps…
  • Those who are already active in your community and with the community’s best interests at heart, they are the best people to talk to in these situations of dispute. 

Chief Administrative Officer Braden Smith, Tsawwassen First Nation

  • To the extent that industry can understand the common interests among the First Nations, find that foundational bedrock of common interest, then build from there. 
  • Prior to TFN I was Chief City Planner in Winnipeg. We started an initiative bringing together all of our regional mayors and 16 First Nations in the Collaborative Leadership Initiative. We came together to talk about mutual concerns, and guess what, they’re the same. At that table we found the things that we wanted to come together and fortify together. 
  • Find that nub of common interest and build from there. For industry to make this investment will pay significant dividends in the future. 
  • Background: The City of Winnipeg has hosted the Mayor's Indigenous Advisory Circle since 2015. The Circle convenes individuals and organizations “in a mutual process of goal setting to establish what role we can each play in” achieving the Truth and Reconciliation Commission goal of ‘Inspiring Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to transform Canadian society so that our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace, and prosperity on these lands we now share.’” Notably in 2017 the Indigenous Advisory Circle created Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord, which commits its signatories to “report the success of their commitment to reconciliation and their future goals annually”. Read more about Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord here.

Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation, Chief

  • Another thing we can do better is information sharing.
  • Often we get information down the road so it is reactive. If we as Nations could come together, develop our own environmental assessment processes, and come to consensus, industry needs to support us crossing that gap so we’re not coming to the table at the 11th hour with objections. 

Dr. Michelle Corfield, Ucluelet First Nation

  • If you know you have to engage with multiple First Nations, bring them into the room at the same time, don’t go one-by-one because then you create distrust.
  • Start the conversation collectively and you’ll end with a better result.
  • Individual First Nation’s will have individual concerns that will emerge at a different time, but make sure you bring everyone together at the outset.


Closing Comments: What did you learn from this session?

Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation, Chief

  • I will close with the statement that we’re here forever, we will maintain our morals and beliefs and we need that understanding with all levels of government. Also realize and understand that we’re the newest players to the table. 

Deborah Baker, Councilor, Squamish First Nation:

  • Take a look at the First Nations Health Authority that exists today, it’s working, they’ve had some bumps in the road but the reality is transformation can happen when industry, governments and First Nations are working together. 


Panel Thanked by Doron Grosman, CEO, Global Container Terminals

  • Each of us has a different set of takeaways from the conversation. Thank you.
  • Our panelists were exceptional, they challenged us in our thinking, allowing us to break loose of old paradigms and to act differently.
  • This panel is of particular interest to us at GCT because we operate where the land meets the tidal waters in the Salish Sea at Roberts Bank. 
  • GCT is a Vancouver-headquartered business, the largest container terminal operator in Canada and Canada’s largest employer of maritime employees. 
  • We believe it is our responsibility – not only as a business but as good citizens – to ensure the future for generations to come, our grandchildren and great grandchildren and all the generations thereafter.
  • Decisions today will have lasting impacts on people that far into the future.
  • All three GCT owners are signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Development and adhere to responsible investing principles.
  • While a global company, we’re committed to strengthening communities in which we operate. Our initiatives include buying and hiring locally, supporting charitable events, and protecting the surrounding environment and wildlife, reducing fuel consumption and emissions, and reducing our environmental footprint.
  • As demand for our container terminals to increase capacity continues to rise, sustainability and environmentally responsible practices will remain a core value.
  • We will be 100% focused on continuing to invest in the collective interests of all the First Nations people, the interests of Vancouver, the interests of British Columbia and of Canada. 
  • We’ve seen other developments in the Roberts Bank area go ahead without the fulsome consideration of cumulative impacts and that is not acceptable. 
  • We want to be active participants and contributors to reconciliation. We did not need the Declaration Act to inform us of our responsibility, but we’re certainly glad it will inform us collectively on how to work together for the right outcomes. 
  • We must first improve our collective understanding of cumulative effects as we look to the future and make decisions on how and where to build container capacity to meet the trade demands of our nation.  
  • That was made abundantly clear today in many ways. Those cumulative effects are particularly in the Salish Sea at Roberts Bank.
  • Our processes need to have shared prosperity outcomes. 
  • This was a very important discussion and I thank everyone for engaging.


In conclusion – and to reflect upon the message of balance and interconnection at the heart of the Coast Salish worldview – the following statement from a Saanich author (1995) emphasizes the meaning of being a Coast Salish or Salish Sea care-taker:

“The idea depicts not only moral but also practical obligations…. As care-takers, my people helped to maintain this balance. We helped to maintain the balance of all living things. From the oldest stories, I know that my ancestors were aware of this.”

As we move forward together, to build relationships and understanding and tackle issues like cumulative impacts, let us remember such care-taking and balance as a guide. 


Vanessa Scott is a researcher and specialist in communications and community engagement, and she has lived in the Salish Sea region throughout her life. 


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Illustration by Annalee Kornelson, Drawing Change

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Dr. Michelle Corfield moderated the session on Jan. 14, 2020.