Ucluelet’s hesitance to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday looks to have hatched its largest Canada Day celebration to date, thanks to some neighbourly First Nation collaboration
The community holds its Canada Day festivities each year at the village green, but talks are underway for this year’s festivities to be shared with the Ucluelet First Nation.
The two communities met on Jan. 23 to discuss a variety of issues, including the uneasiness Ucluelet’s municipal council had towards celebrating the anniversary of Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1867, specifically around how First Nations might be feeling about the festivities.
The conversation that came from that uneasiness resulted in the two communities creating a plan to celebrate Canada Day together.
Ucluelet First Nation president Les Doiron told the Westerly News after the meeting that he wasn’t surprised by Ucluelet’s hesitance to cheer the anniversary.
“I think there’s a lot of reluctancy in a lot of different non-native communities and that people have their genuine concerns. It’s a very, very touchy and sensitive topic,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s party or whoever it is, there have been a lot of different things and promises over the years that haven’t developed and worked out the way they were supposed to. When stuff like that happens, and promises are made and not fulfilled, then what happens is some parties end up with a bad taste in their mouths…I think the district of Ucluelet along with numerous other cities and villages and communities across Canada are probably in the same boat. Everyone is a little reluctant and afraid on how to address the topic.”
He said bringing Ucluelet and the Ucluelet First Nation together on Canada Day would be far more valuable than avoiding the topic and suggested the mutual celebration could include added festivities like canoe races and a salmon barbecue.
“There’s no better way to communicate than to sit down and eat together,” he said. “We’re trying to make things better. We can’t be looking back in the rear view mirror and worrying about that. We’ve got to look outside the big window here and look ahead.”
He noted youth in both communities attend the same schools and that working together to share celebrations and co-host events is the best path forward.
“It’s mandatory that we keep working together and that we work to develop and become stronger and become a better overall community,” he said.
“It’s a continuation of part of the reconciliation that’s going on across the nation…I think that, if we want to move ahead, then that’s part of what the process has to be. We have to work together as one in order to develop the relationships between our communities.”
He added that signing the Maa-nulth Treaty in 2007 gave the Nation an important ability to push for positive change.
“The Maa-nulth treaty, which we signed, is giving us the authority and the power to have our own destiny and control our own destiny. If we want to do that, we have to keep it in our own hands, but we need to be allies, not enemies,” he said.
“We need to sit at the table and be part of what the district of Ucluelet is doing and the same thing with them with us.”
He cited strengthening the Nation’s relationship with Ucluelet as his top priority when he was elected president in May, 2015.
“In my first 45 days, my whole direction was to go and build a bridge between the district of Ucluelet and the citizens of [the Ucluelet First Nation],” he said. “That was my sole purpose. That’s been continuous and will be until the end of my term; to develop a good working relationship and friendship…We need to continue working together to make things better.”
He said the communities proved their ability to collaborate effectively during the recent interview process to select the next RCMP detachment commander who will oversee Ucluelet, the Ucluelet First Nation and the Toquaht First Nation.
“We sat there and we had some pretty serious conversation with the district of Ucluelet and with the RCMP to develop the consultation arrangement that the Maa-nulth treaty allows us to have with the province and with the RCMP and how we’re policed,” he said.
“That was a great consultation and collaboration to go through and we aced it. That had never happened in history before, so that’s pretty monumental and I think that’s how we started and really bonded and that’s the path we’re going to continue going.”
He hopes to see the Nation’s relationship with Ucluelet strengthened through open communication and commended Ucluelet for its willingness to collaborate.
“They’ve been a great neighbour. They’ve basically giving open arms. They are excited about the possibilities of having communications with our government and legislature and have been amazing for us,” he said. “Chuu. Kleco.”