We are at a pivotal point in Canada’s history, and hosts Merrell-Ann Phare and Michael Miltenberger want to talk about it. In this series, they explore reconciliation by talking with people who are living it. They have in-depth, funny, and revealing discussions with a variety of people, from activists to comedians, who are all focusing on improving Canada through reconciliation in big, small, and surprising ways.
Reconciliation tends to be perceived as a door that only swings. It’s like a bat-wing door. Indigenous/non-Indigenous. However, in reality, it’s a 360 degrees. Each episode will demonstrate hosts Merrell-Ann Phare and Michael Miltenberger’s authentic breadth of knowledge, commitment to fairness, empathy and an unvarnished truth as they recalibrate your understanding what is going on in reconciliation.
Meet The Hosts: Merrell-Ann Phare and Michael Miltenberger
In this introductory episode, Porcupine writer Deborah Bowers turns the tables on hosts Merrell-Ann and Michael to find out why they're doing this podcast. She asks about their stories, backgrounds, and personal experience with reconciliation in Canada.
Reconciliation Through Conservation: Mining, the Environment, and Development that Conflicts with the Rights and Values of Indigenous Peoples
Steven Nitah, a Dene from the Northwest Territories, negotiated a protected area in the heart of diamond mining country and his traditional territories. As Steve will tell you, this protected area, five times the size of Prince Edward Island, is an essential part of reconciliation for his people because it’s about co-governance.
Why You Should Listen
Canada has a dark history of bypassing Indigenous treaty rights to take land for national parks. Steven has helped shift negotiations between Indigenous communities and the Government of Canada, from debating rights to agreeing on shared responsibilities. He says government and Indigenous communities have a shared duty to co-manage the land.
Steven’s optimism brings us closer to a future where reconciliation exists through protecting ecologically and culturally significant lands
About Our Guest
Steven Nitah was raised by his great grandparents out on the land in Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories. Elected to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly in 1999, he served as the Chair of the Special Committee on the Review of the Official Languages Act.
After his four-year term as an MLA, Nitah took the position of president and CEO of the Denesoline Corporation, the economic development arm of the Łutsël K’é before transitioning to being their Negotiator in the Akaitcho land claims process.
Elected Chief of Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in 2008, and under his watch, the Ni Hatni Dene Guardians program began. Nitah and his team successfully negotiated establishment agreements with the federal government and the Government of Northwest Territories creating the Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area, National Park and Territorial Protected Area in August 2019.
Nitah served as core member of the Indigenous Circle of Experts from 2017-2018, contributing to a historic report, We Rise Together, about “achieving the Pathway to Canada Target 1 through the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in the spirit and practice of reconciliation.”
On the need for reconciliation based on a dark history with the Government of Canada
>> 13:22: We made treaty on July 25th, 1900. We agreed to share the land. We agreed to manage, help co-manage those lands and co-benefit from those lands. That was the spirit and intent with which we entered the treaty. And that’s what we honour and uphold in our relationship with Canada. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Canada. They didn’t enter into the treaty with that spirit and intent, they entered the treaty with a mandate to get to an agreement, agree to whatever, knowing that they have an assimilation policy in the works, and knowing that their intent was to pretty much get rid of Indigenous Peoples, do a full assimilation. 120 years later, we have a different relationship now.
On Canada’s approach to the land claim process
>> 15:40: The land claim process in Canada’s approach to negotiations has been confrontational by design. I liken it to trying to negotiate a divorce agreement when what we’re really intending to do is to negotiate a relationship agreement.
On the environmental effects of diamond mining in Canada
>> 22:08: Well, my nation has been surviving and thriving within that region for years. What threatened that is the destruction of the land and ecosystem. We have a huge territory in the Northwest Territories but it’s a very sensitive ecological environment.
The Human Right to a Healthy Environment: How It Can Transform Society and Achieve Reconciliation
If you think the United Nations has nothing to do with your day to day life, think again. Lawyer and United Nations Special Rapporteur David Boyd will show you how the human right to a healthy environment is a game-changer for reconciliation.
Why You Should Listen
Nobody in the world should bear a disproportionate burden of pollution on behalf of the rest of us so we can drive and fly, and do all the things we do. But, Indigenous Peoples do.
This episode reminds us that every single person has the right to live in a healthy environment. We need to get over the Western idea that we’re conquerors of the planet and nature is just a bunch of commodities for us to use and exploit. We need to reconcile the idea of rights with the idea of responsibilities. And learn from Indigenous Peoples who are incredible stewards of the land and water.
Bringing human rights to courts has improved the lives of many people in the world. Human rights bust things forward, change laws and transform systems. There’s still a long way to go, but as this episode reveals, there is hope in seeing the progress that’s been made.
This episode highlights the importance of TRC Call to Action 19.
About Our Guest
David R. Boyd is the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment and an associate professor of law, policy, and sustainability at the University of British Columbia, jointly appointed at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.
David Boyd is also the author of nine books and over 100 reports and articles on environmental law and policy, human rights, and constitutional law, plus a novel. His books include Thirst for Justice (2020), The Rights of Nature (2017), The Optimistic Environmentalist (2015), and The Environmental Rights Revolution (2012).
He lives on S,Dayes (Pender Island) with his partner and their daughter; loves to run, hike, kayak and cycle, and is the world record holder in the Barnacleman Triathlon! For more information see srenvironment.org.
On the United Nations and Reconciliation
>> 19:44: Those are really the three key elements, right? The energy system, the food system, and taking care of natural ecosystems. And I want to talk some more about that because I think that’s where these…that’s where reconciliation, Indigenous Peoples and the climate and biodiversity crisis converge again, in a place of optimism.
>> 25:22 We have a vision for the future. It’s called the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. And every person on earth should sit down and read those 17 goals because they describe a vision of the future that no one in their right mind could possibly disagree with. No poverty, no hunger, equality for everyone, clean energy, healthy biodiversity and ecosystems, education for all. I mean, it’s a vision of like heaven on earth and we know the pathways forward, but we have to act now if we’re going to get there.
On human rights and Indigenous Peoples
>> 06:56: You had Indigenous Peoples, environmental organizations, human rights activists, all clamoring for decades to get to that kind, you know, that final achievement of universal recognition of the right to water in 2010, that was a huge victory.
On Canada not voting for water to be a human right at the United N...
Addressing the Indigenous Health Gap: Reconciliation Through Bridging Western and Indigenous Medicines
Nicole Redvers walked into the wrong lecture at the University of Lethbridge and it changed her life. Now, as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, she works to help heal using traditional Indigenous medicine and Western medicine.
Why You Should Listen
The Indigenous approach to medicine focuses on guidance and healing while Western medicine focuses on solutions. This episode highlights how reconciliation in Indigenous health helps people heal in a safe, supportive way, across Canada and around the world. In addition, it demonstrates the need for change to address TRC Calls to Action around Indigenous health.
About Our Guest
Dr. Nicole Redvers is a doctor of naturopathic medicine. She is a member of the Deninu K’ue First Nation in the NWT and is currently an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences. She also co-developed the first Indigenous Health PhD degree program in North America.
She is co-founder and chair of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation based in the Canadian North. The foundation was awarded the million-dollar 2017 Arctic Inspiration Prize for their work with vulnerable populations within land-based healing settings in the Northwest Territories.
Dr. Redvers also authored the trade paperback book titled, ‘The Science of the Sacred: Bridging Global Indigenous Medicine Systems and Modern Scientific Principles.’
On an international level, she actively promotes the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in planetary health and education for sustainable health care. Her scholarly work engages a breadth of scholarly projects attempting to bridge gaps between Indigenous and Western ways in regards to individual, community, and planetary health.
Read Nicole’s full bio on University of North Dakota
On a her decision to return to her home in Canada to practise Indigenous medicine and traditional healing
>> 04:00: I was sitting in the airport in Edmonton on my way back after about six months in Africa. There was this older Dene woman—her knee was in a lot of pain. I went over and helped her get up, and just had this flash of awareness—I was going all over the world to work but where I was really needed was at home. So I made a very acute decision at that point to come back home to the North.
On racism in Canadian health care
>> 05:20 The main fundamental piece is structural issues within the health system that make it not a safe and trusting place for many Indigenous Peoples due to the historical trauma that have existed in the territory from colonization. I remember being in Fort Resolution and seeing one of the ladies with a bent finger with a wrapping around it. She said, “Oh, you know, I think it’s broken.” I said, “Oh, well, did you go to the nursing station?” And she said, “No, no, I’m not going on the nursing station. I’d rather just deal with it myself.” Again, another moment of realization where people are willing to suffer and be at home rather than go and seek support. We still have major issues that we need to deal with in the North and in the rest of Canada, and even the world. That thought process led to a serendipitous gathering of Elders and deciding that we needed to do something different. A few of us created the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation.
Finding Healing After Surviving Residential Schools in Canada
From residential school to singing on stage with George Jones, George Tuccaro shares his courageous journey from the drunk tank to professional CBC broadcaster, and why personal healing is essential to reconciliation…and joy.
Why You Should Listen
After being separated from family and forcibly stripped of their culture, many Indigenous Peoples who attended residential schools still suffer. It’s critical to understand how the legacy of residential schools and colonialism continue to negatively impact Indigenous communities.
After surviving residential school and tragically losing his brother, George turned to alcohol to cope. But he found a way to overcome his pain through sobriety, self-help groups, public speaking, music and humour. George is an inspiration and continues working to help others overcome the trauma that remains from their experiences.
This episode sheds light on the importance of TRC Calls to Action 19, 21, and 22.
About Our Guest
A member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, George Tuccaro began a career in broadcasting in 1971, when he became an Announcer-Operator with CBC North Radio in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. In 1979, Tuccaro joined the public service, becoming a communications officer with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Leaving that position in 1981, Tuccaro returned to broadcasting by again joining CBC North as a Coordinator of Aboriginal Languages Programming. In this position, Tuccaro worked to develop the promotion of Aboriginal languages in radio broadcasting, as well as producing an internationally acclaimed radio documentary on the rate of teen suicide in the north of Canada.
Between 1990 and 1991, Tuccaro was the Coordinator of the Cultural Industries Program, and created a booking agency for northern performing artists in the Northwest Territories. From then until 2002, Tuccaro hosted Trails End, a CBC North Radio program, and served as the anchor of Northbeat, the first daily current affairs television program in Canada’s north.
In 2002, Tuccaro retired from public broadcasting to start his own company, GLT Communications, through which he aimed to bring major events to the territory. Tuccaro has been awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and a 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal. On May 12, 2010, Tuccaro was appointed Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. On May 10, 2016, Tuccaro retired from his position as Commissioner.
On why residential schools were created
>> 03:00: They literally tried to reprogram us to take the Indian out of the child, I think was the objective back in those days.
On the history and effects of residential schools
>> 03:13: There’s a lot of issues that came out as a result of [residential schools]. I was a product of some of those issues as well after I left residential school. I was only there for six years. But in that time a lot of things had happened to a young boy who all of a sudden lost all the nurturing and everything.
>> 04:20: There’s some things that happened along the way that caused me to actually end up being an alcoholic
On healing from abuse he and others suffered at residential schools
>> 07:15: I tried to encourage a lot of men to [come to healing groups]. And so I think that’s still the challenge today is to get them in,
Reconciliation: Redefined by an Indigenous Spiritual Leader
What do a Cree Elder, a theologian, and an ex-Moderator of the United Church of Canada all have in common? They are all Stan McKay, and he’s going to talk to us about what a covenant of reconciliation is, and why the earth needs to be part of it.
Why You Should Listen
To build strong relationships with each other and the earth we need to look at reconciliation holistically. This episode sheds light on TRC Call to Action 46 and highlights how we all live together on this earth, and how everyone has a place in society — regardless of faith or beliefs.
About Our Guest
The Very Reverend Stan McKay made history as the first Aboriginal person to lead the United Church of Canada, serving as moderator from 1992 to 1994, where he was instrumental in pioneering a new road towards reconciliation.
As a spiritual leader he consistently seeks ways to build bridges between Christian beliefs and Aboriginal teachings, believing there is more to unite than divide us.
McKay was born into an extended family on Fisher River Cree Nation, where he attended the Fisher River and Birtle Indian Residential Schools. He graduated from The University of Winnipeg’s Faculty of Theology (now The United Centre for Theological Studies) in 1971, and for several decades supported training for the ministry, which enabled Aboriginal peoples to study in their own language.
As co-director of the Dr. Jessie Saulteaux Centre, he again created new pathways towards reconciliation by providing non-Aboriginal people with opportunities to learn about the culture of Aboriginal peoples. McKay received a 1997 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his efforts in finding a balance that respects the best of Aboriginal and Christian teachings.
As a respected community Elder, McKay is still offering his guidance and wisdom, working on reconciliation issues full time. He is part of the Collaborative Leadership Initiative, which works to establish common ground between Indigenous and local government leaders in southern Manitoba, Canada.
On the meaning and true spirit of reconciliation
>> 02:47: I’m learning day by day, what reconciliation might mean. And I think it is about rediscovering relationships; starting over again. I don’t think there is a very good record in Canadian history of Indigenous Peoples having a real place in society or, in the minds of the majority population, that Indigenous Peoples would have anything to contribute. So I think reconciliation needs to be redefined and needs to be looked at again in our context, and that its historic uses may not really help us in our present situation. It’s more helpful for me to talk about revisiting the treaties and engaging as peoples with some level of respect.
On reconciliation in respect to the pandemic
>> 17:00: Those of us who are on the margins of society, the Indigenous community, we’re very vulnerable in this time. But the earth also is very vulnerable. We must ponder more holistically what reconciliation means.
>> 25:39: When we’re all vulnerable, when we’re in this all together, it’s really a wonderful opportunity to consider reconciliation between peoples and with all of creation. I think Indigenous spiritual leaders have been pointing us throughout our history. We must care for each other, but must also care for the earth.
Wow! Standing O to you both for hosting these prickly conversations that WE ALL need to learn from. These episodes can help us find our own way through the prickliness; bring more of us out of denial and inspire to hope and action.
Timely, necessary and well-crafted. Honoured to share in this wisdom.
I loved hearing the conversations and different perspectives of the “unsung heroes” of reconciliation that Merrell-Ann and Michael brought onto the podcast. It’s essential listening for anyone trying to learn more about how they can contribute positively to reconciliation and build a better, more just country.