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Reconciling the past, inspiring the future

Just over a year ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, which contained 94 calls to action.

[QNSA conference organizers]
Organizers of the Inspiring a Generation conference map out their camapign schedule. (Submitted photo)

Moving those recommendations forward will be the overarching focus of an upcoming conference organized by the Queen’s Native Student Association (QNSA).

“The goal of the conference is to show that everyone, especially young people, has a part to play in the reconciliation process,” says Darian Doblej (Artsci’18), a co-chair of Inspiring a Generation, which will take place Feb. 2-4. “We anticipate that the participants will engage in debates and question what more they can be doing to advance reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and Canadian society.”

While reconciliation is the broad theme of the conference, the sessions will focus specifically on how economic growth fits into the reconciliation agenda. As the organizers explain, “our conference discusses this economic growth – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and what it means on the ground for everyday people. We know that in Canada, meaningful, positive growth only occurs in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples … These discussions will bring leaders together and offer solutions to our shared challenges.”

Organizers have invited a mix of students, community leaders, elected officials, and civil servants to participate in the conference. The Hon. David Zimmer, Ontario minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and the Hon. Liz Sandals, President of the Treasury Board, will offer remarks at the conference. Other confirmed attendees include Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the Hon. Patty Hajdu, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, and Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Indigenous Chair on Truth and Reconciliation at Lakehead University.

A majority of the conference will feature a series of work sessions, where small groups of delegates from different backgrounds and experiences will engage in frank discussions.

“The conference is a great opportunity for student delegates to interact with current leaders,” Mr. Doblej says. “We also think the professionals will benefit hearing from students and learning what’s important to them.”

The conference will also feature social sessions where delegates can relax and discuss the day’s topics. At the social sessions, participants will have the opportunity to view the finalists from the QNSA National Art Project. QNSA received many more submissions than it expected, with artists from across Canada sending in 50 pieces of art for consideration.

“We want to showcase young artists who are celebrating Indigenous ways of being through art,” Mr. Doblej says. “The national art project acknowledges that debates around reconciliation happen in more than one media.”

The conference is open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, as well as students from across all disciplines. The deadline to sign up is Jan. 25 at midnight. Visit the Inspiring a Generation website for more information.