Living Waters Rally 2012

I likely should have written down my reflections on last weekends Living Waters Rally before reading all the feedback of the delegates – as I did this morning. In hindsight, the weeks break to decompress, to evaluate in my head and then to reflect on the first round of feedback from the attendee’s has given me perspective, and honest review.

I am proud of the event that we pulled together. And there was definitely a ‘we’. We had over 25 speakers, workshop leaders, event planners, sponsors and steering committee delegates who contributed to the success of the rally. There was an invigorating energy that reverberated off the walls all weekend. The round-table discussions gave delegates the opportunity to meet each other and talk about successes, opportunities and challenges facing our sector. As a facilitator, I feel like I could have asked any question and as soon as I said ‘go’ the room would inevitably fill with the buzz of eager voices.

Despite the positive feeling of the weekend, it was not perfect. There is room for improvement. Our opening discussion on Indigenous water issues across Canada was intended to ignite a theme of discussions to continue throughout the weekend. What many delegates might not know is that earlier drafts of the agenda had more content and speakers to keep this specific conversation going. Without making excuses, for one reason or another they did not manifest. We can do better and, in fact, we must do better. The importance of Indigenous water issues in Canada can simply not go ignored. Indigenous communities across Canada are on the frontlines of issues of water contamination, and unsafe drinking water.

Cecelia Brooks highlighted in Friday evenings opening discussion that treaties are not just “Aboriginal” treaty. They are all of our treaties. Rally delegates, as largely non-indigenous community members, have a responsibility to uphold our own treaty obligations. Treaties were agreements made between some Indigenous communities in Canada and those wishing to join them on the land. They are just as much ‘our’ agreements and we all have an obligation to understand them and ensure they are upheld. It also is important to acknowledge, as we heard from Chief Whiteduck on Friday evening, that not all land in Canada is ceded. There are many indigenous nations that did not agree to share, or settle on the terms of sharing, their lands with settler communities.

This was one discussion at the rally that I was truly sad to see fall from the Rally agenda in the final week. It is one that I would like to see launch our post-Rally webinar series and I hope that you will join with us for this important conversation.

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