Building alliances: The Grand Rassemblement 2023 and the path to reconciliation and economic growth
Indigenous leaders and municipal officials from across Quebec have gathered this week for the Summit for Reconciliation and the Greater Economic Circle in Gatineau. This meeting marks one of the first times these two groups have come together and aims to foster collaboration, create new economic relationships, and result in concrete commitments. In his speech, Chef Dylan Whiteduck, a member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Nation, shared the inspiring story of his people's history. He explained how they established their reserve in 1851 after negotiating with Upper Canadian authorities, and he specifically mentioned the role of their original chief, Pakinawatik, in this process. According to Chef Dylan Whiteduck, Chief Pakinawatik was inspired by what he saw in Toronto and realized the importance of having a place to call home: "Chief Pakinawatik, saw the trade and the cities being developed and he realized that we also needed our own space and our own lands to call home. And I want to thank our first chief for his forward thinking."
Despite the difficult history of his people, Chef Dylan Whiteduck remained positive about the future. He acknowledged the economic opportunities and growth that this Gathering would bring to his community and emphasized the importance of First Nation involvement in the province of Quebec: "The province of Quebec cannot thrive without First Nation involvement." Through his words, Chef Dylan Whiteduck conveyed the resilience and determination of his people, as well as their commitment to building a brighter future.
During the opening ceremony, Gatineau Mayor France Bélisle expressed her enthusiasm for the event and the opportunities it presented for collaboration and understanding between communities. She began her speech by acknowledging the significance of the event taking place: "I am so pleased to be here on the unceded land of the Algonquin and Anishinabe people." Mayor Bélisle went on to explain how events like this Gathering could strengthen relationships and build bridges between communities: "This kind of event will help us get to know one another better, work closer together and to better understand one another and most importantly - to help us develop a profound and deeper relationship." Through her words, Mayor Bélisle conveyed her commitment to fostering mutual respect and collaboration among all communities involved in the event.
During the event, Chef Ghislain Picard de l’Assemblée des Premières Nations Québec-Labrador (APNQL) emphasized the importance of cooperation and building alliances between communities. He remarked, "Today is not about competition, it is about cooperation.
I feel very proud to be standing here today, looking back at how many years it took to get to this place. I am very proud of Chef Dylan Whiteduck and his speech about the history of his community because that’s what it’s all about." Chef Picard highlighted the shared experiences of displacement among Indigenous peoples, but also noted the potential for alliances and collaboration: "We are all displaced peoples because we once occupied so much of the land and we’ve been moved around so much, but Chef Dylan Whiteduck spoke about alliances and that’s the keyword and what this summit is all about. Building Alliances."
Through his words, Chef Picard emphasized the importance of working together to build a stronger future for all Indigenous communities. He emphasized that municipalities have a responsibility to open doors for First Nations communities and that reconciliation is not free, highlighting the economic chasm that separates Indigenous communities from non-Indigenous Canadians.
The Grand Rassemblement 2023 marks a critical juncture in the relationship between First Nations communities and elected officials. By providing a space for immersion in Indigenous culture and fostering closer relationships between communities, this event is a major step towards reconciliation. However, the initiative goes even further by bringing together diverse economic players to discuss pressing issues like sustainable development, housing, and equipment sharing. Through concrete commitments and collaboration, the hope is to drive economic growth and create a better future for all. As Chief of Kitigan Zibi and co-host of the event, Dylan Whiteduck eloquently highlighted the importance of this gathering, reminding attendees that Indigenous peoples are still here and that Quebec cannot function without them. The Grand Rassemblement 2023 represents a unique and historic opportunity for reconciliation and progress, and we can only hope that it will lead to tangible results in the years to come.
Photo Caption: Opening Ceremony of The Grand Rassemblement 2023 at the Maison du Citoyen
Photo Credit: Tashi Farmilo