Hamilton Conference Inaugurates a New Chapter

Applying the lens of Truth and Reconciliation to all the work of heritage and regeneration

By Tom Urbaniak

Tom Urbaniak recently completed his term as chair, board of governors, of the National Trust for Canada.

A successful conference feels like a culmination, a conclusion, a high point for so much effort and energy. Actually, it inaugurates new lenses, new actions, new partnerships and a new chapter.  That is certainly the impact of our recent national conference, “Heritage Energized,” held in Hamilton, on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.

My board colleagues and I are very grateful to the staff and volunteers of the National Trust for Canada for their tremendous work in welcoming and profiling more than 530 delegates, plus the training workshops, productive roundtables, fund-raising boosts, award presentations, interactions with dozens of accomplished speakers, panelists, business and media leaders, and senior public officials, exchanges between youth and elders, not to mention the productive inter-cultural and inter-community dialogues.

The work we did together in Hamilton is an important milestone for heritage and regeneration in Canada.

Most critically, we are resolved to apply the lens of Truth and Reconciliation to all our work. In several roundtables held during the conference, and in discussions aided by keynote presenter Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, we discussed how this would be carried forward.

The implications will not be superficial. They will be profound.

At the start of the conference, and after a year of work, the Board of Governors of the National Trust for Canada unanimously adopted the “Principles of Reconciliation” – spelled out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – as overarching policy for the National Trust for Canada.

These Principles are available online. They are geared not just to governments. They speak to how Canadian civil society – of which the National Trust is a crucial component – can be friend, healer, leader, and co-catalyst in building new relationships of respect, honour, dignity and sharing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

This means that every aspect of our work now has to be examined for how it contributes, or could contribute, to reconciliation.

Applying the Principles involves re-calibrating our work to ensure that all that we do advances truth and reconciliation, and supports the work and aspirations of Indigenous nations, communities and fellow citizens.

I would like to acknowledge board colleagues for undertaking this important step, and in particular Lorna Crowshoe for her guidance. I would like to thank National Trust staff for embracing the principles, including Executive Director Natalie Bull for her commitment. I would like to thank the participants of the Indigenous Heritage Roundtable, which met in Hamilton for a full day during the conference, as well as the National Council, which consists of provincial organizations affiliated with the National Trust, for helping to focus our efforts.

This is a journey, not an event. It’s a pilgrimage, not a press release. We’ll be reporting to each other on progress for years to come.

The Hamilton Conference helped us to build those relationships and strengthen our resolve. It helped us to understand more and it gave us some new tools. “Heritage Energized” took on a significant meaning.

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