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Vancouver Island First Nations look to sports for reconciliation

International declaration seeks to advance truth, respect, reconciliation through sport
Indigenous community members, international delegates and Victoria Forum organizers sit for a photo next to a hand-carved paddle, designed by Darlene Gait of Esquimalt (Xwsepsum) Nation, inside the University of Victoria’s First Peoples House. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

Participants gathered inside the University of Victoria’s First Peoples House for a podium celebration highlighting sports’ powerful role in Indigenous reconciliation.

Members of Indigenous communities joined organizers of the 2022 Victoria Forum on Wednesday (Aug. 31) to announce the new Commonwealth Lekwungen Sport Declaration on Truth, Reconciliation and Partnership with Indigenous Peoples in an effort to address historical and current issues impacting Indigenous Peoples.

“I am proud to lead the development of this visionary and action-oriented declaration that will have a long-term, positive impact for Indigenous youth,” Ava Hill, former elected chief of Six Nations of the Grand River, said in a UVic news release.

The purpose of the declaration – inspired by a 2019 meeting in London, England between representatives of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the Victoria Forum – is to promote and protect the rights and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples through sport, starting with the next edition of the Commonwealth Games in 2026.

An international working group drafted the declaration at a roundtable event during this year’s forum which took place from Aug. 28 to 30. The declaration is a document outlining tangible measures that event owners, sports organizations and governments can take to prioritize Indigenous involvement in competition.

Sport has a unique ability to bridge divides around the world, and has a vibrant and rich history among Indigenous communities throughout Canada and beyond, according to Hill, who’s also a board director of Commonwealth Sport Canada and an advisory member of the Victoria Forum.

“I am delighted to be at the Victoria Forum with so many international delegates who share our belief that sport can play a vital role in addressing global issues that affect citizens, athletes and communities,” CGF president Dame Louise Martin, said in the release.

“We are building on the Reconciliation Action Plan of Gold Coast 2018, and the enormously successful celebration of Commonwealth diversity and inclusion at Birmingham 2022. Engaging affected groups, sports bodies, which include our 72 members, and universities, our aim is to co-create a global declaration related to reconciliation and partnership through sport. We are enormously thankful to the Victoria Forum for playing an important part in this project.”

Expected to be ratified by the CGF later this year, the declaration will be promoted to other international sports bodies in hopes that more join the call to action.

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Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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