We agreed to pursue this collaboration for a few important reasons. The featured speaker was to be then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Hon. Beverly McLaughlin, thanks to the Canadian Club. Because of her important judicial record on Indigenous rights, both we and our Musqueam hosts welcomed this opportunity. All the partners were honoured that the emcee was to be a prominent Musqueam leader, Wade Grant, Special Advisor to the Office of the Premier of British Columbia. As a symbol of the important and venerable relationship between many Musqueam families and families of East Asian heritage (and in particular, of Chinese heritage), the formal procession for the Ceremony was bracketed by performers from two traditions: one Indigenous to this land (Musqueam), another from other shores. Alec Dan and Carl Point, Musqueam Indian Band Drummers, ushered in the procession, and Master Jim Su and his Tai Chi Class drummed the procession out. The heart of the event was the Citizenship Ceremony, over which Robert Douglas Watt, Lieutenant, Royal Victorian Order, presided.
What made the event consistent with our mission and values was the process and the messages shared by all the presenters, including the emcee, the Chief Justice, the Laurier Chair, the presiding citizenship judge, and the local Member of Parliament. The planning process involved serious attention to protocols to guide all the partners, IRCC and our hosts in considering whether and how to proceed. Representatives of the four partner organizations and the IRCC travelled to the Musqueam Village to discuss this possible event with Musqueam officials. It was understood that it would not be appropriate for the Musqueam Council to sponsor the event, but everyone supported Wade Grant serving as emcee. We had an honest, respectful discussion about the complexity of this particular event: a Canadian citizenship ceremony inside the Musqueam Cultural Pavilion one month before Canada’s 150th birthday, on the ancestral lands of a people whose ancestors had lived on those lands for thousands of years.
Committed as we are at The Laurier to respectful collaboration, transparency and accountability, as well as to reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and Canadians, we were pleased that the messages shared that day by every presenter engaged directly and frankly the complexity of this event: the juxtaposition of Canada at 150 years and Musqueam at thousands of years. These new Canadian citizens were treated to a serious exploration of the tensions between celebrating the best and the worst of Canadian history and culture: saluting Canada’s achievements and confronting Canada’s historic injustices. We were privileged to participate in welcoming our new fellow citizens to Canada by recognizing its promise and the serious, important work of reconciliation that lies ahead.