BCLA Perspectives

Truth and Reconciliation: The inaugural committee of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations

Something very exciting is happening quietly across Canada. Librarians representing every region of the country are working together on the Canadian Federation of Library Associations-Fédération Canadienne des Associations de Bibliothèques’ (CFLA-FCAB) first directive: The Truth and Reconciliation Committee. This is the first work of its kind in Canada—a national effort by the Library and Archives community to examine and give recommendations on long term support for Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) peoples of Canada. The goal is to promote education on Indigenous issues, to support reconciliation, and to meet the needs of Indigenous communities. The outcome will be a living document that can be referred to by libraries and library associations on best practices and recommendations on how to accomplish these directives.

The committee is chaired by Camille Callison, Indigenous Services Librarian and Liaison Librarian for Anthropology, Native Studies, and Social Work at the University of Manitoba. Drawing on the strength of the medicine wheel as a framework, Callison has separated the committee into four teams: Team Yellow, Team White, Team Red, and Team Black. These teams represent the four sections of the medicine wheel and each has a specific area of focus.

Team Yellow (Emotional):

Team Yellow is examining existing relationships and developing strategies for establishing new ones. The team is networking with the Aboriginal Roundtable Working Group on the National Aboriginal Library Association (NALA), as well as various committees and libraries on reserves. It is also conducting an environmental scan of existing relationships between libraries and Indigenous peoples of Canada. Examples include NALA, BCLA’s First Nations Interest Group (FNIG), Saskatchewan Library Association’s Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples, International Indigenous Librarians Forum, and the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums.

Team White (Mental):

Team White is mapping existing and intended activity around the relevant Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action to identify current gaps. Once the gaps are identified the team will make recommendations on how to best address the existing gaps through action. Special attention is given to covering all library sectors in this process.

Team Black (Physical):

Team Black is running an environmental scan of best practices already in place across Canada. The goal is to circulate the information in the form of a First Nations Toolkit and to foster greater co-operation at the federal level.

Team Red (Spiritual):  

Team Red is tasked with decolonizing library services. In particular, the team is reviewing existing attempts at decolonization with a focus on Library of Congress Subject Headings, classification systems, and protecting Indigenous Knowledge.  Recommendations will follow.

Applying the framework of the medicine wheel, the committee recognizes that just as all things are interconnected, so too are the separate teams within the committee. In order to strengthen this connection while maintaining focus, the teams as well as the full committee meet bi-weekly by email and tele-conference. A report will be submitted to CFLA-FCAB in time for the Annual General Meeting on Feb. 1, 2017, and will include recommendations on how to proceed.

The CLFA-FCAB has given the Library and Archives community of Canada a powerful message by making the Truth and Reconciliation Committee its inaugural committee. The CLFA-FCAB has signalled that this work should be high on the priority list for all libraries, and that the newly formed CLFA-FCAB is in a position to foster collaboration across the country to support libraries and library associations embarking on new paths of service.

Joëlle Samson is the Head of Outreach Services at the Thompson-Nicola Regional District Library System in Kamloops, BC, and a BCLA-FNIG representative on the CFLA-FCAB Truth and Reconciliation Committee.