On the Road to Truth and Reconciliation: Travelling the Path
Image source: The Government of Canada
In September 2021, the Action Identification Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation was formed as a joint initiative between AFP Canada and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada boards. Its focus was to determine possible actions that AFP in Canada could take on Truth and Reconciliation. AFP Daily has created a three-part series, On the Road to Truth and Reconciliation, so members can learn about the working group, how it went about its work, what it learned and, ultimately, the actions it identified for AFP on Truth and Reconciliation. This is Part Two in the series, Travelling the Path. On October 27, we published Part One, Before Setting Out and November 10, Part Three, Unpacking the Trip was published.
“I’ve been a social justice activist all my life. This is what gets me up every morning,” said Jennifer Johnstone, chair-elect of AFP Canada, as she began the job of co-chairing the working group that was tasked to come up with a plan of action that AFP could authentically implement around Truth and Reconciliation.
“I witnessed visible anti-Indigenous racism as a child growing up in B.C. in the 60s and 70s. When I was a teenager, I read a book that fundamentally changed my perspective on the history of Indigenous peoples in North America, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. It made me want to know more specifically about what happened in Canada,” explained Johnstone. “In my work with feminist organizations, we seek to understand intersectionality and identify the places where we can stand in solidarity with each other. The question as we began this work for AFP was—What could AFP do to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people?”
“We came at the work with the sense we had a lot to learn,” said Susan Storey, CFRE, past chair, AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada. “We wanted to be humble and consultative recognizing the need for a new approach and a fresh set of thinking. We didn’t want to approach it with the idea that we knew more than we did. That, and the idea that our action plan had to fit within the mandate of AFP’s mission provided the initial direction for the group.”
Taking stock of the work currently underway in the sector on Indigenous issues was one of the working group’s first tasks—identifying initiatives taking place across the country and the people who were leading those initiatives.
“We wanted our work to be informed by Indigenous leaders, but we didn’t want to be a burden to those leaders at a time when they already had a lot on their shoulders,” explained Sana Mahboob, board member of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada.
The working group members reached out to several Indigenous leaders across the country to seek their input including Indigenous fundraisers such as Sharon Redsky, a member of First Nation Shoal Lake #40, who works in fundraising and strategic development, and Rowena Veylan, a Dunne-za woman and founder of The New School of Fundraising, both of whom provided invaluable feedback to the working group. It was a conscious discussion and decision among the working group that honorariums be given for all consultations in recognition and appreciation of the gift of knowledge and lived experience.
“As the framework for this working group was developed, we all had a chance to provide input,” said Darius Maze, CFRE, secretary of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada. “What became clear was that the philanthropic sector and the nonprofit sector represent two very different scopes of work. We agreed that philanthropy is much more specifically lined up with the mandate of AFP.”
“There is a conversation among some philanthropists about how to change philanthropy and use it for the pursuit of equity,” said Johnstone. “We are finally looking at how to balance the needs of the beneficiary with the needs of the donor—and we are starting to have a conversation about the decolonization of fundraising.”
While education is one of the core offerings of AFP and it emerged among the recommendations from this working group, there was a decision by the working group that AFP not provide Indigenous History lessons. “We could provide direction to resources, but not recreate them,” said Johnstone.
“Our job as working group members, and as fundraisers in general, is to interrogate our own intentions. Every member of the working group also looked at their own knowledge and lived experience as a reference point to understand the experiences of others,” explained Jennifer.
“There was a combination of internal reflection and external learnings by each member,” said Scott Fortnum, CFRE, ACFRE, treasurer, AFP Canada. “Everyone in the working group was in a different place in terms of exposure to Indigenous culture. For me, I really gained a much better understanding of the many systemic issues. We are just beginning to understand the depths of the challenges.”
“In discussions of the terms of the framework for the group, I was pushing education because I didn’t know a lot about this,” said Rea Ganesh, secretary of the board, AFP Canada. “I ended up doing my own research by digging into the archives and speaking to Indigenous people. And I learned so much from what they told me.”
“We need to invest the time and effort into creating a space where Indigenous people would want to be … We need to work to change the room. For a long time, it’s been how can we come and help you succeed in this space, our space? But we need to focus on changing our space to be one that welcomes Indigenous people,” said Johnstone.
“When we talked to Indigenous-led organizations, we had to appreciate and recognize the value of what people were bringing to us. Leadership must come from Indigenous people. And we must have something to bring to that relationship,” she added.
“In the process of discussing Truth and Reconciliation, the issue of equity also came up, as it has through all the IDEA work AFP has been doing,” said Mahboob. “It is an integral part of how each of us see ourselves, and others.”
“As we learned more through meaningful engagement with Indigenous leaders, questions continued to come up. We were continually asking ourselves what we could do in response. Some things we had control over, some things we didn’t,” said Fortnum. “There were expectations around this work. We knew there were many big problems and we wondered what we could do to be effectual, but we knew we needed to start somewhere.”
“At times, it felt like our work wasn’t moving us forward,” said Ganesh. “Then, when we took stock, we saw that our discussions had brought us to a place where we could come up with what meaningful recommendations.”
“One of the things that’s always important to me is accountability,” said Maze. “In terms of what came out of it, how do we hold ourselves accountable? Are the actions wise, manageable, and achievable? Do they build trust?” These were the questions we had to ask ourselves every step of the way.