A great question was posed to a member of our team recently which prompted me to do something I had expressly planned not to - highlight all of the work V.I.A. has been doing in regards to reconciliation.
The question was posed by a local Indigenous business owner who asked what our company is doing to “actively advance reconciliation on Indigenous lands for Indigenous people.”
It's a great question, and I thought I'd answer it here, rather than keep it a private conversation. In fact, these important conversations should be happening more often, as many of us continue to listen, learn, and grow.
Using our platform to elevate Indigenous stories
Since being invited to come on board as an official partner of the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, this publication, which I founded in 2008, has been committed to using our platform to elevate Indigenous stories. To "actively advance reconciliation on Indigenous lands for Indigenous people" has become one of a few of our core missions here, and I had thought that making the commitment to walking the walk and talking the talk for years would mean that we needn't toot our own horn about it.
Social media is inclined to prove me wrong though, as there has been the occasion to have our parent company called out as greedy "colonizers" who are out to take advantage of Indigenous-owned businesses.
As a free news and lifestyle publication that covers everyone in Vancouver, for everyone in Vancouver, reconciliation may not appear to be our focus but it's a very intentional one that myself and my entire team are consistently working on. Some of this takes the form of relationship building with Indigenous groups and individuals; writing columns; producing, syndicating, and sharing news stories on the site, in the paper, and on social media; and featuring Indigenous people, places, and businesses on my @BCIsAwesome TikTok account.
Outside of my job here I privately give free mentorship to young, Indigenous business owners, I donate money to reconciliation efforts, and I support Indigenous businesses and artists by buying their products. I hope to lead by example for my staff of more than 20 full-time employees, as well as my family and non-Indigenous friends, all of whom are learning alongside me.
You'd be scrolling for quite some time if I listed out all of the coverage spotlighting the Indigenous community our in-house V.I.A. team has done over the past few years, however, I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to pick out some standout items that perhaps best represent what we are doing on the content side.
One thing that's easy to point to is our weekly newspaper. Over the past couple years I've intentionally made sure to regularly include Indigenous stories, voices, and faces on the front page. Our paper goes out in an edition of 112,000 free copies every Thursday, directly to homes and to street boxes throughout Vancouver. (Have a look at a few examples of those front pages below).
As side ventures to the V.I.A. website and newspaper, I have personally had a hand in producing TV show episodes de-colonizing the stories of Sasquatch and Ogopogo, and am so proud that our company has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to donate to help Indigenous youth.
While this work is often more tangible and can be pointed to easily with links and images, there is much intangible work happening behind the scenes.
That takes me back to the question posed to us by the local Indigenous business owner, and it leads to a follow-up question I've asked myself, my colleagues, and leaders within our company: What can we do better?
We've never implemented specific policies, approaches, or rates, when working with Indigenous-owned businesses. We've treated them the same as every other business that operates on the unceded lands on which we operate, and we're currently working with some stakeholders to see what might need to change.
We had never planned (and don't ever plan on) using our reconciliation efforts as any sort of selling point, and I hope that's clear here. We do it because we believe in it.
I'd like to thank the business owner who sparked this important conversation and let them and everyone else know that we will continue to listen and learn, as well as forge and foster relationships with B.C. First Nations, Indigenous businesses, organizations, and individuals.
As outgoing-MLA Melanie Mark has said on many occasions, "if we paddle together, we will get to our destination sooner."
Bob Kronbauer is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Vancouver Is Awesome