Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada

January 23, 2014

Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada was one of the most comprehensive events ever held in Canada to highlight the knowledge and expertise that stakeholders themselves bring to reconciling injustices. Included in the dialogue’s 109 participants were community leaders involved in the reconciliation of specific injustices, representatives from three levels of government, decision-makers from major institutions and members of the public.

The event took place as part of the 2014 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue, and featured award recipient Chief Robert Joseph as keynote speaker. A major output is the Dialogue Report, which highlights principles developed by participants to support the reconciliation of a broad range of historical and contemporary injustices in Canadian society.

Major themes from the report include:

  • Clarity of purpose about the intended beneficiaries of reconciliation and the roles of other stakeholders
  • Addressing power structures through participatory decision making, balanced community representation and responsiveness to communities that lack political influence
  • Developing shared values and intentions to create a focus on long-term relationships and outcomes rather than short-term political actions
  • Acknowledgement, education and informed action, where governments take steps to communicate the full history and scope of past injustices without revisionism
  • More than I’m Sorry, where governments demonstrate accountability by taking substantive actions to repair the harm resulting from past injustices
  • A deep exchange of ideas and experienceswhere opportunities exist for in-depth, two way communication between government and the affected community, space is available for communities to work through internal disagreement, and opportunities exist for affected individuals to tell their stories

In addition to the Dialogue Report, the event speaker videos and updated Discussion Guide provide ongoing educational references about Canada’s response to historical and contemporary injustices. Included in the Discussion Guide is an introduction to the intentions of reconciliation, an explanation about why the topic of reconciling injustice is important to Canada, a set of six case studies on injustice, and a list of key concepts and questions for further discussion.


Chief Robert Joseph, Keynote

Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, Recipient of the 2014 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue.

SFU’s 2014 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue will honour recipient Chief Robert Joseph’s tireless work to renew relationships among Canada’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, built on a foundation of openness, dignity, understanding and hope. Chief Joseph is a Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, Member of the National Assembly of First Nations Elder Council, and Special Advisor to both Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Indian Residential School Resolutions Canada, among other distinctions.
As Co-Chair of British Columbia’s September 2013 national Truth and Reconciliation event and Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, Chief Joseph led a historic effort to unite Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. Events included a 70,000-person Walk for Reconciliation that brought Canada’s many cultures to walk a path together in a shared commitment to reconciliation.

Judge Maryka Omatsu

Maryka Omatsu, a third generation Japanese Canadian, was born in Hamilton, Ontario. She graduated with a M.A. from the U. of T. and an LL.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School. 

During the following 37 years, Maryka has been a lawyer for 16 years, practised human rights, environmental and criminal law; worked for all levels of Government; taught in Toronto, China and Japan; chaired the Ontario Human Rights Appeals Tribunal and adjudicated for the Ontario Law Society.  21 years ago, Maryka was the first woman of East Asian ancestry to be appointed a judge in Canada.  Today, she is semi-retired, judges part time in Toronto, and lives in both Vancouver and Toronto.

Maryka was active in the Japanese Canadian community’s struggle for redress, as a member of the National Association of Japanese Canadians negotiation team. Her book, Bittersweet Passage documented that history and won several prizes. It was published in Japan in 1994.

Dara Parker

Executive Director, QMUNITY, BC’s Queer Resource Centre.

Dara Parker is a community planner with a background in diversity and inclusion and 15 years’ experience working in non-profits and local government. She is a regular commentator on queer issues and has been featured on Global BC, CTV, CBC, CKNW, The Vancouver Sun, The Georgia Straight and The Vancouver Courier.

She began her career working in international development and has travelled to 48 countries, spanning five continents. Her CIDA-funded youth engagement work in Lesotho (Southern Africa), inspired her to return to pursue a Masters in Planning at the University of British Columbia, with a focus on how to build inclusive cities. 

Dara’s notable achievements include: working for Kids Help Phone, the United Nations Association in Canada, the City of Burnaby, and Cuso International.  For three years Dara consulted with UN-Habitat on their inaugural Youth Advisory Board, helping mainstream youth participation throughout the organization. 

Dara volunteers as Co-President of the United Nations Association in Canada Vancouver Board, promoting public engagement on global issues.  In 2010/2011, Dara took a sabbatical year travelling in Colombia and Spain to learn Spanish and write about the intersections of culture and sustainability.  An active athlete, Dara can be found teaching snowboarding on Grouse Mountain or playing volleyball around Vancouver.

Robbie Waisman

Buchenwald survivor, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre Speaker.

Robbie Waisman was born in Skarszysko, Poland and liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp at the age of 14. He immigrated to Canada as a war orphan in 1948. Today, Mr. Waisman is a retired businessman, past president and current board member of the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society, and a survivor outreach speaker who educates thousands of BC students annually. Mr. Waisman was recently named as an ‘Honorary Witness’ by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Dr. Henry Yu

UBC History Professor, Co-Chair of City of Vancouver's "Dialogues between Urban Aboriginal, First Nations, and Immigrant Communities" Project, 2010-2012.

Dr. Henry Yu was born in Vancouver, B.C., and received his BA in Honours History from UBC and an MA and PhD in History from Princeton University. Besides being the Principal of St. John's College, Yu is involved in the collaborative effort to re-imagine the history of Vancouver and of Canada by focusing on how migrants from Asia, Europe, and other parts of the Americas engaged with each other and with First Nations peoples historically.

He was the Co-Chair of the City of Vancouver’s project, “Dialogues between First Nations, Urban Aboriginal, and Immigrant Communities”. Yu is committed to expanding the engagement between academic research and the communities which the university serves. Between 2010-2012, he was the Project Lead for the $1.175 million “Chinese Canadian Stories” project involving universities and a wide spectrum of over 29 community organizations across Canada. In 2012 he was honoured for his work with a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal. He is currently writing a book entitled "Pacific Canada," another book entitled "How Tiger Woods Lost His Stripes," as well as a third book project which examines the history of Chinese migration in the Pacific world.

Naveen Girn

Cultural researcher for SFU’s Komagata Maru Journey project and community engagement specialist.

Naveen Girn is a cultural researcher and community engagement specialist whose interests center on Vancouver's South Asian community, intercultural oral history and curation.  Naveen was co-curator for the Museum of Vancouver's exhibit, “ Vancouver's Bhangra Story” which received an Award for Excellence from the Canadian Museum Association. He was the cultural researcher for SFU’s Komagata Maru project ( and is currently curating several exhibitions on the Komagata Maru for the centennial commemoration in 2014 including the Museum of Vancouver and Surrey Museum. As principal at Digital Handloom, Naveen leads a community storytelling practice that engages with and shares untold community stories.

Select Media & Commentary

Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada, The Vancouver Sun Op-Ed (January 29, 2014)

Radio Interview, The Shift with Mike Eckford, CKNW AM980 (content no longer available)

Blog post by Andrew Griffith, former Director General, Citizenship and Multiculturalism

Photo Gallery

Program made possible in part by contributions from:

Special thanks to event advisors Robert Daum, Larry Grant and Diana Juricevic.