Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 14: Indigenizing the City of Vancouver — with Ginger Gosnell-Myers

Speakers: Melissa Roach, Jamie-Leigh Gonzales, Am Johal, Ginger Gosnell-Myers

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Melissa Roach  0:06 
You’re listening to Below the Radar, a knowledge mobilization project recorded out of 312 Main. This podcast is produced by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement.

Maria Cecilia Saba  0:17 
Below the Radar brings forward ideas to encourage meaningful exchanges across communities. 

Jamie-Leigh Gonzales  0:21 
Each episode we interview guests on topics ranging from environmental and social justice, arts, culture, community building, and urban issues. This podcast is recorded on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

[theme music]

Melissa Roach  0:42 
Welcome back to Below the Radar. My name is Melissa Roach and it is my privilege to introduce you to our next guest Ginger Gosnell-Myers. She's a Nisga'a Kwakawak'wak urban planner, researcher and policy expert, and she served as the city of Vancouver's first Indigenous relations manager from 2016 to 2018. Here, Ginger is in conversation with Am Johal, the director of SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement. They discuss how Vancouver as a municipality can better include, serve, and engage with the Indigenous communities in and around the city.

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Am Johal  1:21 
Thank you for joining us on Below the Radar. We're very excited and lucky to have Ginger Gosnell-Myers with us, who is a master's student in Public Policy at SFU. And recently worked as the Indigenous relations manager at the City of Vancouver. Welcome, Ginger.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  1:39 
Hi, thanks for having me.

Am Johal  1:41 
Yeah, great that you could join us. I know you're in the middle of your public policy research. And I want to talk to you a little bit about that a little bit later. But I just thought I'd start by ... Around the position that you had at the City of Vancouver, it was a very high profile position, a very important position in terms of working inside the City of Vancouver bureaucracy at a fairly high level. And of course, there's a lot of barriers in  public policy bureaucracies in terms of what's possible, and the kind of barriers that get in the way of the work and wondering if you can talk a little bit about what your role was, initially, and when you came into it, and some of your kind of early perspectives in terms of taking the job. And we can sort of jump into some more details a bit later.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  2:32 
When I started at the City of Vancouver, I also had an almost completed policy capstone under my belt. So I had already analyzed the city's deficiencies for Indigenous policy, and I compared it with other cities in Canada. So when I came to the City of Vancouver, I hit the ground running, I already knew what the possibilities were, and where we can start. And luckily, I was placed in the city manager's office, which meant that I had that 30,000 foot view of all of the city departments and had some great mentors within that—within that unit—that help point me in the right direction. But I did not start off as a senior planner. I started off as, you know, kind of an entry level planner, despite having done work across the country and working with the majority of the major municipalities across this country. So that was a little weird.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  3:34 
You know, I always felt like my work deserved to be recognized for what it was. And I think part of the ... part of the struggle was recognizing what it was that it was actually ... that I was actually doing. Trying to initiate Indigenous policy, trying to create pathways that recognized Indigenous worldviews and ideas is so foreign to our general Canadian society. They're not incompatible, but they're definitely foreign. And I spent a lot of my time trying to explain what it was that I felt could be changed and how it could be changed, and trying to get across to staff who needed to understand that they themselves were part of governing. And I would constantly say, what is the point of being government if you don't have the freedom to govern how you see fit? And that providing policy options, providing, you know, a clear business case for change could provide us some of that insight for how things could be done differently. And essentially what I was doing, and the work that I was doing with some of the other Indigenous planners was decolonizing the City of Vancouver, because some little changes here and there went a long way, like they went a long, long way. And it was groundbreaking, and really, like, so crazy that other cities in the country took notice, but couldn't even follow us because we were just too out there. So it was a really exciting time.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  5:26
You know, I definitely had my struggles, I definitely had some opportunities, and feel really proud at how much clarity I was able to bring to the city during my five years there. And now I get to sit back and watch it live on and, you know, I'm not in there making things happen, I'm on the outside, looking in. So I get to be a member of the public. And it gives me the opportunity to maybe provide some perspectives that I wouldn't have been able to do on the inside, mostly because that was my responsibility.

Am Johal  6:05 
And when you look at, you know, city policies under the, kind of, governance structure in the Canadian federal, provincial system, cities have been so involved in a kind of colonizing project. And when you combine that with planning as a profession, which is looking at land use, or something sort of built into the inertia of these bureaucracies, that are into decision making, Long Range Planning, worldviews built around a kind of linear rationalism that has such major blind spots. And when you come into a bureaucracy ... which, you know, any public bureaucracy, be at a university like I work at, these can be really dumb, clumsy institutions, in terms of what the public face of what they're saying is, and then how the operational risk management arms, real estate management, all of these things kind of work. And so one of the questions I would have for you is, you know, like, where do you begin? Because the problem is so large and built into the DNA of the organization itself in terms of how it ... how it just simply doesn't see those problems built in and for the longevity of how its continued on that process.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  7:26 
Yeah. Wow, that really brings me back to a time when I was still struggling to identify like, how do I start? It was such a blank canvas that had some successes under its belt, but still had a long way to go. I remember... city staff, both, you know, junior and senior staff telling me their impressions of who the Indigenous community was. And they'd say things to me, like, "Oh, Ginger, the majority of the Indigenous community is on the Downtown Eastside," and "Oh, Ginger, like we need to, you know, reach out to Tsawwassen or to, you know, other First Nations that, you know, aren't close." And I would have to sit back and go, "No, like, we are not predominantly in the Downtown Eastside. Like I have friends and family here. Like, we were not there. Yeah, we have a population that definitely is struggling with addictions. And they're struggling with homelessness and employment. And yeah, they're quite visible in the Downtown Eastside, but like we are much more richer and diverse than that." And I had to go through a lesson in who we actually are.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  8:50 
And luckily, I had just finished the Environics Urban Aboriginal People Study, which is still Canada's largest research on Indigenous peoples who live in cities today. And my research from that time is still super relevant to understanding who we are and what our motivations are for city life. You know, what our aspirations are, for ourselves and for our children. And, you know, it ... it felt quite a relief to staff to finally have somebody who can sit down and talk to them about the actual landscape—the current state, I would say, say that quite a lot. This is the current state. This is who we are. These are our aspirations. And let's work from a realistic perspective, without the stereotypes and without the misinformation.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  9:48 
Because one of the findings from the urban Aboriginal peoples study was the majority of Canadians got their information on Indigenous peoples from the media. And the media predominantly, at that time, produced stories of like children, you know, perishing in the snow, or, you know, like gang violence in inner city Winnipeg. And there was so little positive information being circulated about our community, yeah, it'd be really easy to say, "Oh, man, you guys, like, guys are hurting, and we're just gonna write you off." That is not my lived experience at all, we are such a vibrant community. And being able to shed light on that, two decision makers, it felt like a whole world of opportunity, it was finally possible because they could see it too.

Am Johal  10:46 
In terms of your time at the City of Vancouver, it really seems like the depth of the relationships with the Musqueam, Squamish, and the Tsleil-Waututh, were strengthened, quite deeply. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about that part of the process in terms of how that relationship building occurred. And also, I imagine there was a massive amount of work internal to the City of Vancouver bureaucracy, where there needed to be a lot of capacity building of people who are coming in very new to these issues with not a full understanding of what was at stake or how to work in this context?

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  11:23 
The First Nations municipal relationship is really non existent. If you look at First Nations relations, and where they spend a lot of their time and investment, it's at the federal and provincial level. And it's because that's where you're dealing with rights and title. And city politics, city issues, are also quite foreign to First Nations communities. You know, we ... the assumption is always well, you guys are just like sewer lines and roads and lights, like what else? What else do you guys do? And what can you do for us and with us? But going back and thinking about, why reconciliation? What does it mean to us as a city? And how can we meaningfully proceed?

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  12:19 
And we looked at the documents that were circulating at that time, both UNDRIP and the TRC, calls to action and the work of Reconciliation Canada. And I remember chatting with some of the elected council members at that time and saying, "you know, we can't meaningfully proceed as a city of reconciliation, if we don't acknowledge First Nations how they want to be acknowledged. And if we don't recognize First Nations, how they want to be recognized, and they want to be acknowledged as governments. And what they want recognized is that this is their unceded homeland. And if we can't do that, we're not moving forward in a meaningful way, it is going to be band aid and bubblegum and duct tape." And they got it. And they were excited to say, yeah, we can actually do that. And I remember, you know, consulting some of the folks in our legal team, and they were like, "well, if we do that there are going to be all these risks, like, what if they try and get all the land back? And are there going to be repercussions? Are they going to sue us?" And I remember saying like, "Wait a minute, like, those are some pretty heavy assumptions. And we're dealing with some pretty sophisticated folks within the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh governments. And I have never heard them talk like that. So like, let's just take it one step at a time and deal with those issues if they arise." Which they didn't. And that was ...

Am Johal  14:06 
Risk Management Policies tend to sometimes mean a kind of stand in for we don't want to do this.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  14:12 
I mean, if I was going to tell you, "Yeah, you can get a driver's license. And you know, I'm going to put you on a car and you can like get from A to B," Would you not do it? Because I would say, well, like there's cliff and you might drive off it. No, you're not going to drive off that cliff, you're probably going to safely go from A to B. And that is a good analogy for the kind of discussions we had around Indigenous rights. And reconciliation at Vancouver. And the beautiful thing about working for local government is that you're not this monolith government where, like you have a department of 4000 staff, and you're spread throughout the country, and like you don't see 99 percent of the people that you actually work with. Like I could walk down to, you know, Woodward's and talk with Social Policy staff. I can go up to the 10th floor and talk with Comms staff like, I can find you. And we're gonna talk about this. And it was great. You know, working for local government is great, because you're going to find the people. And they're going to take the time to talk about the solutions. So, I mean, you asked me about relationships with Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. And that was my long answer, saying, it started with recognizing them as governments. And it started as recognizing that the city was on unceded territories, and no other government in this country has done that since. They see it as too risky. But if we didn't do that, Vancouver wouldn't have the types of relationships or progresses that it's made to date.

Am Johal  16:04 
Now, in terms of your research, you know, you looked at places like Winnipeg—and I don't know, if you—Edmonton, Toronto. In Vancouver, there's also ... in Metro Vancouver, a large urban Indigenous population that has come from other parts of the province, other parts of the country as well. And I'm wondering if City of Vancouver in terms of the policies that you were able to work on in terms of how the city approaches urban populations beyond the Musqueam, Squamish, and the Tsleil-Waututh as well, in terms of what the city was trying to do there.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  16:38 
And they are quite different. I remember there being some hesitation to really explore both communities. Because there was a fear that there would be misunderstanding at the First Nations and the urban Indigenous community level as to, you know, like, who do we talk to about what? Well, our communities are pretty well informed about where we need to take a stand, and where we need to step back. And what we're actually interested in and what we have time to work on. And so when it came to the urban Indigenous communities, they obviously weren't interested in talking about land, and rights and title, and ensuring that their identity was included, the same way that Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh identity is being built in for, you know, new– new signs and incorporation of language, and having the flags displayed in City Hall. The urban community is a really important community for the city, especially to work with, because we're talking about programs and services. And we're talking about an overall quality of life.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  17:55
And my first SFU Capstone paper, looked at the fact that there is a gap in Indigenous peoples at that time accessing city services. And that gap can't be ignored. You know, we can't sit back and say, "Well, they're not accessing our services. We're just gonna let that be." No, like, we have to ask ourselves, well, why is that? And how can we make sure that they are aware of what we have to offer, and they're taking advantage of it? Things like public art grants, social policy grants, inclusion in some of the larger tables, addressing some of the larger social issues like housing, homelessness, mental health and addictions, the opioid crisis in the Downtown Eastside? And, you know ...

Am Johal  18:48 
There seems to be some really active discussions around the creative city plan in terms of incorporating that right into the planning process as well.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  18:56 
Yeah, exactly. So you know, that the urban community really falls within this, you know, creating a strong culture and community in the City of Vancouver. You know, because there are ... you know, I know that the statistics for the urban community in Vancouver is probably around like 14,000. But we're so unrepresented within stats, Statistics Canada, and they recognize it's an issue. So the estimate is anywhere between, you know, 30 to 50 thousand Indigenous people living in Vancouver.

Am Johal  19:34 
Now, after you left your position at the City of Vancouver, you had some involvement in the mayoral campaign for Ian Campbell. And it's quite a switch, moving from inside of a bureaucracy into a political campaign, but there's also like, probably a lot of similarities as well. And wondering if you can share some thoughts about getting into the miracle. campaign in the kind of more kind of public political side of things in terms of how you approached it and and kind of things that you saw.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  20:09 
Yeah. What an opportunity that was. And I'm still really heartbroken that it ended the way that it did. But, you know, at the time, early on, it really felt like, there's a real opportunity for some dramatic change in Vancouver. And that here is ... you know, here's a man, and here's a community that have brought a lot to the city over the years. I mean, essentially, since its inception, and that there was a lot being undercovered about, you know, who Vancouver is, and there is an ancient history here that needs to be incorporated. But beyond that, recognizing that Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh are now one of the biggest, ironically and justifiably, landowners in the city, because of their purchase of the Jericho lands and the Cambie lands and the liquor distribution branch out on... by Renfrew. And so they were getting into a community planning and Neighborhood Development. And they want it to look and feel a lot different than what Vancouver has seen before. And it's due to ensuring that their culture and their identity and their worldview is incorporated in a respectful way, in a way that everybody feels like they can be part of.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  21:40 
And so you know, looking at those inspirations ... that as an inspiration, looking at the aspiration of a city that could potentially have both a hereditary Chief, a business leader, and, you know, someone who's quite used to city issues become the mayor. It just felt like, wow, this is going to be amazing. Like, he's this really cool guy, like he's opened for The Tragically Hip. Like he did the haka with the All Blacks when they brought, you know, the rugby game to town, and helped open up the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. But yeah, you know, there were some ... some things that we uncovered. And ... and it did bring our ... our campaign to a halt. And, you know, it is a ... it's a reflection of our community, in a lot of senses. Like, there ... there was a lot of discussion on, you know, some of the harms that have we've dealt with in the past, that we've perhaps caused ourselves in the past. How do we deal with that?

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  22:59 
I mean, the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was just a few years ago. And for us, that's the first time that we've ever been able to talk about what we've gone through as a community and why things are the way they are. And we can't forget the significance of the newness and rawness, of dealing with the crap that we've been through in our lives and how it's so normal to us and how it'd probably blow your minds if it happened to you. And that's in no way an excuse for people's behaviors. But like, I'm not going to judge our community for the things that it's dealing with, because it's so normal. And frankly, I know so much about the history of colonization and the injustices that we're facing today that if things were different if we were living in a just world, yeah, we would have a lot of different outcomes, and we'd probably have an Indigenous mayor right now. But, you know, there's ... there's still that opportunity. And I think what we did showed others that you can walk this road, you can, potentially one day, see an amazing Indigenous leader, as the mayor of one of Canada's largest cities. Because I think, as I think we're a little sick of seeing the status quo, to be ... to be honest. Like, I think we're a cultural city, and it's not reflected, and we should be mad about it. But no, we're talking about housing prices and zoning. And that's so boring. I want to talk about culture, and how it can be part of our city and what we can do about it and let's get some people of culture represented in these elected positions.

Am Johal  24:53 
You know, you speak about, sort of, the limitations as well of political parties in general, in terms of how they bring candidates into existing cultures of their parties. And wondering if you can speak about that kind of ... the limitations of political parties and the internal workings of them that kind of get in the way of people participating in politics.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  25:21 
You know, I've been part of mainstream politics for a long time, like, I was a young federal Liberal, and I'm like, almost 41 years old now. And I remember being like one of the only Indigenous people, you know, in the room at these liberal policy conventions. And I remember checking out NDP conventions as well, and like not seeing a brown face in the crowd and ...

Am Johal  25:45 
Whiter than Fruit of the Looms.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  25:49  
No kidding, you don't want your underwear to become a representation of your political system, that's for sure. And I think there is a misconception, I think, like political parties need to recognize that when we as Indigenous leaders are working in our communities, for our communities, we're working in a system that is unlike the systems that they themselves are working in. That is totally theoretical. But that's the best way that I can say it, like, my world is not your world. And so when we step into your political arena, you're not going to really understand our achievements. And you're not going to understand how to really amplify them. Because you know, as a leader, you're more likely to say, well, it was a group effort. Or it was an effort that was the result of the work of my nation. Like, it wasn't me that created housing in this, you know, community, it was my, my nation that created housing in this community. And so, like, there's misunderstandings and some lack of awareness for how to like transfer, the experience that Indigenous leaders bring to the mainstream.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  27:11  
Also, Indigenous peoples aren't used to navigating political systems. And I think it's shocking for Indigenous candidates to be told, "your job is the fundraiser." You know, you think you're gonna show up and shake hands and kiss babies, but like, you're going to be like ripping up the phone lines and asking every single person you know for money. And man, like, you have to ask your friends and family for money. God, like everybody strapped, like, and ... and this is, like, how political candidates get off the ground is from financial support from their friends and family. Like, we're already at a disadvantage. And there's very little work being done on the outside throughout the rest of the party. To help us there's just an expectation that, like, we're going to do what everybody else is going to do, because we have access to the same resources and no, like, we don't have the access to the same resources. And we need to take some more time to understand how we're going to deal with this because I'm gonna kiss those babies and shake those hands, but am I gonna shake down my grandma, for $1,500 bucks? No! But you know, we're not talking about that or dealing with that. And that's kind of one of the barriers to Indigenous people running in mainstream politics, like we can't do the things that we're being asked to like it's just not possible.

Am Johal  28:52 
Wondering, you're also continuing to work on your SFU research, you've been so busy working in different areas, but you're actually looking to complete your Capstone soon. Wondering if you could talk a little bit about the research we're working on right now.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  29:08 
Oh, my research. It's been over 10 years since I took a leave from my Public Policy program. I'm looking at doing a comparison between—and this is all preliminary, like it could totally change by the time, you know, this ... this hits the ... hits the air. I'm looking at comparing the City of Vancouver and the city of Auckland in [the country] of New Zealand. I'm looking at identifying their Indigenous policies and relations and investments. And my measurement, I'm trying to look for police statistics as my measure and it's ... it comes from something I've seen, you know, about a year ago. The VPD had released their stats on carding. Carding as an issue. It demonstrates racial discrimination from police against, you know, minorities. And it showed that while carding for all other ethnic minorities had been on an upward trend, starting from 2014. And even to this day, the incidence of carding of Indigenous peoples started to decline. And the only thing that made the news was that incidence of carding for Indigenous women was higher than anybody else.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  30:44 
But what nobody talked about was, why did it start declining in 2014? And I knew, you know, as, you know, the Indigenous planner for the city, that the VPD introduced mandatory cultural competency training, that we are also a city of reconciliation, we're doing all these great things. The police chief is sitting at our government-to-government council-to-council tables with the mayor and the Chiefs and Council. And I thought, I think there's a link between racial profiling and incidents of carding and treatment of Indigenous peoples, and the amount of investment that cities are pouring into Indigenous identity, respect, and inclusion. I just need to find similar statistics of racial profiling for Auckland in New Zealand, because those are two cities of similar size and scope, and Indigenous populations as well. And they also have issues with racial discrimination within the police system. But I can't find public data on whether or not they track racial profiling incidents or carding incidents.

Am Johal  31:54 
Okay, so let's say you finish your Master's in Public Policy, you've been done this great work at the City of Vancouver, and for many, many years before that, in the city. What's ... what do you have next on the go, if you've planned for the next thing?

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  32:11 
Yeah, what am I going to be when I grow older? When I grow up? Man, like, Can we have a suggestion box? Things that Ginger can do? Because I don't know. You know, I feel like, you know, at one ... on one hand, the sky's the limit. You know, I've never looked at something and said, "Oh, no, like, we can't do that." Or it's never been done before. Or like, how are we ever going to get it done? So I've never been interested in doing things that other people have done before. And I've never done things that are normal. So like, where does that leave me? You know, and I love this city. It's been my home for a long time. I already know I'm not interested in jumping on a plane and heading to Geneva, and I'm not interested in jumping on a plane and going to Ottawa all the time. Like I'm not even interested in going to Victoria. I just want to stay here.

Am Johal  33:17 
Well, I know I used to run into you on the sea bus coming in from North Van. I've moved back into the city now. But it was great to catch up on city stuff with you on the, on the sea bus occasionally when we were coming across. And then you were just saying that you've developed some allergies as an adult.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  33:37 
Yeah, it's so weird. Like, I remember listening to an Oprah-Dr. Oz episode about ... your body changes every seven years and the allergies that you had as a kid, you probably don't have any more. And they're talking about like peanut allergies, and how adults can eat peanut butter, but they couldn't eat it as a kid. And why is that? And I've developed some weird allergies as an adult.

Am Johal  34:04 
I've gotten feathers and tree fruits and things like that. I'm going to see if Jamie-Leigh, my colleague here has any questions for you, because I know she always does, so...

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  34:15 
Oh, let me say this one thing though, about the adult allergies. So if there were any allergies that you would not want to develop as an adult, what would they be? Probably alcohol and hemp marijuana. Those are my adult allergies. It's like, it's such a shame.

Jamie-Leigh Gonzales  34:41  
Yeah. Um, okay. This is like, just off the ... like not related to anything we're talking about. Just some of the challenges around consultation, I think within city folks, especially talking about having—you know, very white council, very white, like, representatives—how that consultation can go some of the challenges around it and how we can avoid tokenizing, when we have so many elected white officials?

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  35:10 
It's really unfortunate that, you know, the lack of diversity within our council is there. Like, there should be no reason for that. And engagement is also incredibly difficult because, like, we have to make this up ourselves. There are no old bag of tricks that we can rely on that are going to help us achieve the type of outcomes and inclusion and engagement that we want to see. And also, from my time at the city, our engagement staff are incredibly talented, and super stretched, and they're also like the smallest team ever. And they're expected to be wizards, and be everyplace at once. And it's just not possible. And I don't think we talk about meaningful engagement enough. And I remember sitting in this workshop during the campaign, and we're talking about ... we had some, you know, like non ... non-Indigenous peoples at the table, and we're talking about Indigenous policies and inclusion on the campaign. And they were saying, "And we need to include Indigenous engagement methods, because, you know, like, ours just don't cut it. And, you know, we can learn a lot and make sure we have Indigenous engagement methods in here." And I looked at them and I said, "We're terrible at engaging ourselves." Like, this is like the blind leading the blind. Like, I'm sorry, like, don't look to us for the answers. We don't have it. Like we're terrible at engaging our own people in our own governments to.

Jamie-Leigh Gonzales  36:53 
Yeah, it's also using that colonizer language in a sense to like, try to consult. So there's ... you're just not going to get, necessarily, anywhere with ... with that. I thought the exact same thing when you were talking about all the risks that would come up, if you engage with the nations. It's like ... right, all those risks, like, "Am I gonna be sued?" Am I gonna, like, all of that? That's just colonizer language baby, what are you doing?

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  37:21 
It's just an excuse to sit on your hands and do nothing. And I hate the status quo. Like, it's incredibly boring, there are better ways to do things. Let's, like, take our brains, let's put them together, and let's create something new. Like it's that simple. But we don't give ourselves the time or space to actually create something new. You know, our first reaction is to see if there's an old bag of tricks that we can pull up. And well, you know, what there's not, you know? If there were, we'd be doing it already. And like, that is not an excuse for not doing anything. Like we need to embrace our innovative nature. It's being suppressed. And what we have just doesn't cut it. Like, it's boring, it's plain, it's not working for anybody. And I think that's why the work that I did around reconciliation, and essentially, decolonization was so effective. Because people could add ... people felt empowered to change. Like, they recognize that, even if they were white, it wasn't working for them either. You know, like, nobody was happy and nobody was reflected. And that... let's acknowledge that and do something about it. What we have is, ugh.

Jamie-Leigh Gonzales  38:41 
Yeah, if listeners were to want to support any initiatives going on in the city, or anything to do with, like, you know, Indigenous youth who are going to hopefully help shape the future of the city, do you have any organizations or groups that you're keeping an eye on, or a part of, or would plug?

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  39:03 
Well, there are so many amazing and fun cultural activities. And you know, it's not the traditional culture that that I'm talking about, like we have a lot of contemporary cultural activities going on. Like the Vancouver Art Gallery has an amazing display by Dana Claxton. I think it's going to be playing for the next few weeks. At the PNE Forum, the first weekend of February, it's going to be the Nisga'a Hobiyee celebrations. Like, I would love to see more Vancouverites come out and check out some of these celebrations and events that our communities host because, I mean, that's all I do. Like all I do is live within the Indigenous community and Vancouver, like I'm never bored, there's always something happening and it's welcome to ... everyone's welcome. But what listeners might want to know is that the Urban Native Youth Association has been working on a capital campaign since I was a young person. We were like, you know, youth advocates, there was me; there was Melanie; there was Jerilynn Webster, JB the First Lady; there's Curtis Clear Sky.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  40:22 
Like we're talking and planning to build this massive Native Youth Centre, because we needed a space to call our own. There's so many of us like, we're literally the fastest growing youth population in the country, and in the city. And we can't just be playing B-ball in the Friendship Centre gym, like there's only one gym, and we're all fighting to use it. We need our own space. So people need to know that they have been looking for support and donations. And they need to be ringing up their MLA and their MP saying like, "Why are you guys not investing in this yet?" Like the City of Vancouver has totally stepped up and invested money, and they've donated land and they're working on the capacity and ... But like other levels of government, where are you? Like, let's burn up the phones and get our elected officials to just make the Native Youth Center happen. Because, like we own a pipeline for crying out loud. Why can't we also, like, build a Native Youth Centre for Canada's fastest growing population, and Canada's third largest city?

Am Johal  41:34 
Joleen Mitton's taken up all the court time at the Friendship Centre gym! I have sort of one final question for you, which is, you know, if you had the mayor, Kennedy Stewart, in front of you right now, and he asks you what should the city be doing more of over the next few years, what would you say?

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  41:56 
Um, well, I actually wrote my suggestions in the last report to Council that I ever wrote. And practically speaking, every city department needs to have one to two permanent Indigenous planners for ... for the number of activities taking place across the city. Like when I left, there were 75 initiatives under our belts that had been started.

Am Johal  42:29 
I remember running into you in the sea bus, and you talking about some of your work and I said, "Ginger, you need an entire department working for you."

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  42:38 
I needed an entire department, I totally needed an entire department. I needed an assistant, and I needed a couple of planners to work with me, I needed my own comms person. Like I needed my own permanent budget. So Kennedy, Mayor Kennedy Stewart, that's my wish list for you. Like, you know, whoever replaced me there, my successor, like she needs an assistant and she needs two planners, and every department needs permanent Indigenous planners. Don't pull this, you know, "we're gonna bring in an auxiliary planner and not pay them benefits. And we're gonna make them temporary and make them really worried that, you know, their time with the city is going to end because there's no permanent positions available for you." Like that's, that's ... yes, we're a city of reconciliation. And how we're really going to be put on the map is if we really demonstrated some hard Indigenous visibility throughout our entire city. 

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  43:41 
Like, let's have our buildings represent the Indigenous culture of these lands. Let's change our streets, street names so that they represent Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh and some of our heroes as well. Like I'd love to have, like, a Chief Leonard George Street. You know, like, Chief Dan George Lane, you know? Like, we have some heroes who deserve to be recognized permanently. And there needs to be a permanent budget. I was pretty upset to see some of the monies that I readily accessed when I was at the city cut. So I'm really concerned for the current Indigenous planners because their money is gone. Unless there's something that they're working on that I don't know about. They're, like, they're broke. And that's, uh, that sucks.

Am Johal  44:38 
Ginger, thank you so much for joining us, and I hope you can come back again in a few months so we can keep this conversation going.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers  44:46 

[theme music]

Melissa Roach  44:51 
That was our conversation with Ginger Gosnell-Myers. A huge thank you to Ginger for joining us to talk city politics and urban Indigenous issues. And thanks to Davis Steele for coming posing our great theme music. You can find us on Twitter at @BTR_pod, or on Facebook, at, for updates in new episodes. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time on Below the Radar.

[theme music fades]

Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
April 08, 2019

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