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Grant provides culturally sensitive training for Coquitlam city staffers

Coquitlam and kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation are partnering in the implementation of an Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility Training program for the city’s emergency management teams.
A house post, commissioned by the Kwikwetlem First Nation, welcomes guests to the Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, in Coquitlam.| Janis Cleugh, Tri-City News

The City of Coquitlam and the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation are partnering in a program to train city staff in culturally sensitive approaches to emergency management.

In a press release this week, the two organizations announced the appointment of Desiree Baker to lead a training program for city staff.

Baker, a member of the Namgis First Nation from Alert Bay, brings a wealth of Indigenous knowledge and experience to her role as a skilled facilitator and trainer, according to the press release.

What the training will do

Coquitlam’s Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility Training initiative is being funded by a grant in the amount $29,600 received from provincial Community Emergency Preparedness Fund, and administered by the Union of BC Municipalities.

Baker was elected by a steering committee comprised of representatives of both the City of Coquitlam and the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation to develop and deliver training that ”fosters inclusivity and deepens city staff’s understanding of the unique needs and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples with a focus on emergency management situations.”

Learning materials will emphasize the importance of engaging in respectful and collaborative relationships, acknowledging power imbalances and actively listening to and learning from Indigenous perspectives, the press release further states.

Acknowledging deep cultural roots

In her comments, Baker stressed the importance of delivering culturally appropriate services to the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation, especially during a time of reconciliation.

“We are a proud people with deep cultural roots and ways of being and are happy to have this opportunity to educate the emergency personnel about our history and how we live, our connections and our family ties,” stated Baker in a press release.

“By educating the emergency personnel it is our goal to ensure safe and adequate services are provided to our citizens of Kwikwetlem, we look forward to this continued journey of education and understanding. Walking together for the benefit of our collective communities. We know that the City of Coquitlam is charting a new path and we welcome this training for the benefit of our citizens.“

The city’s mayor is also welcoming the new training for staff.

“Coquitlam’s emergency response teams are often called upon to assist people during their most vulnerable moments. That’s why it’s crucial for us to provide our city staff with the training they need to offer compassionate, trauma-informed and culturally sensitive support during emergencies,” Mayor Richard Stewart stated.

“On behalf of city council and staff across the organization, I express our heartfelt gratitude to the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm for their invaluable guidance in leading this important city training initiative.”

The announcement comes as Canadians celebrated Indigenous People's Day on June 21.