Episode 002

Reconciliation in Academia

[Theme music]

Leva Lee: Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous live recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning Radio Show, Open Knowledge Spectrums, and more. My name is Leva Lee.

Helena Prins: And my name is Helena Prins. We are both on the learning and teaching team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place. I am joining you from the beautiful homeland of the Lək̓ʷəŋən speaking people, which include the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

Leva: And I’m joining you from where I live on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. Today’s episode features an inspiring conversation between BCcampus director of Indigenous Engagement, Valerie Cross and Kim Baird on the challenges and opportunities for reconciliation in academia through the lens of an Indigenous woman in a chancellor role.

Helena: Let’s listen in.

[Theme music]

Helena: Today I am delighted to have Valerie Cross as my co-host. Valerie, welcome to the show.

Valerie Cross: Oh, thank you so much, Helena. I’m very happy to be here today. Coming to you from my home office here in North Delta, in the Tsawwassen Territory. The territory that we share with Cowichan tribe, Tzeachten, Katzie, Musqueam, Stolo, Tsleil-Waututh and Semiahmoo nations. I’m very happy to be here today and sharing the microphone with my friend and relative, Kim. And I’m honored to be here today, so thank you.

Helena: Valerie, I’m so happy to co-host with you. Thank you for your time and we are excited about the guests you have chosen. Would you mind introducing our guests for today?

Valerie: Thank you so much. Helena, it is my honor and privilege to be introducing Kim Baird, former chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation. Kim is an accomplished leader advising Indigenous communities and governments and businesses and other organizations on Indigenous matters. She brings her vast experience over the many years of leadership and governance to all the work that she does as she is now, the Chancellor of Kwantlen Polytechnic University and is the owner of Kim Baird Strategic Consulting. Over the years she has achieved many awards, including the Order of B.C., the Order of Canada, and many other awards, and added to her big resume of work that she does that contributes to the well-being of Indigenous people, which is her goal to improve the quality of life for Indigenous people through her services in relation to first nation policy, governance and economic development as well as First Nation consultation, communication, and engagement issues. She also helps with reconciliation planning for companies and organizations, which is a big ticket item these days with many organizations seeking to find reconciliation with their Indigenous partners and allies. Kim is also recognized for her communication, negotiation, and facilitation skills and has extensive public speaking experience. Now she’s a great orator and in many occasions is asked to speak on many engagements, to share her knowledge, her wisdom and experience with them. She serves on several boards, including boards like Recipes Unlimited, Canada Infrastructure Bank, Vancouver Board of Trade and Canada Public policy form. Kim is a member of both the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada and holds an Institute of Corporate Directors designation, so I am so very proud to have Kim here today. Welcome, Kim.

Kim Baird: Thanks Val and thanks for the kind introduction.

Valerie: I know Kim and I have many years of our relationship starting from when she was very young in her early teens, and I’ve had many journeys with Kim throughout her work as chief, former chief of Tsawwassen First Nation, chief negotiator of our Tsawwassen treaty, and have had many work experience and many adventures. And I thought it was a perfect opportunity to share that journey. I’m very proud of Kim and all the work that she’s done and she inspires me every day on the strength and the courage and the passion that she displays and the work that she does on behalf of our Indigenous people. On top of that she has a crazy amazing amount of humour and a very cutting wit that she often shares at my expense for a good laugh and in the things that we’ve done and she has got a great sense of humour which helps us get through some of the challenging work that we’ve had to do in the past. So Kim, I wanted to share you with the rest of the public here and ask you how did you start your journey to where you are now today? Can you tell us a little bit about what sparked you to start this journey?

Kim: Yeah, I mean and it’s interesting that you would have witnessed my whole journey as a fellow Tsawwassen member. I never really thought about it that way before, but when I did meet you was near the beginning of this journey and I was like a disengaged goth teenager, who had lead a kind of transient life moving around from place to place until I moved back to Tsawwassen First Nation when I was 14. I graduated and I think I was like the only in my generation to graduate so the community kind of made a big deal about it and I felt kind of funny about it ’cause I had mediocre grades yet my community was rallying around me for having graduated. So I ended up going to Kwantlen College I was, I didn’t know what else to do, really. And it was then my kind of political consciousness woke up because I was doing all these general arts programs from every ology and osophy class you could imagine, to figure out what actually I wanted to do. And it was in that process that I discovered about the colonization of Canada, why I was seeing the poor socio economic conditions I was in my community, the root causes of it. And I also learned that there was a comprehensive land claims process that the federal government had to try and resolve land claims in Canada. So it was with that in mind that I went to our chief of the day and told him if we ever got started on a land claim, I’d like to help. And so he co-opted me to set up a research department for free, that guy. And then I applied for the research job and thankfully got it along with an elder who I worked side-by-side with for several years in trying to research the Tsawwassen land claim. So that was the start of my journey, and it was through post-secondary education that again, my political consciousness awoke and I became engaged on the issue of trying to find justice for my community anyways.

Valerie: Thank you Kim for sharing that. I’ve always found that an inspiring story and it speaks to two things to me. One is how our community sees a talent and pushes you forward to stand up to do the work. And it’s your responsibility to stand up and accept that work and the value of having an elder working beside you also to do that important work. Now as we mosey on along your journey, and we see you engaging in different negotiations with different levels of government and go through your journey of being an elected councilor for many years, and then eventually being elected to chief and serving in that role for many years and the journey of taking Tsawwassen through negotiations to a final agreement and ultimately to a treaty, a modern day treaty in which Tsawwassen has the honor of living in now freedom out of the Indian Act. What were some of your challenges as an Indigenous woman throughout that journey and have your challenges changed and what would be some of your biggest challenges now?

Kim: Yeah. I mean, I think some of them are similar, some of them are different. I was elected to council when I was 22 and elected chief when I was 28. So age was a big issue for people taking me seriously in those roles. And so, but funnily enough, people’s underestimation of me continues, regardless of what I’ve achieved or what has happened or what I’ve stood up against over time. And I find that interesting. I guess it’s because I’m not the stereotypical chief or chief negotiator or other things that people expect when they meet me. Who knows? But, you know, instead of really focusing on the negative there, I just really look forward to surprising people and taking them aback and seeing the look on their face when they went, “Oh, I got that one wrong”. Right? So that’s kind of been my approach. And it’s been I guess, one of my strategies is to really focus on what I’m trying to achieve and not really get discouraged by those sorts of interactions, whether they’re gender based or age based or, you know, race based, right? Although it’s hard, right? And, you know, that’s my way of handling it. But everyone has their own, you know, coping strategies for those sorts of things. But early on, I really thought, like, to achieve things, I’m going to have to not fight everything. I’m going to have to be very focused on my objectives. And I think that focus is a part of why I was able to achieve what I did.

Valerie: Yeah. And those are… Thank you. There are so many achievements too. It’s quite a a large list of things. And your focus is obviously shown with the successes that you have achieved. There’s another thing that I’ve always admired. And is that you had three children during the time of deep and heavy and hard negotiations with the provincial and federal governments. And one thing that I remember is that there wasn’t a long maternity leave between each time you had a child. And we had the opportunity to bring your children to everything that we did. There was times when I was in meetings and I was holding your baby. And they were raised in deep negotiations. And the work continued. Tell me a little bit about the story of being a mother and still carrying on with some of this difficult work. And some of the surprising stories of how people really embraced rather than reject you bringing your children in to some of these places.

Kim: Yeah. Because I was in a leadership position, it’s not like I could take a maternity leave. I mean, I would recover from my cesarean section or whatever, but not much more than that. And then I’d bring my babies to work with me for almost the first year. And I was fortunate in one way in that I was the boss at Tsawwassen first nations, so there wasn’t a lot people could do. But I also had to do a lot of external work. Like my youngest daughter was B.C. Hydro board’s first baby. And through treaty negotiations, I got consensus from my peers that it was OK to bring my daughters to the meetings. And it’s funny because I have three daughters and they were born along milestones of the treaty. So my first Amy, was born around the Agreement in Principle. And she was about three months old when we had our ceremony. And for our final agreement initialling, Sophia came three days after the ceremony. And, you know, people were thinking I should invite my doctor to the ceremony just in case. And then for my third daughter, Naomi, she came three weeks after the effective day of the treaty. And she is like almost 13, our treaty is 13. So it’s a really good comparator to see our self-governance advances compared to how my children are growing and advancing. And I just think it’s been challenging, but they’re also my sanity in that it forced me to really focus on things that matter to me personally and not just be a workaholic, right? So it was hard. Some of the hardest days of my life were, you know, I brought my youngest daughter to the legislature as a new mom and, you know, couldn’t figure out how to get out of the parking lot to get on to the helijet. And I had to accept all kinds of help. And the legislature wasn’t wheelchair accessible. There were no changing tables. She had soiled herself up to her neck while I was in the legislature. And before the word started in the legislature, I was like, so done. I didn’t know what to do. Right? So those were some of the most challenging things, but memorable things of my life. And I would say that, you know, real tense, tough times of negotiations and the community work. People like yourself, Val and our other team would come in, pick up my baby, not even say hi to me. Cuddle with my baby for ten minutes and then take off to soldier on for whatever the next task was. So they really added a different dimension, I think, to our work to remember what the work was about as well. So it was an interesting time for sure. And I just feel lucky I was able to do that.

Valerie: Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing those experiences. As you were speaking, I had reflections and memories of holding each of your children at different occasions and they were good medicine for us when we needed to have a break from the work that we were doing. Stories about sergeants at arms at the legislature bringing candy for your babies. First being very serious about their role, and then they’d see the kid and the grandpas and them would come out. And so we really challenged a little bit of the colonial dynamic by bringing your children in there. And I thank you for sharing the gift of your children for that. And I just want to mention that Kim was one of the, Kim and correct me, because you always do if I’m wrong, is one of the first Indigenous peoples to address the Legislature after our treaty. Can you tell me a little bit more about that experience? So just standing there and I can see the picture in my mind there you are standing in front of the rope addressing the legislature with your speech.

Kim: Yeah. I mean, the Nisga’a had done it before, but as far as my knowledge as one of the first Indigenous women to address the legislature, and it was to remark on the legislation they’re passing to support our treaty. But speaking of my kids, I had to fight to get them into the legislature, to get them into the chamber. So, and the Premier and the Minister of Aboriginal Relations at the time had to really fight to make sure that my kids could fall asleep in the chamber while I spoke, right? But it was important they were there. It was one of the big memorable moments of my life because I felt the pressure of needing to represent my community. And I found it extremely humbling and also powerful. It gave me a notion of, you know, this is we’re on the right track of trying to take our place in this province and in this country. And we’re being recognized as such through acts like this. So it was a memorable day, for sure.

Valerie: Yeah, it was, Kim. And I’m so honored to be part of making history with you. And I will cherish those memories forever. And thank you for sharing. Which leaves me back to where we are today. With changes happening all over the province, all over the nation, and all over the country, with the recognition of reconciliation, decolonization and indigenization starting to come to the surface and be the topic of change. And one thing that I’ve observed is that there are more Indigenous appointments of chancellors. And you recently were appointed as a chancellor of KPU. And according to my count, there are about five Indigenous chancellors in B.C. at the moment. What does the role of Chancellor mean to you? And do you think there’s any significance to these appointments for reconciliation in academia?

Kim: Yeah. I guess, I think it’s been, I was very honored and privileged to be asked to take on the chancellor role for KPU. Although it’s largely ceremonial, it’s an important symbol of commitment I think, that post-secondary institutions are making in relation to Indigenization and in relation to Indigenous peoples and in this case, First Nations and B.C. And so I think also that, you know, the reception I’ve received from KPU has just been absolutely unbelievable. And I feel very welcomed. And I’m able to do as much or as little of the roles I want. So, you know, I’ve been reaching out to other Indigenous chancellors to talk about the challenge we have in society about reconciliation and our standards for Indigenization and what difference can post-secondary institutions make. Everyone’s kind of got their own pace and their own sort of processes. They’re unrolling. But I think, you know, collaboration can only help in this endeavor. So I think it’s exciting time. Never in my lifetime did I ever expect to be the chancellor of that institution that I started out back at so many years ago. I just never dreamed that would happen. So life’s coming full circle to some degree, right? But yeah, it provides a lot of hope for me in the way forward in Canada. Lots of work to do though. Like the amount of work is daunting. But the worst would be not doing it, right? So here we are. Here we go.

Valerie: Alright. Thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the perspectives and observations that you’ve made for some of this important work. As I continue to walk by you, Kim, in your journey, I’ve seen a lot of people. You have a natural knack for drawing good talent to work with you. And I guess, myself included. But, you know, everybody has somebody that they look up to and the mentors that help guide them through their journeys. If you can think about three people who have been influential with you, who would you say has been supported and influenced your journey?

Kim: Well, early in my journey, I was looking for leaders. Coast Salish leaders that aligned with my values. And, you know, of course, the late John Mathias was very foundational to my thinking. And he said at a political meeting once that, and it really has influenced my whole kind of approach to politics and First Nation politics. He said that there’s not enough money and cash in the world to ever compensate first nations for what have happened to them but what we do need is a sustainable way forward. And so being forward looking in trying to sort out what will help us move forward in a way that overcomes all these impacts of colonization, how can we reconcile? How can we ensure that no youth are, not another generation is lost to the impacts of multi-generational trauma? What can we do about that? And so very early on that helped me have a forward looking view of trying to make change. And so I’m very grateful to having heard that because I was very confused about, you know, whether I should stay focused on looking backwards in the past and all the atrocities that have happened to us. Or, you know, looking forward. And that’s not an easy shift to make. I can tell you that from my personal experience. I had other role models, too, like Wendy John. She is an amazing leader from Musqueam. A woman who  showed me that, you know, a role model to me, what’s possible. But I would say there are lots of people within our team that were inspirational to me, including, you know, yourself. But, you know, Tina Dionne, who’s now a judge who is an unsung hero for being a single Indigenous mom and putting herself through law school and now as a judge, but even when I met her in her early 20s, she inspired me by her tenacity and her drive, right? I would say our good friend Doug MacArthur was very helpful to me. Someone I can feel very supported about and get information, and he was worried about my welfare. He wasn’t competitive with me. He wasn’t any of those things. And he enjoyed seeing my leadership evolve. And just watched and supported the best he could without ever prescribing any way I should be. People like that are remarkable when you find them, that really, really have your best interests at heart no matter what. So yeah, there’s been plenty of people. And you’re right, I have been very lucky to get very good help from people over the years. And I count you as one of them.

Valerie: Oh, hay čxʷ q̓ə Kim. Thank you. I appreciate that. You are a magnet, though. I mean, you draw good people to you with your intelligence, your very talented way of observing and analyzing a way forward, and your humour. You know, you kept us all in line, for sure, with the many ways that, the many tools that you have in your toolbelt to move us forward. You have to have a lot of tools in your toolbelt to achieve all the things that you have done. And you’ve been a wonderful advocate for our community and for Indigenous initiatives. And an inspiration for women of all walks of life and people of all walks of life to, you know, see. When you see something new, you want to make a change. You can. You just have to do one step at a time and continue that journey. So, thank you so much for all that. I appreciate everything that you’ve contributed to the initiatives that we’ve worked on together and what you’re doing now. So that makes a lot of work, though. That’s a lot of work day in and day out. And I’m really glad that you’ve had your children to remind you how to keep that balance as best you can. But you are also a motivated and driven individual who seeks to achieve things in the way that they need to be done. So what motivates you to get up in the morning and do the things that you do?

Kim: Yeah. I’ve thought about this question. I don’t really know what the answer is. For the past 18 years, a lot of it has been my kids. I need to get up to get them going. And I guess, you know, I’m very fortunate that the work I have now through my consulting practice and other things is very motivating to me too in that I find that being able to do work that advances Indigenous issues very, very satisfying. And so that’s very helpful. Of course, there’s lots of obstacles and headaches along with all that. So it’s not like it’s always easy. But, you know, I’m kind of driven to outcomes type of person. So if I have those in my sort-of horizon, I’m going to do my best to achieve them. It’s just the way I operate.

Valerie: Yeah, thank you Kim. You are definitely a goal-oriented, and that does get things done and accomplished. If there is any advice to our listeners that you would like to share today with them, I’d like to give you the opportunity to do that now. Anything that you’d like to say?

Kim: Well, I think that there’s two things. One is that if you can lead more in what you do, you should. A lot of people sit back knowing things are wrong and hope someone else will fix them. So I encourage people to take action to do more leading in whatever they do. I think that you don’t have to be a politician. You don’t have to be a particular personality type. Everyone’s got important leadership qualities, whether it’s within your family or within your community, within your friends. So I encourage people to explore that. And if not you, who’s going to do what you know that needs to be done. So there’s that. And then on a more personal note, having just lost one of my favorite cousins not long ago, I had reached out to her and I had waited a long time to do so. And I’m so glad I did. So if you are putting off reaching out to people you’ve been meaning to call or text or meet, don’t do it. Find that extra little bit of energy to nurse those relationships because they’re really what sustain you in life, right? So sometimes it’s those things we don’t feel like doing that are the most important things to do. So, just to encourage people to reach out.

Valerie: Thank you so much Kim. Really important things to reflect upon and I thank you for your perspective and sharing your heart and your message to our listeners. Thank you again for taking time out of your schedule and supporting me as always in anything that I do, I really appreciate you being my guest today on this radio show.

[Theme music]

Helena: Thank you for joining us today. If you like this content, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn under @BCcampus and on Instagram @bccampus.ca.


Leva: Subscribe to our newsletter at BCccampus.ca for the latest information and details on our offerings. You can also find more information about our podcast at bcccampusmixtape.com and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus mixtape.

[Theme music]

—End of Episode—