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PHOTOS: Artists’ paddles hung in Victoria symbolize commitment to reconciliation

Tuesday event launches call for nominations for the 2023 B.C. Reconciliation Awards

Paddles honouring the achievements of the 2022 and 2021 British Columbia Reconciliation Award recipients now hang at Government House.

The two paddles were installed on Nov. 22 by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and T’esots’en Patrick Kelly, a member of the award selection committee, kicking off the call for nominations for the 2023 B.C. Reconciliation Awards.

“This is a great opportunity for all British Columbians to join together,” Kelly said. “That’s the beauty of the reconciliation awards.”

The awards are a partnership between the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and the B.C. Achievement Foundation to recognize individuals, groups and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional leadership, integrity, respect and commitment to furthering reconciliation or inspired others to continue reconciliation efforts. The inaugural ceremony recognizing the 2021 and 2022 recipients will take place at Government House in Victoria in the new year.

READ MORE: Stories about truth and reconciliation

“This is a great pleasure for me,” Austin said. “I encourage people to take a look at this award and to think about organizations and individuals who really represent the meaning of reconciliation in all of its dimensions.”

The award draws inspiration from the work of Steven Point, Xwe li qwel tel, the 28th lieutenant governor of British Columbia and a founder of the award. His hand-carved red cedar canoe, Shxwtitostel, on display at the B.C. parliament buildings, was created as a symbol of reconciliation, with the understanding that “we are all in the same canoe” and must “paddle together” to move forward.

Each year’s recipients receive a print of a canoe paddle designed by the emerging artist recipient of the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art. The 2021 paddle was created by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Cole Speck, and the 2022 paddle by Dene and Carrier beader Crystal Behn.

“The traditional hand-smoked moosehide has a story,” Behn said in an artist’s statement about the 2022 reconciliation paddle. “The moose was hunted, its meat fed many families. Tradition and knowledge were passed on from the hunt right to the art that was created from endless hours of preparing the hide. The beaded flower colours represent every Nation. The stitching that runs along the edge represents the mothers and grandmothers that stitched together their children’s moccasins, many of those children did not return home from residential school. The red flower at the tip represents all the murdered and missing Indigenous women, all our stolen sisters, the life givers. This paddle is bound together in the middle. My hope is that one day all nations will meet in the middle with understanding and compassion for one another. That all Indigenous Nations will be accepted and shown mutual respect.”

Speck describes the 2021 reconciliation paddle: “The sea monster has been carrying people through pre-reconciliation as it travels through the ocean. Now it is climbing out of the waves helping to bridge the gap toward reconciliation. No one has seen the sea monster for centuries, but now that we are working towards reconciliation, there is hope that we will see the sea monster once again.”

Nominations are open now through Jan. 20, 2023, with forms online at

The recipients will be announced next spring.


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