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Working on reconciliation, one free little library at a time

Hundreds of booklets on Truth and Reconciliation being made available around capital region
Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin places a copy of the Truth and Reconciliation: Calls to Action booklet in the little free library at Maynard Park in Saanich on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A desire by the public to support a path to reconciliation with Indigenous communities has led to the inclusion of a copy of Truth and Reconciliation: Calls to Action in every little free library in the capital region.

The Little Free Library Truth and Reconciliation Book Project was officially launched Tuesday by Murray Rankin, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation.

Rankin placed the first of 902 copies of the booklet, published by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, in a library in Maynard Park in Saanich.

“Little free libraries are an incredible way to promote reading, start conversations with our neighbours, and create community,” Rankin said. “We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation and I am encouraged by the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network’s initiative to bring conversations and knowledge about reconciliation to Victoria neighbourhoods.”

Booklets will be delivered by volunteers to each of the 530 little libraries in the capital region this month.

The project started when one of the network’s Twitter followers retweeted a story of someone buying 10 copies of the booklet for friends to Teale Phelps Bondaroff, who is on the board of the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network. As the leader in the network’s Pocket Places Project, he guides people interested in installing a library on their property and oversees stocking the shelves.

“People thought that it was a great idea and suggested that it would be a good title to be included in the little free library network,” said Phelps Bondaroff. “We started a public crowdfunding campaign and in under 24 hours, we managed to raise the $4,000 we had initially asked for. We then raised the goal and, as of Tuesday, have raised almost $6,900.”

That’s enough for the non-profit organization to purchase 902 copies of the booklet — 870 in English and 32 in French.

The informational booklet lists the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 10 principles of reconciliation, the 94 calls to action and the 46 articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The booklet lays out guides to assist in repairing the damaged relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Phelps Bondaroff feels that many people contributed to the campaign because they believe in the spirit of the reconciliation process and wanted to show their support in a meaningful way. Donations have ranged from $5 to $500.

“Reading the book will serve to educate, move the [reconciliation] process along and help start conversations on the topic,” said Phelps Bondaroff.

The booklet is geared toward adult readers. A follow-up is planned for next month, with the inclusion of three books targeted toward a younger audience: Speaking our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation, When We Are Kind and You Hold Me Up, all by award-winning author Monique Gray Smith.

The books will be added on Sept. 30 to mark the National Day for Truth and ­Reconciliation.

• You can get your own copy of Truth and Reconciliation: Calls to Action online.

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