CBC columnist will speak about reconciliation at VIU virtual series

Jesse Wente, who has dedicated his career as a writer, broadcaster and arts advocate to raising up Indigenous voices, will speak at the sixth annual Indigenous Speakers Series. // Submitted photo
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An Anishinaabe writer and broadcaster will speak about his perspective on the truth and reconciliation process during Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) sixth annual Indigenous Speakers Series.

Jesse Wente, best known for his 24 years as a columnist for CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, said he does not see efforts to Indigenize or decolonize colonial institutions as being very successful now or going forward. He is hopeful about affecting change by raising up the voices of those who have traditionally been marginalized.

“Statements about supporting diversity and inclusion are meaningless without an actual sharing of power,” said Wente.

“If the systems are better for those who are marginalized, that means they are better for everybody. We’ve been talking and learning for a very long time and the listening and learning is good, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take action.”

The goal of the event is to further the dialogue on truth and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, according to VIU. It will be held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I view my job as harm reduction – to reduce the harm that colonial institutions do to my community and, frankly, to almost everyone – and to make life more livable, while we’re living here in the now,” said Wente.

Wente originally enrolled in film school and, in his graduating year of the cinema studies program at the University of Toronto, was in need of a summer job. He applied for an Indigenous-specific internship position at the CBC and was hired.

“When I told my parents I got a job in radio, my dad’s reaction was, ‘but you don’t talk,’” Wente said. “No one expected this would be my career path, but it turned out I was decent at it.”

His position as a highly-rated CBC columnist created opportunities for him to join a number of different boards, including the Toronto Arts Council. He was recently appointed chair of the Canada Council for the Arts – the only First Nations person to hold the position.

Wente’s talk, A Story of Joy: Reducing the Harm So We Can Heal, will take place via Zoom starting at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 25. It will be followed by a question and answer session hosted by Nahlah Ayed, host of CBC Radio’s Ideas. Registration is free at https://news.viu.ca/viu-indigenous-speaker-shares-story-joy.

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