After 30 years of advocacy Gilles Dorval leaves his mark
- Andrea Ledding | January 30, 2020
Gilles Dorval is retiring from his position with the City of Saskatoon after over thirty years of hard work advocating for better relationships with Indigenous peoples in various communities.
“Gilles has been working as co-chair with me for Reconciliation Saskatoon since 2016, and he’s a real champion in the community of Saskatoon advocating and pushing for change,” said Rhett Sangster of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC). “Gilles has relationships with everyone in the community, and I just have a lot of respect for him.”
Sangster notes that Dorval’s intentions are so good and everyone trusts him, “because he’s in for the right reasons, so Indigenous peoples benefit the same ways anyone else benefits.”
Reconciliation Saskatoon was one of many communities to celebrate Dorval in January as he wraps up his time with the city, honouring him with a lunchtime meal, star blanket and honour song.
“We really respect him and value him...we recognize all the hard work he’s done and good relationships he’s created, and recognize that we couldn’t have done it without him,” said Sangster. “Everyone wrote in a book good wishes for him, it’s an opportunity for the community to recognize him and tell him how much we valued him. We’ll miss him and look forward to his success in his next stage of life.”
Dorval looks forward to the next stages too, but enjoyed looking back at his career.
“I really tried to represent change within our systems and organizations and communities to increase the quality of life for Indigenous citizens in Saskatoon and surrounding region,” said Dorval, adding that everyone worked together to find out what the issues were, and to create real and lasting changes.
The 2012 Truth and Reconciliation event was a highlight.
“That really provided an opportunity for our community to come together and work towards that positive change… acknowledging the truth of our shared history. We want to share this land, so we need to understand our shared history and what impact that had on the fabric of our lives.”
He feels that this has brought about uplifting change and optimism from partners, the Indigenous community, and investors.
“We’ve had these opportunity to work together to enhance the training and economic and working opportunities — lots of Indigenous languages and employment opportunities, as well as Indigenous businesses,” said Dorval, adding there has been support for addressing racism and discrimination, and many wonderful organizations such as the OTC, Gabriel Dumont Institute, Saskatchewan Indigenous Institute of Technologies, and Reconciliation Saskatoon. “We have mutual areas of common interest where we can pool our resources to see things come to a reality.”
Other highlights include raising Indigenous flags at city hall and other locations, introducing smudging policies, and the naming policy which led to the designation of Chief Mistawasis Bridge.
“Wichitowin Conference is going into its 6th year now and we continually have more and more delegates from all across Canada,” added Dorval, noting other developments such as the Pathway to Reconciliation Program which develops Reconciliation ambassadors internally. “Reconciliation Saskatoon has grown to 98 organizations. A number of organizations have joined us on our journey to reconciliation.
“It’s been a really rewarding fulfilling career and it’s all because of people in the community, I learn so much from different individuals, especially the old people that share their stories in the journey,” said Dorval. “I get paid by government but I work for the people. At times I’ve been caught in the middle but when we pull together and don’t get polarized and can have brave conversations: that’s how we see real progress.”