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A ground-breaking partnership between three Saskatchewan provincial, non-profit, organizations is working to ‘build bridges of understanding’ between two growing, but often marginalized, groups in Saskatchewan.
BRIDGES, an acronym which stands for Building Relationships Interculturally through Dialogue and Growing Engagement, is a three-way partnership between the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS), the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan (AFCS) and the Saskatchewan Association for Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agency (SAISIA).
Rhonda Rosenberg, executive director, MCoS, says, “People are aware of changing demographics and have a great desire to talk about relationships between newcomers and First Nations and Métis people in Saskatchewan,” says Rosenberg.
“We’ve been hearing about misconceptions between Indigenous communities and newcomers,” Rosenberg continues. “Some of them come from not understanding the effects of colonialism and residential schools on First Nations and Métis individuals and their families and communities.” Rosenberg adds that newcomers hear about associations between Indigenous people and poverty, crime, gangs, alcoholism and homelessness, and these misconceptions unfortunately help to perpetuate negative stereotypes.
BRIDGES seeks to move from seeing each other as problems into seeing each other as neighbours and allies who are part of planning and problem solving that benefits everyone.
With recent funding approval from SaskCulture, the project is now in its second phase, and will result in two series of monthly gatherings. It will involve a pilot project in Prince Albert, chosen because of its strong local members, and its critical mass of newcomers and Aboriginal people.