Kelsey's Journey at the 11th Geneva Forum
By Kelsey Kliparchuk, UNA-Canada Service Corps delegate
It was a cold late-autumn afternoon in Chippewas of Rama First Nation on Anishinaabe land when I found out that I was selected as a delegate for the 11th Geneva Forum. I was attending a weekend workshop on the topic of Allyship and Reconciliation which was facilitated by 4Rs Youth Movement. As a non-indigenous person occupying indigenous land in Canada, this learning is a lifelong process.
But little did I know before opening that acceptance email, that I was preparing for an international knowledge exchange that would further this process and "inner-standing" of the ongoing triumphs and struggles of indigenous people and the roles of settler folks when it comes to reconciliation.
A few weeks later, I was on a plane to Europe, where the history of colonial violence began for indigenous people in North America.
Landing in Geneva at 8am on a Sunday morning was a jet-lag fuelled experience. Being the chipper delegates we were, we decided to go on a short walk to burn off some energy. That walk turned into a 25km trek through the cobblestone streets of old town, up to the infamous Jet d'Eau, and then subsequently finding ourselves in the middle of Geneva's fête de l'escalade which is their annual celebration to commemorate the claiming of the city from France to Switzerland. Aromas from vats of hot cheese and mulled wine filled the streets.
All the while, I couldn't help but think, what was this land like before the battles, before the stone walls and designer clothing stores?
Walking into the Palais des Nations, I was in both awe of mid 20th century architecture and also eagerness to network and discuss how the non-profits that we were representing can best collaborate with the international community. What was to come was beyond my expectations.
The conference on the Rights of Nature shook my core. Discussing the current ecocide occurring across the world was jarring. It was like the puzzle pieces of human evolution and consciousness finally found their place. This is a crisis born from the disconnection from the land. Yet, these were predictions that indigenous communities have been making for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Indigenous earth guardians protect 80% of the worlds biodiversity and are the key to environmental preservation. Just consultation with indigenous communities who are directly affected by land development and resource extraction is necessary in order to preserve the planet, humankind and in turn our right to live in peace.
We wonder why the majority of people feel so disconnected from one another but really, when was the last time we truly connected with nature? Not just in an urban park, but truly were surrounded by fresh air untainted with car fumes and with the sounds of nature surrounding us.
As I reflect on the expansive opportunity that was given to me from the UNA-Canada,Canada Service Corps Program, I am filled with equal parts gratitude and hope that change is happening and it is happening fast. Witnessing the creation of a proposal for the UN to implement a United Declaration of the Rights of Nature/Rights of Mother Earth contributed to that hope and was a highlight of my experience. The implementation of this declaration would mean people could speak on behalf of the trees, the rivers, and the mountains in courts of law.
The Lorax was really onto something.