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Reem Lari

Science
Location:
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Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Year
2021
Preparation
Previous Experience

Prior to pursuing my co-op with the First Nations Relations Team at the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development (FLNRORD), I completed an internship with the Metlakatla First Nation as part of my graduate research requirements. The internship enabled me to support Metlakatla in identifying structural changes that were important to implement a Food, Social, and Ceremonial Activity Strategy for the community. Following my internship with Metlakatla, I started looking for similar co-op opportunities that could help build my understanding of the natural resource management sector and governance in the region. The co-op position, “First Nations Researcher”, posted by FLNRORD matched all my interests.

Preparation

My co-op was set to start in the Fall term of 2021. Below are some of the steps I took to prepare that could also be helpful to future co-op students. 

  • I asked one of my co-op supervisors for a preparatory summer reading list to help build my understanding of the team’s principles, goals, and the broader governance context.

  • I kept myself updated on the recent news and issues that could potentially affect the team that I would be working with. 

  • I made sure to complete my research requirements (i.e., writing up most of my 699) with my REM supervisor before my co-op start date to ensure that I could commit to my co-op without having to balance it with my academic requirements. 

  • I tried to plan the co-op logistics a week before, including travel routes, identifying carpooling options (which the Ministry has an updated spreadsheet for), parking options, and confirming my co-op working hours. 

  • I connected with other students who would also be co-op students with FLNRORD that Fall term.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

My first few weeks with the FN Relations Team coincided with two key dates. The first was the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which was significantly the first year it was marked as a statutory holiday to honour the survivors of residential schools in Canada. I joined the team as the FN Relations Team were planning a lunch and learn session about residential schools in British Columbia. I jumped on board to help on the research and presentation side of things. In addition, with the help of a colleague, I was able to launch a “Learning for Reconciliation” library in the lunchroom where team members would be able to drop off books and encourage learning. 

The second key date that the start of my co-op coincided with was with an internal process of setting individual KPIs. Although the process was not mandatory for co-op students, it was a great opportunity to work with my supervisor to identify the key objectives and targets that I can work towards throughout my co-op.

Day to Day

As a resarcher with the FN Relations Team, my day to day is split between two tasks. The first is to support the team with ongoing consultation efforts with various First Nations. This includes initiating consultation files, updating the consultation database, and tracking consultation performance measures. The second area is to conduct historical research on First Nations' issues, case laws, and culture to support consultation processes and decision-making processes.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

I am a member of the Fall 2021 Co-op Employee Advisory Board, which is composed of current co-op employees across the BC Public Service. The purpose of the board is to share our knowledge on best practices, techniques, and common questions surrounding the co-op employee experience. The board is a great opportunity to network, connect with other co-op students from different backgrounds, and collaboratively brainstorm ideas to build on the co-op experience.

Reflection & Tips
Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

What I valued the most about my co-op was the opportunity to learn daily from the bright and intellectual minds around me, some of whom have been working with the Ministry for more than ten years. The process of learning included asking questions when I had the chance or sitting back and learning silently from the team.

Consultation and working with First Nations is a humbling experience that involves a lot of learning, “unlearning”, relearning, and self-reflection. A key takeaway from this co-op is the importance of understanding whose land you walk on and the long and complex history associated with it. I find myself now asking: who was here pre-contact? For how long? What are the legends and traditions associated with here? I now carry a small notebook with me to track of all my reflections. It has helped me honor and respect the land I’m on as a newcomer.