Chief of Defence Staff congratulates dedicated DAAG co-chair

Lisa deWit, former national and local Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group civilian co-chair.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

A Senior Project Manager at CFB Esquimalt has been hailed by the Chief of Defence Staff.

Lisa deWit of Formation Review was recognized for her contributions as National Civilian Co-Chair to the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG) in an open letter dated Dec. 16 from General (Gen) Wayne Eyre, Chief of Defence Staff, and Bill Matthews, Deputy Defence Minister.

“I recognize the importance of communicating how volunteers of this organization are being change-makers and was glad the other Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs) were also highlighted,” deWit said about the recognition.

Gen Eyre said deWit was being recognized for her work toward building a more inclusive Defence team and “steadfast advocacy, providing voice, counsel and support to leadership and helping foster deeper relationships between the Indigenous community and the Department of National Defence Canadian Armed Forces”.

deWit has worked as a Department of National Defence (DND) civilian employee since 2010, beginning her DAAG membership in 2011. She is a proud member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation of British Columbia. Both deWit and military co-chair Master Warrant Officer (retired) Simon Linklater, a former DAAG Military Co-Chair, completed their terms on the national DAAG in December 2022.

In reaction to the General’s congratulatory letter, the Lookout engaged deWit for her thoughts on being recognized and the scope of her work involving the DAAG and the military’s senior leadership.

Q: What specific projects or tasks have you been involved in that led to this recognition?

A: Both Linklater and I were conduits for the DAAGs across the country as we aimed to raise the voices of Indigenous Peoples in DND/Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Typical engagements included meeting with heads of various departments, sitting in on Indigenous-related events hosted by political dignitaries, and advising all levels of leaders across the country. We met annually with other National DAG leaders and hosted an annual gathering of our local DAAG Co-Chairs from across the country.

We also advised on the dress manual policy, Anti-Racism Secretariat, and engagements on creating the Directorate General Indigenous Affairs (DGIA).

Q: Do you think the level of communication and understanding between the CAF and Indigenous Communities improved in recent years?

A: The consultation and communication process has increased significantly during my tenure.

Q: Has your involvement in the DAAG provided some difficult moments?

A: Yes, I have had many moments of exasperation with the system regarding improving Indigenous people’s rights. But my generation is beginning to define those rights and is educating society while building skill capacity for our Nation building.

My DND/CAF colleagues are willing to listen through challenging ordeals. The DAAG provides a safe space to discuss these issues, too. I met leadership that would give their time; one of them told me, ‘This institution needs your voice. It’s hard because it’s creating change. Keep going.’.

Q: In your mind, what big objectives still need to be achieved?

A: Continue to transform narratives told only from a dominant perspective.

Colonial systems and individuals can undertake awareness, education, self-interrogation, and action and engagement. The benefit of these steps, in this order, is reconciliation. I do not see reconciliation as the goal; I see it as the outcome after the work has been done.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for the DND/CAF Community?

A: Be both the person that contributes your Indigenous voice to change this system, and be the colleague that is encouraging and recognizes the courage it takes to do so, regardless if you are in a position of power. It takes strength for an Indigenous person, or member of any of the DAGs, to show up in the DND/CAF and be unapologetically themselves. Gone are the days I have to leave my Indigeneity at the door to be here. Our voices can make this an institution we are proud to contribute to.

Q: What can the average person do to understand Indigenous issues better?

Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action;

Learn about murdered and missing Indigenous women, but also get curious about why Indigenous women are at much higher risk for violence and death.

When you see my fellow Indigenous change makers in your workplace, encourage them, and respect some may be reconnecting to their culture due to the Indian Act, Residential Schools or the Sixties Scoop.

Recognize that there are more Indigenous children in care today than during the Sixties Scoop and get curious as to why that should be unacceptable today.

Hold space for us when our children are found at schools they should have come home from.

Recognize some of us just want to do our job and need a rest. Others have the energy to do this hard work on top of family, jobs, connecting to the Creator, Elders and being in our communities in the best way we can.

DAAG

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