As we pause to acknowledge the recent “discovery” of disappeared and murdered Indigenous children across Canada, we urge Canadians to spend time in remembrance on the 154th anniversary of Canadian confederation. Thousands of Indigenous people were taken to Indian residential schools and hospitals by the Government of Canada and many never returned home. Lest we forget, this is not a discovery for Indigenous Peoples, but rather, the recovery of relatives who died during legislated colonial genocide that has spanned generations prior to and following confederation. We recognize that intergenerational strength and resilience as a response to years of trauma carried by Indigenous people who are affected by the recovery, which is not a discovery to our communities, of disappeared and murdered Indigenous children.
We appreciate the thoughtful reflections and respectful actions taken by the University of Victoria in relation to keeping the Canadian flag lowered until local community elders and leaders say it’s ok to raise it.
We recognize that half-masting of national flags is a well-established procedure whereby countries bestow an honour and express a collective sense of sorrow. The Government of Canada states, “given that such flags are recognized as paramount symbols of their nations, the act of half-masting is a dramatic visual statement that speaks to the sense of loss that is shared by all their citizens”.
We call upon the University to demonstrate a renewed commitment to leadership in enacting the 94 Calls to Action made by the TRC in 2015 through uplifting Indigenous excellence in education, policy, research, and practice.
We accept responsibility to continually revisit and revise the way in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous experiences throughout our shared colonial history is taught in schools; to review and reflect on the urgency of responding to present day realities experienced by Indigenous & non-Indigenous people; and to reimagine and rebuild the future of reconciliation work with more explicit measurements of accountability. One example is ensuring there is awareness of the ongoing removal of Indigenous children in state ‘care’ and the staggering rates of death for children in care.
We call for increased recognition for the added emotional and epistemic labour that Indigenous academics have been taking on for generations to educate non-Indigenous folks in Western education systems. We call for a renewed commitment to fund and support a growing and vibrant community of diverse Indigenous-led excellence in academia. We call for a commitment to hold non-Indigenous settlers accountable for the hard work of learning/unlearning colonial history, decolonizing systems, and engaging in skills-based anti-racism education and praxis.
We propose that, in addition to acknowledging the traditional territories on which the University stands as a reminder to faculty, staff and students of the history of land dispossession in Canada, this statement might further serve to remind all of the ongoing effects of residential school, Indian hospital and child welfare policy and practices. With due consultation, we propose that a commitment to action-oriented reconciliation, such as:
We acknowledge and respect the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples on whose traditional territory the university stands and the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.
We acknowledge the devastation that government-created residential schools and Indian hospitals has inflicted on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples and the ongoing effects of concentric trauma that continue to this day.
Indigenous Faculty Caucus
University of Victoria