Office of the President

Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor

Petter's Perspective: Notes from the President

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A time to reaffirm our commitment to reconciliation

June 21, 2017

June 21 is National Aboriginal Day, and a time to celebrate and appreciate the unique heritage and culture of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. It’s also a time to reflect on how Canadians can overcome our colonial past and work together to achieve reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

As part of our mission to be Canada’s Engaged University, SFU has made commitments to honour the history, culture and presence of Aboriginal peoples, to support Aboriginal persons and communities, and to welcome and nurture Aboriginal students.

We have also acknowledged our responsibility to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. That is why we convened the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU-ARC) to advise how the university should contribute to the reconciliation process.  SFU-ARC released a draft Executive Summary last month with a full report due this summer.

I would like to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of Council members, as well as the contributions of those who have participated in its consultation process.  I and others in the university community look forward to receiving and acting upon its calls to action.

SFU has made much progress in recent years in welcoming and supporting Aboriginal students, hiring Aboriginal faculty and creating a more respectful and inclusive campus environment. Nowhere was this more evident than at the annual Indigenous Honouring Feast held during June Convocation. We celebrated the success of 127 Indigenous graduating students in 2016-17 – our largest class ever.

However much work remains, and we need to ensure that it is done with the participation and support of Aboriginal students, faculty and staff. Many were surprised and concerned earlier this year by the decision to suspend the Aboriginal University Transition Program. While that decision was motivated by a genuine desire to create an improved program, it was taken without adequate discussion and communication. We must do better going forward.

The good news is that the university community stands together in our wish to attract more Aboriginal students to SFU, and to provide those who come with the support they need to succeed. The process for developing the new program will reflect this commitment, and involve extensive Aboriginal participation and input.

The road to reconciliation is not an easy one, and I don’t doubt that we may make further missteps as we move forward on that journey. However I am convinced that, with hard work, determination and good will, SFU can continue to achieve significant progress, and show ourselves to be a post-secondary leader in the reconciliation process.    

On June 21, many at SFU will be involved in annual National Aboriginal Day celebrations around the Lower Mainland. And throughout the year there will be many more opportunities to join with SFU as we walk the path of reconciliation. I look forward to what more we can accomplish together in the months and years to come.

Graduates of the Aboriginal EMBA are just a few of the inspiring graduates in 2016-17