Students bring reconciliation into their lives with President’s Dream Colloquium
By Ian Bryce
Simon Fraser University’s President’s Dream Colloquium on Returning to the Teachings: Justice, Identity and Belonging is half-way through a public lecture series that examines reconciliation in higher education and its social ripple globally and nationally.
Graduate students participating in the colloquium are taking the lectures, dialogues and ceremonies to heart.
Muthoni Murage is a Kenyan scholar from Germany who completed a master’s in public policy focusing on conflict analysis and management. She enrolled in the course after meeting professor Brenda Morrison at SFU’s Centre for Restorative Justice.
“A part of the colloquium that I find very relevant to my studies is restorative justice,” says Murage. “In Kenya there’s a history of conflict between different ethnic groups. Through restorative justice, by bringing people together, we can determine how to live together and create understanding to learn from the past and prevent future conflict.”
One practice Murage has gleaned from the colloquium is a biographical writing practice known as Métissage. Students are encouraged to reflect and write about their past and their daily decisions and to respond to how conflict affects their actions.
“While the colloquium is about reconciliation in Canada, it also addresses reconciliation in our own lives,” she says. “That was new for me—I had studied about conflict and reconciliation in an abstract way as it applies to other people but now I think about reconciling aspects of my own life.”
Sophia Hunter, a teacher-librarian at Crofton House School, is completing a Master of Education in contemplative inquiry.
“One thing that surprised me is how little I knew about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada,” says Hunter. “Education was one of the major tools of oppression of Indigenous peoples in Canada and it was used to enable the cultural genocide of the ‘kill the Indian in the child’ philosophy of mandatory residential schools.”
This has led to the exclusion of Indigenous knowledge from Canada’s school curriculum, she says, with many students graduating high school ignorant of both local First Nations history and perspectives.
To finish the colloquium, three speakers, Jennifer Llewellyn, John Borrows, and Wade Davis, will give free public lectures each Thursday in November.
The series’ aim to illustrate the history of Aboriginal peoples in higher education as well as discussing new ways forward has been successful with the graduate students.
“All Canadians need to be aware of the cultural genocide that took place in Canada and its lasting effects,” says Hunter. “They need to be aware of the role of education in oppressing Indigenous peoples across the country. This awareness is a foundational component of reconciliation.”
For a list of remaining guest speakers and presentation dates, visit the President’s Dream Colloquium website.