June 25, 2021

Dear colleagues, faculty, staff, students and graduates,

On Thursday June 24, on a day that we were all looking forward to celebrating the accomplishments of our graduands, we were confronted with more gruesome details of the legacy of colonization and oppression of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I have to admit that I was so shaken that I was not able to compose a congratulatory message to our students of all levels who have completed their degrees at SFU. Our president’s message, I find, provides important guidance on how to react to the news of the findings by the Cowessess First Nation at the former Marieval Indian Residential School, and the many others that will undoubtedly follow. But I would also like to add the following: Please do not become desensitized to the horror of these discoveries. Even the discovery of one unmarked grave upon the grounds of what was euphemistically called a “school” should shock us and devastate us as if we were hearing it for the first time. 

To our colleagues in the INLP, I reaffirm my commitment to get involved and take action. We are continuing discussions on what concrete steps we can take within the Linguistics Department towards reconciliation. Some of these are of an administrative nature and are already being implemented to facilitate the work of the Indigenous Languages Program. Some are of a broader scope that will take more time to formulate. I do hope that we will be able to announce these by Fall 2021.

With these thoughts in mind, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to our graduates! Please accept my apologies for the delay in communicating these to you. As I noted in our video message, your ability to graduate in such tumultuous circumstances as the pandemic has brought upon us is proof that you have the perseverance and the skills to successfully respond to life’s challenges. I usually ask you to keep in touch and let us know what you are doing to make the world a better place, and I especially hope that you devote a significant part of your efforts to the reconciliation and healing process here in Canada.


Panayiotis Pappas, PhD, Professor of Linguistics
Chair, Department of Linguistics


SFU campuses are located on the unceded and traditional territories of the  xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) Nations.

Also of interest

Brandon Indian Residential School


A summary of SFU’s commitments and actions toward reconciliation


For students, faculty and staff who experience grief, trauma and/or loss, support is available:

• Indigenous Student Centre 
• Elders Program
• KUU-US Crisis Line – provides an Indigenous specific crisis line for Indigenous residents of BC, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week 

Please also see a messages from our President and Vice Chancellor, Joy Johnson, for further links to helpful resources here and here.