A time to reflect on and recommit to the ongoing work of reconciliation

June 19, 2019

“We can create a better society and a better world for all of us. So let us commit ourselves to that.”

Dr. Chief Robert Joseph, SFU Convocation address, June 2019

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a time to recognise and celebrate the diverse and outstanding contributions of Indigenous peoples.

It’s also a time to reflect on and recommit to the ongoing work of nation building and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

We at Simon Fraser University have committed ourselves to honouring the history, culture and presence of Indigenous peoples, and to having the institution serve as an instrument for reconciliation. To these ends, we have pledged to act upon the 34 Calls to Action set out in the report of SFU’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU-ARC) to guide the University in its reconciliation efforts.

Over the past year, many within the university have been advancing initiatives that respond to these Calls to Action, and we are seeing significant progress being made.

For example, plans are underway to expand the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) – a facility that provides vital services to help Indigenous students feel appreciated and supported. Last year the ISC had over 4000 drop-ins, hosted a wide range of culturally appropriate activities, and offered 95 workshops on topics such as reducing stress and developing good study habits. In addition to workshops on academic success, many were culturally focussed.

Consultations will soon begin for the creation of a First Peoples’ Gathering House on Burnaby Campus – a venue that will not only offer a welcoming space for Indigenous peoples, but also serve to enlighten others about Indigenous history, knowledge and cultures.

And, most encouraging of all, last week at Convocation we celebrated the success of the 164 Indigenous students who graduated during the 2018-19 academic year – the largest number ever for our university. We also recognised two outstanding Indigenous leaders with honorary degrees:  Chief Robert Joseph, a peacebuilder and champion for reconciliation, and Ruby Peter (Sti’tum’at), Hul’q’umi’num’ language teacher and researcher.

Please consult the SFU Reconciliation home page for more information, including a report of our progress to date which will be released later this summer.

I also encourage you to take part in June 21 ceremonies to mark National Indigenous People’s Day. At SFU Burnaby from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, the Office for Aboriginal Peoples, the Office of Indigenous Education, First Nations Studies and the Faculty of Health Sciences will host a special National Indigenous Day eventin Saywell Hall, which will include drumming, food, and button blanket workshops. In Vancouver, the annual celebration takes place at Trout Lake, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and in Surrey, festivities kick off in Holland Park at 3:00 pm.

There is still much work to be done at SFU and beyond to advance the process of reconciliation. However, I am heartened by what we have accomplished thus far, and confident that, by working together, we can build a brighter future for Indigenous peoples and communities – and, by doing so, create a better country for all Canadians.