Published by SFU News 

May 13, 2019

SFU President's Message

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of many at the university, and with the invaluable support of community partners, 2018 was another productive year for Indigenous initiatives at SFU.

A Reconciliation Working Group was established to oversee the university’s response to the 34 Calls to Action set out in the Walk This Path With Us report of the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU-ARC). These have now been grouped into four clusters – Safe and Welcoming Indigenous Spaces; Curriculum Innovation and Indigenization; Student Pathways and Support; Administration, Hiring and Project Implementation – with work underway on each.

Meanwhile, I am heartened to see that the commitment to reconciliation is being expressed and experienced throughout the university. The Faculty of Education, for example, has established an Indigenous Education and Reconciliation Council. The council’s role is to infuse Indigenous governance processes within the faculty, and to work with Indigenous community partners to co-develop programs and research related to Indigenous education, reconciliation and resurgence.

Student-focused reconciliation activities included Cultural Connections and Academic Success workshops, Wellness Wednesdays, and other events hosted by the Indigenous Student Centre, which reported more than 4,000 drop-ins over the past year.

The annual Indigenous Honouring Feast held during Spring Convocation to celebrate First Nations, Inuit and Métis graduating students was the largest ever, with over 100 Indigenous graduates honoured by the university in the presence of elders, community members, families and friends.

New Indigenous-themed academic and professional development offerings included a first-year science breadth course, “Decolonizing the Scientific Method,” and “Decolonizing Teaching: An Integrated Seminar Series and Grants program.” The Provincial Health Services Authority's San’Yas: Indigenous Cultural Safety Training is now also available to SFU staff.

In addition, a number of major community engagement initiatives were undertaken in support of the reconciliation process. One such initiative was a dialogue with former Prime Minister Paul Martin on “Advancing Reconciliation with Education” hosted by the Beedie School of Business at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Another was a policy forum on “Reconciliation in British Columbia” co-hosted by SFU Public Square and the School of Public Policy at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. Forum participants included B.C. Premier John Horgan, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, provincial Attorney General David Eby, provincial Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark and Chief Robert Joseph, founder of Reconciliation Canada.

Other notable activities during the past year included:

  • SFU-ARC hosted a reconciliation breakfast during Spring Convocation;
  • The Office for Aboriginal Peoples created the bi-weekly Syetsem Newsletter to keep community members informed about Indigenous-related events and announcements;
  • Orange Shirt Day events were held in September at the Burnaby and Surrey Campuses; and
  • The Department of First Nations Studies celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Thanks to everyone at SFU for your dedication and hard work over the past year to advance the cause of reconciliation in B.C. and Canada. Thanks also to First Nations communities and representatives who have helped to inform and support our activities, and who are our valued partners in the process of reconciliation to which we are committed.  

Working together, we can build a brighter future for all.

This article was originally published by SFU News on May 13, 2019.