SFU President's Message

February 14, 2018

Thanks to the efforts of many at Simon Fraser University, combined with the support of community partners, we can be proud of the progress made in 2017 to advance Aboriginal initiatives.

I am particularly appreciative of the work of the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (ARC) which, under the guidance of co-chairs Kris Magnusson and Chris Lewis, undertook an extensive community consultation to determine how best the university can serve the cause of reconciliation in Canada.

The ARC final report was presented to the university at a special witnessing ceremony on Burnaby campus. It was a privilege to take part in the ceremony, and to begin work on the report’s 33 calls to action. This work must be done in a thoughtful, respectful and inclusive manner, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples and communities.  

In addition, SFU took steps to expand programming relating to Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) in partnership with First Nations and other organizations. For example, we introduced a Graduate Diploma in Education for Reconciliation in partnership with the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations, and North Vancouver School District. And we offered a Semester in Dialogue on TRC entitled "Decolonizing Dialogues, Solidarities and Activism." 

Thanks to community partnerships in teaching and research, we also extended our language revitalization efforts. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council partnership grant directed by First Nations Language Centre Director, Marianne Ignace, is now in its fifth year. It involves 22 First Nations partners from B.C., Yukon and Alaska that are helping to revitalize 12 Indigenous languages. And last summer we introduced a new course, Graduate Certificate in the Linguistics of a First Nations Language, and in the fall, a new Cree language course. 

We have also begun to indigenize our campuses. A traditional Welcome Figure created by Squamish artist Sinámkin/Jody Broomfield was installed on the Burnaby campus, and a Musqueam figure, Si’em, carved by Brent Sparrow, now welcomes people to the Vancouver campus. In addition, preparations for an Aboriginal Gathering Space are underway at the Surrey campus.

As a further highlight of the 2016-17 academic year, SFU graduated our largest number of Aboriginal students. They are a source of pride for the university, even as they inspire their own families and communities. 

Also in the past year:

• The EMBA in Indigenous Business and Leadership celebrated its fifth anniversary;

• A fourth annual Indigenous Day was held in Convocation Mall;

• The Native Basketball Tournament hosted by SFU, the Office for Aboriginal Peoples and the Native Education College welcomed over 30 teams from B.C., Alberta and the U.S.;

• SFU hosted three Aboriginal Youth Summer Camps.

It has been an eventful year, and I am grateful for the ongoing encouragement and support we have received from local Aboriginal communities, as a well as from the community at large. While the path forward will be challenging, with much more to be done, we have developed considerable momentum as we work towards the goal of ensuring a better future for Indigenous Peoples and for the country as a whole.

Professor Andrew Petter
President, Simon Fraser University