January 8, 2018 - 4:15pm
“The only path to reconciliation is one that begins with recognition.”
– Douglas White III, Director of VIU’s Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation
When Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their report in 2015, there was a clear call to educational institutions to take responsibility for leading the way in addressing the challenge of reconciliation between Canada’s Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples.
What does reconciliation mean at VIU? It starts with acknowledging history and traditions, valuing contributions, celebrating success and building relationships. It means working together, supporting access to post-secondary education and making education relevant to all learners.
“Education will play a key role in building a path to reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples,” says Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor. “As an educational institution, VIU takes that responsibility very seriously. We need to ensure education is delivered in a way that is relevant and seen as a tool of emancipation, of building knowledge, and of bringing people and organizations together, rather than what it has been in the past – a tool of oppression.”
For years, VIU has worked towards providing a welcoming and relevant education for all, including Indigenous students, from Shq’apthut, VIU’s Aboriginal Gathering Place, to the Elders-in-Residence and the ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Aboriginal mentorship program.
Reconciliation Road: Join the Journey with VIU was another step along that path. Reconciliation Road was a series of events and activities planned in the fall of 2016 to build understanding around the challenging and critical work of reconciliation. Visit viu.ca/reconciliationroad for more info.
“The Reconciliation Road events, such as the Witness Blanket exhibit, speak to the truth of our history, of Canada’s history,” says Gary Manson, VIU Elder-in-Residence and Snuneymuxw First Nation member. “They speak to what the colonizers did; and speak to the spirit of our survivors. To understand this fully, it will take time. It will mean coming back to this topic many times, in different ways. This is powerful work, and it is right that an educational institution – VIU – is taking this work on, making it possible for our communities, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to come together to learn, which I hope will lead to understanding.”
In September 2017, VIU embarked on the next stage of this journey with the start of a unique learning partnership to support Indigenous youth. In partnership with the Rideau Hall Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation and Yukon College, and in collaboration with Indigenous community partners and learners, the goal is to increase Indigenous student engagement and success in post-secondary education. Visit viu.ca/learning-partnership for more details.
“What I’ve seen at VIU is the opportunity for real partnerships, the opportunity to be an equal partner at the table for planning and ensuring the traditional protocols of the Snuneymuxw First Nation are followed,” says Emmy Manson, a VIU alumna and one of the new Indigenous Education Navigators hired as part of the learning partnership.
*This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017/18 edition of VIU Magazine. Check out more stories on the VIU Magazine webpage.