SFU begins its journey towards reconciliation
By Justin Wong
Simon Fraser University’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU-ARC) has unveiled its final report, summoning the University to commence action in four key areas.
The final report, titled Walk this Path With Us, highlights the groundwork ahead as the University community begins its collaborative journey towards reconciliation.
The report includes 34 calls to action, organized into four clusters:
- Creating safe and welcoming spaces for Aboriginal peoples
- Curriculum innovation and indigenization
- Student pathways and support
- Administration, hiring and project implementation
Why this is a University priority
The University has a long history of providing academic and support programs to Aboriginal students. These include: the Indigenous Student Centre, Aboriginal Co-op, Aboriginal content in more than 150 courses, and much more.
To continue with this tradition, SFU President Andrew Petter established SFU-ARC last fall to facilitate and support broad discussions about how the University could address the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission specific to post-secondary education. SFU has since committed $9 million in University funding to advance reconciliation projects across the SFU community.
“Simon Fraser University is committed to being an instrument for reconciliation,” says SFU President Andrew Petter. “The work of SFU-ARC and its calls to action will help us advance our efforts to support indigenous students, respect indigenous knowledge and, strengthen ties with indigenous peoples and communities.
“I thank the members of the Council and all those who participated in the work of SFU-ARC for the time and energy they devoted to this important process."
From the outset, the SFU-ARC was determined to use the funding to create and sustain real change on campus, so that indigenous ways are fully infused into every aspect of the University.
The council, co-chaired by SFU board member Chris Lewis and Kris Magnusson, dean of the Faculty of Education, held eight open forums and 11 council meetings over the past 11months to inform the calls to action for the report.
At each public forum, the key activity was listening—and making new discoveries. Throughout the process, participants shared their feedback in meaningful ways to shape the calls to action in the final report.
One participant commented that “indigenous peoples must lead and be involved in all aspects of policy and practices pertaining to indigenous life.” Another reflected on history and next steps: “So much has already been accomplished at SFU. We have an excellent platform from which to launch the next phase of achievements.”
The participants included Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members connected with the SFU community. The council also consulted with the Métis Nation of B.C. and the three local First Nations on whose land SFU sits.
Co-chair Magnusson says, “The open forums represent the start of SFU’s continuous work towards reconciliation, and may serve as a model for individual University units as they pursue indigenization.”
Continuing the journey
The final report will be presented during a ceremonial event on Oct. 16 at SFU’s Burnaby campus. The ceremony, rooted in Coast Salish indigenous tradition, will celebrate and witness the work of everyone who contributed.
The real work begins now as the University starts implementing the report’s 34 calls to action.
“While the report is complete, SFU-ARC will continue to encourage Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups at SFU to co-create a preferred future in which SFU is known as a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for Aboriginal students, staff and faculty,” says Chris Lewis, SFU-ARC co-chair and councilor of the Squamish Nation.
Chris Lewis, co-chair, Squamish Nation
Kris Magnusson, co-chair, dean, Faculty of Education
Kyle Bobiwash, graduate student representative
Joanne Curry, vice-president, External Relations
Sandie Dielissen, graduate student research assistant
Katy Ellsworth, project manager
Elder Margaret George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, SFU Elders Program
Marcia Guno, director, Indigenous Student Centre
Ron Johnston, director, Indigenous Education Office
William Lindsay, director, Office for Aboriginal Peoples
Aoife MacNamara, dean, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology
Dean Mellow, associate professor, Department of Linguistics
Susan Rhodes, director, University Curriculum and Institutional Liaison
Kristiana Sibson, logistics coordinator
Karen Rose Thomas, undergraduate research assistant
Sheryl Thompson, SFU undergraduate representative
Amy Yang, logistics coordinator
Eldon Yellowhorn, chair, First Nations Studies Program
Walk this Path With Us final report