Tomorrow, September 30th, is National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. The intention of the day is to recognize the ongoing harm caused by the colonial system to Indigenous communities, and to honour those lost to its violence. We recognize that the UVSS, as all colonial institutions are, is an imposition to the land of the Lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees and Esquimalt) and WSÁNEĆ Peoples which we currently reside on.
It has been seven years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission put forward its recommendations to the government of Canada. Of these 94 recommendations, only 11 have been implemented. We need to see the calls for change made by Indigenous peoples to be responded to and genuinely heard across our society and government.
This issue cannot be something settlers only attend to annually, but an ongoing process of demanding justice, and equity for Indigenous peoples.
As a Student Union, we see this day specifically through the lens of working in an academic setting. While this university has been a place of community and learning to many, we must recognize the colonial history of education. The first industrial schools in Canada were residential schools — what it means to learn and to teach in this country is rooted in the colonial project.
As we stand on this campus we must be aware of the contradiction between seeking truth, reconciliation, and decolonization and the fact that post-secondary education often stands as the antithesis of that. In this moment of reflection, we must keep in mind how we learn, who we learn from, and what we learn about: these questions will help expose how our education centres a colonial worldview, and devalues Indigenous knowledge. When learning has been constructed and defined by colonial standards it ignores the ancestral teachings that have been passed on for generations and what ties people to community and the land. Learning does not happen in 13-week cycles, learning is not simply reading from a textbook, or passing an exam. Learning is a process that takes commitment — to learn something is to be changed by it. We must consider what the decolonization of education looks like, and to do this we must look to Indigenous voices. The role of settlers must be to listen if we are to genuinely decolonize our education and Indigenous land.
We are not asking you to stop learning, but rather, to seek teachers outside of the classroom. The classroom has historically excluded Indigenous folks — those that know this corner of the world best — and in doing so, it has allowed us to forget our responsibility to, and respect for, this land.
Today, tomorrow, and all days, we encourage settlers to reflect on how we show up on this land and we use our privilege to advocate for truth, reconciliation, and decolonization.
For Indigenous students, staff, and community members this day goes far beyond the learning that settlers have to catch up with. This day is often heavy, angering, and retraumatizing. The injustice of having to carry that weight everyday cannot be understated. If you are needing support at this time or in the future, we encourage you to explore the resources listed on this page.
If you wish to seek out leadership from the local nations, please see the list of links below.
W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council: https://wsanec.com/