UVSS Statement on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30th is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. This new statutory holiday, also known as Orange Shirt Day, was established to recognize lives lost to and survivors of residential schools across so-called Canada. As students who work and study at an educational institution, the UVSS Board acknowledges the connection our education system has to places of violence that claimed to be ‘schools.’ Colonialism continues to permeate many of our institutions. This includes our education system, but also other institutional systems, such as: the (in)justice system, healthcare, the environmental sector, and access to clean drinking water and food security. 

The UVSS occupies space in the Student Union Building at the University of Victoria, which is situated on the unceded, unsurrendered, and stolen territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. Decolonization and Social Justice are key UVSS values, which direct our commitment to educate our members, create open dialogue, and take action to dismantle colonial systems. September 30th is an important day for  settlers to lean into unlearning the stories we are often told about Canadian history, reflect on the ongoing cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples across Canada, and take action to dismantle colonial structures in our thoughts, our relationships, our workplaces, classrooms, and communities. For settlers, it starts with a lifelong commitment to discomfort and vulnerability, engaging in hard conversations, and educating ourselves and our peers. The UVSS is committed to initiating these conversations as an organization, and taking meaningful action to restore justice on campus and in our community.

To Indigenous students, faculty, and community: We see you. We support you. 

For all students, here is a non-exhaustive list of resources on decolonization, land back, local peoples & histories, and how you can get involved: 

  • Beyond 94: this is an interactive website that outlines the 94 calls to action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report published in June 2015.
  • You can find the full Truth and Reconciliation Report and Calls to Action here: www.trc.ca 
  • Here are some calls to action from this report that relate to post-secondary education:
    1. We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
    2. We call upon the federal government to provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education.
    3. We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law…
    4. We call upon the federal, provincial and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal Peoples and educators to:… ii) Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.
    5. We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal Peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.

You can learn more about the local nations whose land on which we live, work, and play by taking a look at their websites:

W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council: https://wsanec.com/

lək̓ʷəŋən Nations:

The SUB will be closed on September 30, 2021 and will reopen on October 1. 


National Indigenous Peoples Day

June is National Indigenous History Month, and today is National Indigenous Peoples Day. 

Today, the UVSS Board recognizes the beauty, strength and knowledge of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. We especially recognize the W̲SÁNEĆ and Lək̓ʷəŋən peoples of whose lands we do our work and our learning on. If you are on or near the University of Victoria campus, we urge you to check out the Native Students Union (IG: @uvicnsu) and review their story highlights and Territory Acknowledgment, which includes pronunciation of  W̲SÁNEĆ and Lək̓ʷəŋən. 

As a non-profit, social justice based organization, we acknowledge our responsibility to align our work, and our actions as UVic students, with the values of decolonization and Indigenous self-determination. As students we are working towards creating a healthier future for us all, and that can only happen once justice has been achieved.  We recognize that learning our history on these lands – both individually and collectively – is an important first step.

Recently, we have been devastated by the confirmation of the unmarked and undocumented burials of 215 children at the former Kamloops Residential School, and the tragic reality that similar graves exist at residential school sites all across so-called Canada. We bear witness to these events and we stand with the Survivors. We recognize the intergenerational trauma caused by not only residential schools but other ongoing genocidal policies in Canada that work to displace Indigenous peoples from their lands and waters.

On July 1st, we will not celebrate Canada day. Instead, we will be reading up on the history of the lands we are on, we will be digging deeper into the true meaning of decolonization and will be reflecting on our positionality on these lands that have been, and are still, being stolen from  the W̲SÁNEĆ and Lək̓ʷəŋən peoples. We invite you to join us. 

The picture in this post features two traditional freestanding cedar welcome figures that line the main entrance to the First Peoples House at UVic (IG: @uviciace), by Coast Salish artist Doug Lafortune. The figure on the right represents a traditional Coast Salish man with a boy, and the figure on the left displays a traditional Coast Salish woman and child.


Interactive map resources: