One week after Chief Justice Murray Sinclair visited the University of Regina to discuss the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, a roundtable discussion was organized by staff and faculty on campus to continue the conversation.
At least 10 universities across Canada have started talks towards implementation of the TRC recommendations that pertain to education. Co-organizer Rachel Janze, program coordinator for the Aboriginal Student Centre, feels that it is necessary to include a grassroots voice in the process.
“Our leadership needs to step forward and not just make commitments, they need to follow through,” said Janze. “(But) the rest of us can’t sit back and wait for them to do all the work. Reconciliation starts (with us) and the people who are attending today are people who understand that.”
“A grassroots response is necessary when thinking about a colonial type of institution that is (administered) top down,” said Michelle Stewart, associate professor of justice studies and co-organizer of the event. “In Justice Sinclair’s talk last week he said there was silence at the federal and provincial level so they wrote the document to compel a grassroots response. We can steal a page from that playbook to do something because the more we wait the harder it is to bring people in.”
Regina resident Gary Edwards thinks that events like this are important to building bridges in the community. “If you have people walking in off the street and we’re going to find our own (voice), it won’t be just the Indigenous (voice) or the colonizer (voice) it will be the integration of both parties,” he said.
Edwards, who is the cultural support provider at All Nations Hope Network, feels that the history of Canada’s Indigenous population needs to be revisited in order to move forward. “This is a series of Canadian history that we’ve never gone at before. It’s going to be history but we’re living it at the moment. No one knows what’s going to happen.
“It’s as though there is a new breath being entered into society and I definitely feel that there is a new cohesion that can only be better than the previous one,” said Edwards.
Events like this one are important to fostering a new perspective of Canada’s history and, according to Edwards, universities need to take that leadership role.
“Universities will be governing and setting up the structure to which education will continue down the line. This information will be Canadian history but to do so it needs to go through all levels of education,” said Edwards. “When you light a fire you need the kindling and this kindling is nice and dry and ready to go but it’s not going to be like it was 300 years ago. People will approach this at their own speed now.”
Attendees of this event included students, staff, faculty and members of the Regina community. Stewart wants the event to open doors towards reconciliation. “I hope this is the beginning of many conversations so I hope we have a group of people who feel that this is a place to come in, check in, do some work together and when they have the time to do the work they can have a space (here),” she said.