Today, in the spirit of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I reflect. On the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children who were ripped away through unequivocal state violence and handed over to residential schools. I reflect on those who did not come home. Those who did. And of the children who came afterward, carrying with them the renewed dreams and aspirations of their ancestors.
I reflect not only about our past, but about our future. I think about the future we want to leave to our children, the country we want to see tomorrow, and the steps we need to take to get there.
Today I reflect about how we acknowledge hard truths and shine a light on intergenerational injustices. I reflect on how we build our respective societies with the determined spirit of nurturing the alliances necessary to do that. I reflect on how we can support Indigenous communities as they undertake the reclamation and reappropriation of languages, cultures, histories, spiritualities, governance, lands and autonomy.
“Education got us in this mess,” said Justice Murray Sinclair when he released Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. “But education is the key to reconciliation.”
Our vision at the Université de Sudbury is one of empowerment: the empowerment of the people, nations and societies that make up this vast country. It is a vision of healing and reconciliation. It is a vision of self-governance, mutual respect and collaboration. This university is dedicated to a tri-societal approach to education for the next generation of young francophones, francophiles and all communities, because they will fulfil the promise of building a better future.
We remain honoured by our historic partnership with Kenjgewin Teg, an Indigenous-led educational institute located on M’Chigeeng First Nation, on Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island). By transferring the knowledge and intellectual property of the Indigenous Studies online courses previously offered by the Université de Sudbury, we are supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis on the road to self-determination in post-secondary education.
Today, I think of my own child – and the ways in which I am reading to them from Maageesees Maskwameek Kaapit (Un renard sur la glace – Fox on the Ice), by Tomson Highway. How one day I will tell them the story of Phyllis Webstad’s orange shirt – and why it’s important that we wear one today as an act of personal commitment to truth and reconciliation. One day, I will pass along my tattered copy of The Inconvenient Indian, sharing what I learned from Thomas King’s “Curious Account of Native People in North America.”
I invite you to join me in taking stock of the difficult journey and work that lies ahead for us to recognize the truth of Canada, and to act on the path of reconciliation. This is a path we must all take together with First Nations, Inuit and Métis societies.
We must reflect on how we build a better country, recognizing our collective responsibilities and the legitimacy of our respective societal projects that will make us stronger. Today, I reflect on how we must aspire to build a better future, and how each action allows us to achieve this goal of bridging the past, present and future we want for future generations.
We move forward today as a collective – alongside Indigenous nations across this territory and beyond.
President and Vice-Chancellor
Université de Sudbury