For many people in our community, myself included, this past year has been one of incredible learning and growth. As we near the end of 2021, I believe it is more than fitting that we take a day to reflect on what reconciliation truly means to us and to our country, to grieve with our Indigenous loved ones, and to commit to do better.
In late May, the world learned that the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc had recovered the remains of 215 children from the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Following this, as hundreds more unmarked graves were (and continue to be) revealed at other sites across the country, Canadians began to pay attention. Seemingly overnight, the topic permeated social media feeds, family conversations, workplace meetings, and classrooms alike. Children confronted their parents, teachers adapted history lessons, and journalists dug deep for accountability.
The impact of this news was immense, yet to Indigenous nations and families across Turtle Island, we must remember that it wasn’t news at all. Just as none of us would forget losing our children, they never did. We must also remember that for decades, Indigenous people have been working to bring their trauma and oppression to light in ways that our colonial culture would not write off or ignore.
Moving forward, we must keep listening, learning, and humbly sharing in the work of reconciliation as led by Indigenous people. As our community continues to heal from the widespread grief, fear, and loss of the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge you to also reflect on the ongoing healing of Indigenous people, and consciously work towards the societal healing we have yet to achieve.
To this end, I encourage the entire VCC community to visit the on-campus tables hosted by VCC’s Indigenous Education and Community Engagement department and make an “orange shirt pledge” or purchase a T-shirt from the VCC Bookstore with proceeds going to the Orange Shirt Society and BC Aboriginal Child Care Association. To take part in further reconciliation efforts, see the resources listed below.
For centuries, Canadians attempted to “kill the Indian in the child” under the guise of education. Now, these children and their descendants are teaching us. As a post-secondary community, we, especially, have a responsibility to truth, equity, and justice. If we are good students, our learning will extend beyond this tragic history and teach us great things about resilience, progress, and stewardship of the land that sustains us all.
President and CEO
Vancouver Community College