Waterloo celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day
By Joy Braga.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day for all Canadians to honour and celebrate the legacy, diverse cultures and exceptional contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Although these groups share many similarities, it is important to acknowledge that they each have their own unique heritage, language, cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs. National Indigenous Peoples Day was formerly known as National Aboriginal Day when it was established in 1996 through a proclamation signed by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc. While this day is recognized as a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories and Yukon, it is not yet a statutory holiday in the rest of Canada.
Through collaboration with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21st, the summer solstice, for National Indigenous Peoples Day in recognition of its cultural, historical, and spiritual significance. This date is momentous for various cultures around the world, particularly for Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous communities throughout history have gathered on this date to conduct traditional ceremonies of prayer, thanksgiving, and celebration.
Indigenous Peoples are the first inhabitants of Turtle Island, or what is now known as North America. As the original owners and caretakers of this land, they deserve great respect and recognition. In addition to showcasing and celebrating the diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, it is important to acknowledge their great achievements and contributions to Canadian society. We should also take the time to listen, learn, and reflect not only on this day but throughout our lives as we actively work towards advancing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.
Today, the Indigenous Initiatives Office is excited to host a lunchtime performance from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. with Deantha Edmunds, Canada’s first and only Inuk professional classical singer. Register now to be a part of this special event.
In the evening, join O:se Kenhionhata:tie for National Indigenous Peoples Day at Land Back Camp. This will be an online event, starting at 7:00 p.m. For more information, visit their event page on Facebook.
The City of Guelph is also hosting a National Celebration virtual community event with music, dancing and drumming. This will be a live-streamed event, starting at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit their event page.
If you are interested in other special celebrations across Canada, explore this list of events for National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Upcoming university events planned for National Indigenous History Month include:
- All of June: Facts and Quiz Questions – A series of “Did You Know” facts and weekly quiz questions for a chance to win a prize pack.
- Tuesday, June 29, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.: The Honourable Murray Sinclair – Keynote Speaker for National Indigenous History Month
For more details, registration information, and resources, visit the Indigenous Initiatives Resource Page for National Indigenous History Month.
A conversation with Jean Becker
In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day, National Indigenous History Month, and with the recent announcement of the discovery of 215 Indigenous children in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, BC, Pamela Smyth, co-host of Beyond the Bulletin, engaged in conversation with Jean Becker, senior director, indigenous initiatives and interim associate vice-president, human rights, equity and inclusion about the discovery and its impact on truth and reconciliation in Canada.
The interview was originally featured in Episode 90 of the Beyond the Bulletin Podcast on June 4, 2021.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Many people across Canada indeed across the world are shocked and saddened by this tragic discovery in Kamloops. What did you think when you heard?
Jean: Well, I have to say, I wasn't shocked. I wasn't even surprised. This is not something that we haven't known for a very long time. You know, I have friends who were in residential schools. And I've heard the stories, I read the testimonials from the Truth and Reconciliation report. And if you've learned anything about the residential schools, this this really isn't a very shocking, or unexpected. But I was saddened. I'm partly saddened that that it's shocking for so many Canadians, because it indicates we still have a lot of work to do, in terms of the truth part of reconciliation.
The Honourable Murray Sinclair, chair of the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has spoken out. And he's reminded us that we know of 3,200 children who died at residential schools. Those are the ones we know about. But the number is likely to be much higher. So what do you think needs to happen now?
Jean: I think that the federal government needs to do what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked for when they discovered this fact, during their hearings. This was uncovered then and that's back somewhere between 2010 and 2015. So, I think that the government now needs to put the resources in the place and begin the investigation. And a they need to do the investigation thoroughly and properly,continued on until we have answers about those 3,200 that we know died in those schools. And we need to look for the causes of those deaths. This is all possible with today's technology. And we need to commit to it. And we need to make sure that it happens this time.
So we should prepare for the discovery of more of these mass graves.
Jean: That was such a poignant part of the Honourable Murray Sinclair's statement, when he said, prepare yourselves: there’s more to come.
What effect could this have on reconciliation efforts?
Jean: Well, you know, I felt before this happened, that we're not at the reconciliation part yet, we're still in the truth part. And I think that's very evident, with the shock and the surprise that people are feeling to hear that a number of children are buried there. Just the fact that they're shocked means that they didn't know. So that means that there’s still a great deal of information that people just don't want to have yet. And I think that this is evidence that we need to deal with, the truth. And we need to know the truth. And this is why the investigation is so important. We need to know why it happened. We need to be able, not only for the families that you know, suffered those losses, we need to know, the country needs to know the truth.
Part of it, too is people need to believe the survivors. There were horrific things that were given in testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and people now are seeing that stuff happened. It wasn't somebody telling tales. Do you think that this could be a turning point?
Jean: I hope that it is a turning point. I hope that it is a another movement forward just as the TRC itself was a movement forward, the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. But if the response falls short, then the opportunity will be lost. It's an opportunity for us. But if we if don't seize it, and if action isn't taken, it won't make a difference.
Does this discovery affect the direction of your work at Waterloo?
Jean: We’re really just beginning to establish an Indigenization strategy and to develop it into something that will be impactful across the entire campus. So we're doing a lot of work to establish the Indigenous initiatives and then Indigenization decolonization strategy. And really, we're at the very beginning of doing it. I don't know that this will impact it. But hopefully, it will bring more awareness to what we're doing. And mostly it will bring more awareness I hope to why we're doing it. But I think that this really will help to highlight the importance of the work and the absolute imperative for Waterloo, as well as all other post-secondary institutions to make sure that this work is carrying on and that it's being being done in a really good way.
And you have something very special coming up.
Jean: We are having an event on June 29th at 1:00 p.m. with the Honorable Murray Sinclair. He is a very powerful speaker to begin with, but his experience through all the years of his career is invaluable in terms of understanding Indigenous issues. And he's such a positive and kind spirit. He really makes a difference when he speaks. So I'm really excited that he's agreed to do this event with us.
COVID-19 rapid screening site in DC opens today
The University of Waterloo has established a COVID-19 rapid screening site in the Davis Centre for eligible students and employees that has begun operating today. Eligible employees and students can now book appointments online.
"As we work towards returning more people to campus, on-site rapid testing will help us identify people infected with COVID-19 that other screening protocols might otherwise miss," wrote President Feridun Hamdullahpur in his memo announcing the rapid screening site to the campus community on Thursday, June 17. "If you have no symptoms of COVID-19, you come to campus regularly and you have regular contact with other employees, students or the public you should consider participating in the rapid testing program."
Examples of eligible participants include:
- Researchers or instructors who cannot maintain physical distancing or who conduct human participant research
- Employees and students working in labs on campus
- Employees in Housing, Food Services and Plant Operations
- Athletics coaching staff and front-line employees
- Students living in Waterloo Residence, attending in-person classes, participating in athletics, or working on campus
Please note screen is for asymptomatic employees and students only. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 you should contact the Health Services COVID-19 Testing Assessment Centre.
You can learn more and book appointments on the Rapid Screening webpage.
Healing space event for those impacted by Islamophobia
A message from Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion (HREI).
The Equity Office at the University of Waterloo is inviting current students, faculty and staff from the Muslim community as well as those impacted by Islamophobia to attend a virtual healing space led by the Coalition for Muslim Women KW. We know that Islamophobia impacts Muslims as well as those who can be perceived as Muslims, particularly racialized individuals.
The Healing Space will take place virtually on June 23, 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Registration is required.
Islamophobia is prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims that leads to exclusion, discrimination, and in extreme cases, acts of violence against Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslims (Runnymede Trust, 1997).
This will be an open space led by culturally sensitive facilitators to share feelings, concerns, and emotions related to the recent hate crime committed in London, Ontario and for the ongoing hate crimes that continue to permeate the region and the province.
Senate meets today and other notes
The University's Senate has its June meeting today at 3:30 p.m. on Microsoft Teams. Among the agenda items:
- A motion that Senate approve the creation of an Applied Mathematics Engineering specialization with three themes and inactivate the three separate Applied Mathematics Engineering specializations created in error as of 1 September 2019;
- A motion to approve Kristina Llewellyn (Renison University College) as the Affiliated and Federated Institutions of Waterloo (AFIW) faculty representative, replacing Cristina Vanin, term to 30 April 2022 on Senate's Executive Committee and Cristina Vanin (Renison University College) as the Affiliated and Federated Institutions of Waterloo (AFIW) faculty representative, term to 30 April 2022, on Senate's Finance Committee;
- A motion to approve the establishment of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics. This proposed Institute would be a Faculty-level Institute governed by the Faculty of Environment.
- A motion to approve changes to the Applied Mathematics Minor effective 1 September 2022; and
- A motion to approve changes to the Computational Fine Art Specialization effective 1 September 2022.
Dan Brown, president of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW), will give a presentation to Senate.
The Centre for Extended Learning is hosting an Open Education Resources (OER) Workshop for Copyright, Licensing, Sourcing and Selection on June 29. Carmen Peters and Kathryn Blair will be facilitating the workshop.
“Learn how to search for and ethically use open educational resources in your course materials,” says a note from CEL. “This introductory workshop covers copyright, licensing, sourcing, and selection of OERs. Join us for this interactive session Wednesday, June 29, 2021, between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. in Teams. If you would like to discuss a particular type of OER/repository/subject area during the workshop, please contact us.”