On September 14 the following email was shared with graduate students
To: All students and employees, including employees of the Affiliated and Federated Institutions of Waterloo
From: Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor and Jean Becker, Senior Director, Indigenous Initiatives/Interim Associate Vice-President, Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion
Date: September 14, 2021
Subject: Observance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The University of Waterloo will observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 as a day of commemoration. The federal government recently passed a bill creating a national holiday on September 30 for employees in federally regulated workplaces.
This date coincides with Orange Shirt Day in observance of the Indigenous children taken from their homes and forced to attend residential school. Our community was sickened by the recent discovery of mass graves near the sites of several former residential schools. The last residential school closed in the 1990s, but the effects of this horrendous system are still deeply felt in communities today.
Reconciling with Indigenous communities is our shared responsibility. As outlined in the strategic plan (Connecting Imagination with Impact), promoting and supporting Indigenous initiatives and a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusivity for all, is a high priority institutional goal. We remain committed to embracing and acting upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations and calls to action and building stronger relationships with local Indigenous communities.
While this is not a statutory holiday in Ontario and the University will remain open as normal, we should use this day to reflect on the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, as we work together for a better community for all peoples. Understanding Indigenous history, developing an awareness of the damaging and intergenerational effects of the residential school system, and taking responsibility are vital components of the reconciliation process.
The Indigenous Initiatives office and the President’s Anti-racism Taskforce (PART) have organized a series of events to recognize the legacy of the residential school system, honour the victims, survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that this tragic history is never forgotten. We look forward to participating in these events together with you all, as we commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.