Education is the path to reconciliation (Video)

Creating a shared future for Canada

Roberta Jamieson, a Mohawk woman from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, is a woman of many firsts. She was the first Indigenous woman to obtain a law degree in Canada, the first woman Ombudsman of Ontario, and the first woman elected Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Today, she is the president and CEO of Indspire, a charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people.

On June 12, Jamieson delivered a special 60th Anniversary Convocation Lecture at the University of Waterloo: Education and Reconciliation — The Path to Canada’s Future.

“For the next 150 years, we, Indigenous people, are looking forward to change. For the last 150, we have fought major efforts to keep from becoming former Indigenous persons. This time around Canadians have an opportunity to become former colonizers. Together, we can create our shared future by design. ...

“My vision is for an education in which all of us, but particularly our children and youth, are encouraged and empowered to hold on to their cultural values. To find good people to shape their lives around, to discover ways to be fully involved in everything that is happening in our communities, in the broader society, in the country, and in the world.

“I want us to have that kind of education so we can make a difference in our own lives and so we can make a difference in the lives of others. ...

“It’s the universities of Canada that, with all respect for academic freedom, must provide the teachers, the administrators, and the historians, with the unexpurgated truths, which Canadians have the right to know. The university itself, I suggest, must take the steps necessary so that graduating students understand the history and the legacy of the colonial enterprise.

“Every student who walks across that stage during convocation should know the history of the 150 years of entrenched, embedded racism, the deliberate destruction of family and cultural ties, the unjust appropriation of lands and resources. Graduates should become conscious and should understand in their heart the fact that collective passivity, particularly political passivity, has been a crucial element in maintaining the status quo. ...

“I have never been as optimistic as I am today, and I grew up with an Indian Agent in my community under the Indian Act. I know what it’s like. I’ve never been so optimistic about the emerging potential, especially to achieve reconciliation through education. ...

“In 2017, I believe Canadians want to see change. I believe Canadians really want reconciliation. I believe Canadians want to see a positive future for Indigenous peoples and they want to see a Canada that includes Indigenous peoples.

“Canadians want to see changes ... that make them proud to be Canadians in the 21st century.

“I think we can achieve the exciting and amazing promise that awaits us. We can create our shared future by design. We can dream together, as I said at the outset, and make our dreams come true. And it is exciting.

“Achieving success for me is not a choice, it’s a duty. And we owe it, I believe, to our great grandchildren’s great grandchildren, whose faces we can still see coming toward us.”