The Commitment Ceremony that took place this morning was truly an historic and momentous occasion for our institution as we affirmed our commitment to Reconciliation, Indigenization and decolonization. I was honoured to offer both my personal commitment and my commitment as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo.  

I am grateful to have witnessed and participated in the sacred traditions and ceremonies in recognition of this commitment. The Sunrise Ceremony is a deeply spiritual and sacred ceremony conducted to welcome a new day and give thanks. It also represents new beginnings. It is my hope that today marks a new beginning for the University of Waterloo and Indigenous peoples across our campuses and in our communities.  

It is important to acknowledge that Indigenous people are not an equity-seeking group at our University and across Canada, but the original inhabitants of Turtle Island and are co-signers to many treaties and wampum belt agreements. Today we committed to building long-term relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities based in respect and reciprocity.   

Today’s events are a timely reminder for reflection as we look ahead to observing National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. As an institution of higher learning, the University of Waterloo has a unique and important role to play in working toward Truth and Reconciliation.  

As educators, we have an obligation to teach our students and the public the hard truths about our country’s colonial history, and the extensive damage done to the lives, histories and spirits of Indigenous peoples. We must ensure that Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing are represented in our scholarship, research and teachings. We must also make space to celebrate Indigenous identity and culture here on our campuses and surrounding community. And as an institution, we are responsible for creating a safe environment for our University’s Indigenous community to grow and thrive.  

I recognize that there is still a long road ahead on our collective journey towards Truth and Reconciliation. But I would like to acknowledge some of the recent steps we have taken: 

  • Last fall, we created the Office of Indigenous Relations, led by Associate Vice-President Jean Becker. I’d also like to acknowledge the work Jean and her team had already been doing prior to this new office being created, as part of the former Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion department.

  • We have hired and continue to hire more Indigenous staff and faculty across the University.   

  • The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre at United College has been an important resource for our students and community for years. And we have also made commitments to establish more Indigenous spaces on our campuses.  

  • We have also committed to support more Indigenous research.  

  • And our recent President’s Anti-racism Taskforce outlines several additional recommendations centred on Reconciliation, Indigenization and decolonization that the University looks forward to implementing.   

This is just the beginning, and there remains much more work to be done to achieve Truth and Reconciliation here at Waterloo, in Ontario and Canada as a whole.   

It is my hope and intention for our institution that today marks a turning from words to action. Reconciliation, Indigenization and decolonization need to be central to how we operate as a University and to our core values.  

And that starts with building a deeper relationship with the Indigenous community as partners on our journey to Reconciliation. I would like to thank the Indigenous communities represented at the ceremonies today for your willingness to work with us and to help us on this journey to better understanding and to achieve Reconciliation.