On September 28, UBC President Santa Ono is going to issue an apology for “the university’s involvement in the history of the Indian Residential School system,” according to documents obtained by The Ubyssey from an unknown source. Leslie Dickson, associate director of UBC Public Affairs, has confirmed this plan on behalf of UBC.
As stated in the documents, the goal of the apology will be to “acknowledge UBC’s responsibilities and strengthened commitment to collaborative relations with Indigenous people in BC and Canada.”
The Indian Residential School System was a state-sponsored effort to assimilate and “civilize” Indigenous peoples in Canada between the 1880s and 1996. While the system was in effect, Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in order to attend these schools, where they were forbidden from speaking their languages and often experienced physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
The apology is also connected to the opening of the Indian Residential Schools History and Dialogue Centre at UBC in Spring 2018 and will elaborate upon “what UBC is doing to extend and strengthen efforts for Indigenous students, and [will] improve education about Indigenous issues and collaborative research benefitting Indigenous communities.”
Recently, UBC has made other efforts towards reconciliation, such as the raising of the Reconciliation Pole, which is meant to “commemorate” the victims and survivors of the Indian Residential School System.
Continue the documents, “it is also an opportunity to celebrate the ongoing relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”
On the day of the address, Ono will deliver his statement at 10 a.m. to an invited audience — including members of UBC Senate, Board of Governors, Faculty Association, Emeriti Faculty Association, deans and department heads from both UBC campuses, Indigenous faculty and the University Librarian.
It is currently unclear if this list is conclusive as the documents leave questions about the exact details of other guests. Other aspects of the event are also yet to be finalized.
For public viewing, the apology will be webcasted live and archived for later access. A Facebook Live broadcast will also be hosted by Ono on September 29 at 11 a.m. to allow for a public discussion of the address.
Instructors teaching at that time are being asked to stop teaching between 10 and 11 a.m. on the day of the speech in order to “watch the address as it unfolds and, if [they] wish, discuss it afterwards.”
“We are currently consulting with Indigenous and other groups on the substance of this apology and will share more details in the coming weeks once details are finalized,” said Dickson.
This article has been updated to clarify the guest list.