Ten years ago, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood up in the House of Commons and officially apologized for the federal government’s program of residential schools and the legacy of abuse and pain they left.
As he said at the time:
“There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again. You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey. The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly.”
On Monday, June 11 – the tenth anniversary of the federal apology – UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre will hold an event called “A Decade Later and Reconciliation is Elusive.”
The event will include a book launch for a new edition of Speaking My Truth: The Journey to Reconciliation, edited by Shelagh Rogers, Mike DeGagné, Jonathan Dewar, Glen Lowry and Grant Charles. Dr. DeGagné, who is now president of Nippissing University, and Dr. Charles, an associate professor in the School of Social Work here at UBC, will both be in attendance, as will the Centre’s director, Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who contributed to the book.
I invite you to join me at this important event, which takes place at the Centre, 1985 Learners’ Walk, at 3 p.m.
When the Centre was opened earlier this year, I delivered a Statement of Apology on behalf of UBC for the university’s role in the residential school system. In the Statement, I noted that universities bear part of the responsibility for this history, not only for having trained many of the policy makers and administrators who operated the residential school system, but also for tacitly accepting the silence surrounding it. As I said then, part of the responsibility that UBC bears for residential school history is in tacitly accepting the silence surrounding it.
The Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre is just one way in which we are breaking that silence. Under the leadership of Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Centre will offer a venue for former residential school students and survivors to access their personal and community records and other materials, provide public information and perhaps most importantly, to promote dialogue.
I urge you to read the book, which includes personal reflections of survivors, invocations and public challenges. As Shelagh Rogers says in the book’s introduction, “learning our true history is essential, and as importantly, unlearning the history we studied in school,and the many assumptions and stereotypes that went along with it. Reading is a good place to start.” I will be reading Speaking My Truth and I hope, learning from it.
Professor Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor