The holiday season is a good time to reflect back on the year that has gone and to look forward to the year ahead.
Looking back, the past year has seen a number of significant accomplishments, most notably the endorsement of the new UBC strategic plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century. Other milestones included the opening of the new UBC Life building, the launching of the UBC Connects lecture series and, of course, the debut of the Blue and Goldcast, a podcast series that I cohost with UBC’s Jennifer Gardy.
You can read about all these – and more highlights of 2018 – elsewhere in this blog, but in this year-end piece I would like to reflect on one significant event in particular – the opening of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, where I delivered an Apology on behalf of UBC for the university’s role in the residential school system.
That event, on April 9, in front of hundreds of people – including residential school survivors and their relatives, and representatives of Indigenous peoples from throughout Canada – sticks out in my mind as the most important event to occur at UBC in 2018. You can read the full Apology here.
My statement on that day was not just an Apology for UBC’s part in the residential school system – it was also a promise; a commitment to improve access for Indigenous people to higher education, to develop new courses and programming that will enable our faculty and students to better understand issues of importance to Aboriginal communities, and to build collaborative relationships that work to the benefit of communities rather than their detriment.
These were not idle words. I fully intend that UBC will honour those commitments. We welcome your advice, support, and participation as we do so. As I said on April 9, “Every action that anyone takes to move us forward is significant, and there are always ways in which each one of us can act. We know, however, that even as we have worked towards these goals, we have made mistakes, and we cannot presume that we will not make more in the future. Our commitment is to learn from our mistakes, and, together, to continue to move forward. Our commitment, as a university, and as a community of many members, must be strong, and must always result in meaningful action. That is our realization and it is our duty to act.”
I wish you all a joyous holiday season and a wonderful year ahead.
Professor Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor