On National Indigenous Peoples Day, I would like to celebrate the diverse and unique cultures and contributions of Indigenous people in Canada, British Columbia and at UBC.
I want to take this moment to honour and celebrate, in particular, the Musqueam and Syilx peoples on whose traditional and unceded territories the main UBC campuses have the privilege to be situated and, personally, I want to express my gratitude for all I have learnt, and continue to learn, from Indigenous peoples in my role as President of this university. We are blessed in this province with incredibly rich and diverse Indigenous knowledges, languages, cultures, and ways of being. Today, we honour all of them.
In light of current global events, calling out for deep social change in our societies, I also want to take this opportunity to reiterate UBC’s zero tolerance towards all incidents of racism and oppression. Racism and discrimination have no place in our university community nor will they ever.
In the spring of 2018, I offered an apology for UBC’s complicity in the Indian Residential Schools system. I apologized to the survivors of the residential schools, to their families and communities, and to all Indigenous people for the role this university played in perpetuating that system. I apologized for the actions and also, the inaction of our predecessors. I also renewed our commitment to working with Indigenous peoples for a more just and equitable future. I pledged that we, as a university community, would aim to do better.
To ensure our university takes this pledge seriously and becomes a space which confers equal rights on all of our students, faculty, staff and community partners, we must continue to work together to dismantle the mechanisms of oppression that still exist in our systems today. This work will not be easy, nor will it be quick. It is, however, necessary.
We must move beyond words and take meaningful action. As a university, the UBC 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan provides our community with an implementable action plan that does just that.
The Indigenous Strategic Plan is currently in its final drafting stage. The plan, created from over 2,500 voices from the wider university community, presents a bold and progressive vision for UBC. The plan’s eight goals and 43 actions outline a clear path for implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and Indigenous human rights, as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, at all levels of our university.
We must not forget that racism and discrimination directed against Indigenous communities are still structurally embedded throughout Canadian society. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission told us, we must each do our part to dismantle these structures of oppression. The Indigenous Strategic Plan is our university’s framework to continue to dismantle these structures and to lead the way for academic institutions in Canada and beyond to do the same.
Today, as we celebrate the Indigenous peoples of Canada, let us maintain this social momentum and continue to push for positive structural change.
You can read the draft UBC 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan and find out more here.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor