Musqueam Cultural Centre
Good evening. I am honoured to be here and to present this plaque which commemorates the Statement of Apology that I made on behalf of the university on April 9, 2018.
In the Statement, I apologized on behalf of UBC to survivors of the residential schools, to their families and communities, and to all Indigenous people for the role that this university played in perpetuating that system. I apologized for the actions and inaction of our predecessors, and I renewed our commitment to working with you for a more just and equitable future.
I also reflected on our relations with Musqueam, and how, as Vancouver and UBC grew, Musqueam’s history became harder and harder to see, and their access to and use of the land that is now the university became less and less. Of course, a similar history unfolded in Kelowna as that city and the university grew on the lands of the Syilx people.
And I reflected on our relations with Musqueam and our responsibilities for future actions with you and other indigenous communities in Canada and worldwide.
As a permanent reminder of these responsibilities, and of the commitment I made on April 9, 2019, we present Musqueam with this plaque containing the text of the Apology.
It is appropriate that today’s event is taking place just two days after Orange Shirt Day, when people across Canada wore orange shirts to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation, as defined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Orange Shirt Day, and the presentation of this plaque, will serve to help remind us of our commitment to learn from our mistakes, and, together, to continue to move forward.
Earlier this year, the UBC Board of Governors endorsed the vision and mission statements in the UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan.
The vision sees UBC as taking a lead, as a university, in implementation of Indigenous peoples’ human rights, as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international human rights law.
The mission statement sets out “UBC’s engagement with Indigenous peoples and its commitment to reconciliation, as articulated and called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.”
UBC as an institution, and I as its president, are committed to this vision and this mission statement.
I am also committed to helping lead a shift at UBC to effectively respond to the TRC Calls to Action.
As a part of this commitment, I am eager to see us move forward with a comprehensive relationship agreement between UBC and Musqueam.
As far as we are aware, we are the first university North America, and possibly the world, to endorse the UN Declaration, so that indicates the seriousness of our commitment to undertake this work. I look forward to walking this path, together with you.
Before I conclude, I wish to recognize the survivors who are present here today, as well as their descendants. To you, in particular, I repeat my Apology and my commitment on behalf of UBC to move forward, although no Apology can ever undo the harm that was done.
I would also like to pause to reflect on those who didn’t come home from the schools. We speak about survivors, yet every community has children who didn’t survive, who never returned. We must remember them and honour them.
I will conclude by repeating what I said in the Apology:
“Our commitment is to learn from our mistakes, and together, to continue to move forward. Our commitment – which I reiterate here to you tonight – must be strong and must always result in meaningful action. It is our duty to act.”