Unceded Territories of the Musqueam People
Thank you, Coastal Wolf Pack, Elder Grant, Drs. Lightfoot and Moss for your warm welcomes.
I would like to thank the UBC community for providing their input and sharing their opinions.
Thank you in particular to the ISP planning team, especially Drs. Lightfoot and Moss for the immense amount of time, effort, and emotional energy they have put into making this plan a reality. Without their unwavering leadership we would not be here today. On behalf of the university, I extend my sincerest thanks.
This has been a priority for me since I came to UBC in 2016, and I am pleased to see the plan come to fruition.
It is especially significant in the current fight against racism as it is a concrete action plan to advance Indigenous human rights in all spheres of society.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated, in Call 43, that all governments in Canada were to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As a public university in the province of British Columbia, this expectation also extends to us.
But, here is the quandary facing all public institutions everywhere. What exactly does implementation of the UN Declaration mean? What is it we are to do?
The truth is that there is no one anywhere in the world who has yet done this in a university setting so there is no template anywhere of set policies and practices for us to follow or adapt.
Here in Canada, and specifically British Columbia, we are on the cutting edge of this global conversation. We are helping define what this new terrain should look like, in practice.
In post-TRC Canada, we are morally and ethically compelled to implement this global human rights standard.
The ISP helps define a path for UBC to take in order to respond to the TRC Calls to Action, the UN Declaration and the MMIWG Inquiry’s Calls to Justice. We are defining what that means for us as a university–for our campuses, for our students, our faculty, our staff, our curricula, our operations.
The plan has eight goals and 43 actions to guide us as we advance the rights of Indigenous peoples.
The plan’s goals include ‘Leading at all levels’ and ‘Advocating for the truth’ to ‘Moving research forward’, ‘Indigenizing our curriculum’ and ‘Creating a holistic system of support’.
This plan looks to change UBC at a structural level, to bring us into the 21st Century and to leave its colonial roots behind.
This is an incredible opportunity for UBC to take a strong leadership position.
To date, no other university, and certainly no other large research university, has made an explicit commitment to the UN Declaration. This is a bit daunting. We know this. But leadership is always scary and a bit daunting. UBC is up to it.
Leading the way for other academic institutions across the world– meaningful reconciliation is the responsibility of all of us.
The challenge is now looking forward.
We need to keep ourselves accountable and ensure this plan is enacted and embedded into the structures, processes and daily life of the university.
This is by no means the end but rather one step in our university’s journey.
We must now collectively take this action plan and implement it – together – for a better and more just future for Indigenous people on our campuses, in BC, nationally and around the world.