British Columbia

'We must recognize what happened in the past': SFU pledges to move forward on reconciliation recommendations

Simon Fraser University’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council hands over its final report in a traditional ceremony.
Simon Fraser University President Andrew Petter takes part in a Coast Salish witnessing ceremony. (Don Marce)

Simon Fraser University will spend $9 million over the next four years to help implement recommendations from the University's Aboriginal Reconciliation Council.

The group handed over its findings Monday in a traditional Coast Salish witnessing ceremony.

Chris Lewis, the co-chair of the school's Aboriginal Reconciliation Council, spent months doing consultations both on and off the campus.

"It was the first step in terms of  transforming SFU to make sure that it's a welcoming place for our Indigenous students and for all students that they can hear our songs, witness our ceremonies and protocols," said Lewis. 

The report includes 33 calls to action, organized into four clusters:

  • Creating safe and welcoming spaces for Aboriginal peoples.
  • Curriculum innovation and Indigenization.
  • Student pathways and support.
  • Administration, hiring and project implementation.

They stem from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's 94 findings in the final report documenting the history and legacy of Canada's residential school system.

"One of the key messages of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was that education is going to be a key instrument in achieving reconciliation for Indigenous peoples. We, as a university, took very seriously that message," said SFU president Andrew Petter. 

"I hope students that are here and others today gain that sense of empowerment and possibility."

Petter said the school will now review the recommendations and implement them accordingly. 

Lewis says it's a momentous occasion and hopes various levels of government will support the steps being taken by Simon Fraser University. 

"We must recognize what has happened in the past, so we don't repeat it."