Nova Scotia

MSVU apologizes for involvement in residential schools, gives list of commitments

Mount Saint Vincent University issued an apology at a campus ceremony on Wednesday.

The Sisters of Charity founded the university and were involved in the Shubenacadie Residential School

University officials and Indigenous community members attended an apology and commitment ceremony at the MSVU campus on Wednesday. (Mount Saint Vincent University)

Mount Saint Vincent University officials and Indigenous community representatives, including residential school survivors,  gathered on the Halifax campus Wednesday for an apology and commitment ceremony. 

Saying the university was "deeply sorry" for its involvement with residential schools, Ramona Lumpkin, interim university president and vice-chancellor, apologized to survivors and their family and friends.

In the apology, Lumpkin said the Sisters of Charity Halifax, who were the founders and previous owners of MSVU, had members who were staff at the Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia and the Cranbrook Residential School in British Columbia.

The school in Nova Scotia ran from 1930 to 1967, and the British Columbia school ran from 1890 to 1970.

"Theirs is an immeasurable suffering that has left a legacy for subsequent generations. MSVU is deeply sorry for our role in the tragedy of residential schools," she said.

Exclusion of Indigenous youth

Lumpkin said MSVU and other universities shared responsibility for a "harmful delay" in dealing with the exclusion of Indigenous youth from having access to a university education, as well as providing inadequate education about the damage done by the schools. 

Along with the apology, Lumpkin said the university wants to embark on a "healing journey" with the Indigenous community to achieve "long-term, sustainable change."

The commitments made by the university include further indigenizing course content, offering financial support to Indigenous students, reinstating an elder-in-residence program, and engaging the campus in the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

The university said it will continue the commitments in its 2021-28 strategic plan to ensure its operations are aligned with the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It intends to recruit and retain more Indigenous students, staff and faculty, as well.

Catherine Martin, a member of the L'nu Advisory Circle at MSVU — a university group tasked with working in support of Indigenous learners and communities — said she was proud to be part of the important day.

"I know that many students from MSVU have inquired about the MSVU connection to the legacy of Shubenacadie Residential School," Martin said.

"I am happy that they will see that there is action being taken to respond to their concerns as students."