University of Regina releases statement recommitting to TRC calls to action

A University of Regina working group designed to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action released its report last week.

Working group's effort to be used as a guide for university: president

Treaty 4 flags hang in the University of Regina, who recently recommitted to the Truth and Reconciliation's 94 calls to action. (Matt Howard/CBC)

A University of Regina working group designed to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) calls to action has released its guide to implementing those calls.

The school is committing to five key goals stemming from the TRC's calls to action.

The goals revolve around treaty education, Indigenous knowledge, an understanding of how staff, faculty and students can play a role in reconciliation and promoting knowledge of key elements within the TRC, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The university has committed to educating faculty and students about Treaty 4 and Treaty 6, which pertain to the lands occupied by the institution. University president Dr. Vianne Timmons said each faculty will be approaching that commitment in their own unique way.

"The faculty of education has an annual treaty camp, they started that in the fall of 2015," she said. "The science devoted their annual faculty wide development day in August to treaty education."

Timmons said the Aboriginal student centre and the office of Indigenization provide elder-led teachings through the school year to faculty, staff and students alike.

Timmons said some faculties have already implemented mandatory Indigenous studies programming into their teachings.

"We're leaving it up to faculties to identify this as a need and implement it," Timmons said.

Working group's document viewed as a guide

The report includes a specific list of steps the University and it's executive could take to help aide in reconciliation related actions.

The working group recommended the university, through it's council or executive teams, undertake a study of the TRC's calls to actions and identify which topics they could contribute to.

It also recommended studying the TRC's calls to actions to identify broader issues related to colonialism to tackle.

Timmons said the institute views the recommendations as a non-prescriptive guide.

"It's a tool to encourage new efforts related to truth and reconciliation to be taken up in the community," Timmons said. 

Programs are committed to working group's report

Timmons said she wouldn't have to hold the U of R's faculty accountable to the working group's recommendations as they have committed to following through with the reports findings.

"We really don't want to be punitive in our approach," she said. "We want to hold the carrot out and encourage them, and we haven't had any difficulty at all in having the campus endorse it."

Timmons noted that Emily Grafton, the school's recently appointed executive lead for Indigenization, would be responsible for collecting information about how each faculty is doing in terms of achieving the goals they committed to and reporting those findings back to the executive.

"If we see there's an area we need to encourage a little bit more, we will do so," Timmons said. 

She said programs see truth and reconciliation as a responsibility of each and every member of the faculty and staff, as well as the student body.

Final recommendations

The working group also called on the university to "own its own relationship to residential schools and colonialism."

It asked for the school to fulfil promises made in a joint statement issued in 2016, prepared by U-of-R president Vianne Timmons and University of Saskatchewan president Peter Stoicheff.

The working group also made a number of recommendations each faculty, unit and division within the U-of-R can make to advance the schools reconciliation agenda.

Among their six recommendations, the working group called on each faculty, unit or division to start with call to action 57, which calls on all levels of government to provide education to public servants about the history of Indigenous people, including the legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, treaties and Indigenous rights, Indigenous laws and Indigenous - Crown relations.

The working group also called for more activities hosted in Indigenous communities, as opposed to holding those events at the university.

While the working group's report was just released, Timmons said the institute has been working toward reconciliation and Indigenization in other ways.

She said the university has committed to buying art from Indigenous artists, renamed streets and buildings, invested in an Indigenous advisory circle and is working with chiefs in the Treaty 4 and 6 territories to advance their reconciliation objectives.

"This is very much a multi-pronged, campus wide approach to reconciliation."