Letter to the Editor – May 27, 2013


WEB-Totem Pole-Siyavash Izadi

By Clay Gray
Photos by Siyavash Izadi

Dear SFU community,

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) will be gathering in Vancouver, from Sept. 18-21, 2013 for one of its six national events. The TRC is mandated to seek the truth and play a part in the healing and reconciliation process for the Aboriginal people of Canada who suffered atrocities under the Canadian residential school system.

The Simon Fraser Student Society is asking you for letters of support for our proposed action, a closing of all three campuses on Sept. 18. These letters will be taken to the June 10 Senate meeting for the purpose of showing the extent to which students support this initiative.

Although many may be aware of the existence of the residential school system within Canada, few are cognizant of the extent to which this government initiative damaged the Aboriginal community. Over 3,000 child deaths occurred at institutions throughout the 150-year history of residential schools, with the last residential school closing its doors in 1996. Accompanying the death toll is well documented and rampant physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.

Along with playing a part in the healing and reconciliation of the Aboriginal community, the TRC also seeks to create awareness among the Canadian public regarding this page in Canadian history. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a crucial aspect in the process of recognizing the systematic disenfranchisement of Aboriginal communities across Canada.

Currently, the University of British Columbia has committed to suspending all classes on September 18 to allow students, staff, and faculty to attend the opening day ceremonies of the TRC. In its Aboriginal Strategic Plan SFU states, “The University is committed to: Engaging the Aboriginal community in every way possible to contribute to their social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being” (ASP 2013, p 2).

The Simon Fraser Student Society is requesting the University to stand behind its statement to be “the leading engaged university in Canada” (ASP 2013, 2) by closing all three SFU campuses and formally inviting all SFU community members to participate in this historic event. At the very least, we believe as an expression of SFU’s commitment to the Aboriginal community, all classes should be cancelled to match UBC’s acknowledgement of this landmark event.

We are at a pivotal moment in Canadian history, if SFU is serious about establishing itself as an ally to the Aboriginal community; this is an opportunity to be exemplars for the rest of Canadian universities.

Yours in gratitude,

Clay J. Gray
SFSS At-Large Representative
Offices located at MBC 2220

(for more information or to submit a letter go to MBC 2220)