SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council releases calls to action

The council report will advise the university on how to spend $9 million in funding toward reconciliation

Photo courtesy of the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council

The SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (ARC) released its calls to action last week which will guide the university in allocating the $9 million set aside to fund reconciliation efforts on campus. In an executive summary, the council outlined its priorities for the Aboriginal Strategic Initiative fund based on feedback from the community it collected over eight months of consultations.

The report was originally expected to be completed by February 2017, but the council will now submit the report to the Office of the President on June 15. A ceremony to mark the handing over of the report is scheduled for the fall. 

“In very overt ways, and also in very subtle ways, I think the process of engaging in this dialogue has started to shift the landscape here,” said ARC co-chair Kris Magnusson.

When the council was initiated in fall 2016, it expected the process of consultation to take only one semester. However, the volume of input meant that the deadline for releasing the report was extended twice over the course of the year.

“It became pretty clear that there was just a lot of material here, a lot of interest,” explained Magnusson. “If we were simply going to hear people, we had to have a bigger time frame.”

The executive summary contains 29 calls to action that include indigenizing spaces on campus, course curricula, and administrative policies, as well as building more community supports.  Magnusson said that the council made a strategic decision to present its report as calls to action, rather than recommendations.

“A call to action is much stronger, you have to either say yes, or explain why it’s no,” he explained.

Many of the calls to action also do not directly make recommendations for the allocation of the $9 million fund. Magnusson noted that much of what the council wanted to address was not specifically related to funding issues, but connected to policies and procedures.

“We need to rethink how Indigenous perspectives are represented and recognized across our different levels of leadership,” he said.

The council held open forums for members of the SFU Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities and hosted representatives from the broader Indigenous community, including the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-waututh nations, throughout the year.  

“They found this to be so powerful and so useful, so one of the calls to action [is] we cannot stop that process of dialogue,” explained Magnusson. He noted that the process of input and recommendations will not stop with the release of the report.

When the report is handed over, SFU administration will make the decisions on how to distribute the funding over a three-year timeline.

“Hopefully [the report] becomes a living document where the articulation of the principles and the directions of the calls to action become a sustaining part of the fabric of SFU,” Magnusson said.

“I am so proud of how this community has come together and I am so encouraged by what potential we have if we agree to join arms and walk through the problems that we are going to face.”