By: Meera Eragoda, Staff Writer
Anyone who’s wandered past the BIG Fair or the Mini BIG Fair at SFU may have seen a booth set up for the RCMP. Some have already realized the hypocrisy that goes into having the RCMP recruiting on campus. For anyone who hasn’t, here’s the disconnect: SFU reportedly recognizes it’s on stolen land, yet invites the very organization that helped steal the land in the first place to recruit people. Those new recruits will then go on to police those who they stole the land from.
Like many places around British Columbia, SFU has started making land acknowledgments at events held on its campuses. There is even a handy little guide on their website with info on which land acknowledgment to use for each campus. For Burnaby, it’s “Simon Fraser University acknowledges the unceded Traditional Coast Salish Lands including the Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ), Kwikwetlem (kʷikʷəƛ̓əm), Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw) and Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) Nations.”
So SFU acknowledging it’s on stolen land seems like a good start. But if the RCMP are allowed to recruit on campus, clearly SFU is not acknowledging the violence that went into removing Indigenous people from this land. The RCMP was created specifically in order to displace Indigenous people, and were tasked with removing Indigenous youth from their homes and families and putting them into residential schools.
What makes this arguably worse is that a whole section of SFU’s website is dedicated to reconciliation, specifically regarding education. As part of this supposed dedication and SFU’s goal of empowering Indigenous people, SFU created the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council which, in 2017, released the Walk This Path With Us report. The report states that “[p]ost-secondary education for Indigenous people in Canada is deeply scarred by a long and disastrous history of colonialism, racism, and residential schooling . . . [and] saw more than 150,000 First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children forcibly removed from their communities and assigned to schools.”
Let me just repeat that once more: the RCMP helped forcibly remove over 150,000 Indigenous children from their land and families. For perspective, the student population of all three of SFU’s campuses is approximately 30,000.
SFU presents itself as wanting to rectify these historical wrongs and provide Indigenous people with access to education without assimilation, as well as engage with Indigenous knowledge and education styles that were previously condemned. However, if SFU is conveniently overlooking the complicity of the RCMP as the source of force, violence, and harm against Indigenous people, how exactly is it empowering Indigenous students?
How does the SFU administration not see the hypocrisy in saying they are striving toward reconciliation while bringing people complicit in Indigenous oppression to campus? How is SFU any different from Canadian governments who pat themselves on the back for making empty land acknowledgments while ordering the RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en lands? The same lands they acknowledge are stolen? If SFU is truly dedicated to creating a safe environment for Indigenous education, they should stop allowing the RCMP to recruit on campus. It’s honestly a no-brainer.
Perhaps if the role of the RCMP as an oppressive tool of the state had been addressed and rectified as a mistake of the past, their presence at campus recruitment fairs may be more tolerable. But as it stands, their mismanagement of Colten Boushie’s case, Tina Fontaine’s unsolved murder, the over 1,200 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and, of course, the force used against the Wet’suwet’en put into context all too clearly that the RCMP has never stopped acting as the violent arm of colonial governments against Indigenous communities.
No wonder Indigenous youth are declaring that #reconcilitationisdead.