Ron George of the Cowichan Nation, a member of UVic’s Elders’ Voices, delivered an emotional speech in which he described his experiences in Canada’s residential school system. He gave his speech Thursday during UVic’s announcement of its inaugural Indigenous Plan. Submitted

UVic launches inaugural Indigenous Plan

The president of the University of Victoria says its inaugural Indigenous Plan is part and parcel of efforts to help reverse the legacies of colonialism.

UVic president Jamie Cassels told an audience some 100 people that the “history of colonization, the associated attitudes, policies, laws and institutions” created barriers for Indigenous people to access higher education. “And we are committed to removing and resolving these barriers as best we can,” he said.

Audience members included UVic chancellor Shelagh Rogers, faculty members, students and representatives of several local First Nations. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the late morning presentation held at First Peoples House was emotional speech by Ron George of the Cowichan Nation, a member of the university’s Elders’ Voices.

In the speech, he described his experiences in Canada’s residential school system, called on audience members to help protect the local environment by planting a cedar tree, and performed a prayer song. He also used the speech to stress the importance of education for Indigenous people but also warn against broken promises.

“I have been involved one way or another with Indigenous education for 40 years, both as a participant and in the delivery of our educational programming,” he said. “I have seen many great ideas and plans fall by the wayside. We hear those words. Sometimes, they can become so hollow, because there wasn’t the political will to move them forward. So while today may be an historic day at UVic with the launch of the plan, I want to remind us all, that in order to become reality…we need to work together.”

Robina Thomas, interim executive director, indigenous academic and community engagement, said the plan consists out of five strands: students, faculty and staff, education, research and governance.

Among other measures, the university hopes to increase the current indigenous student enrolment of around 5 per cent across campus by raising the number of reserved seats, access programs, preferential selection and other opportunities. The university also commits itself to “ensuring our curricula do not perpetuate colonial and/or racist content or perspectives.”

The university plans to increase the current number of indigenous faculty and staff. It currently employs 90 indigenous people, including 25 faculty members. Its overall number is under 900.

The university also wants to ensure students in professional programs become knowledgeable about Indigenous history, culture and the impact of colonialism if they will serve and interact with Indigenous peoples and communities. The university also aims to review existing programs and develop an Indigenous Studies Major, complementing the existing Indigenous Studies Minor among other measures under the rubric of education.

Turning to research, the university sets out to “establish and promote culturally appropriate and inclusive definitions, guiding principles and protocols” involving Indigenous research participants, communities or lands among other measures. They include the identification of resources for Indigenous research chairs, graduate student scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships.

Turning to governance, the university plans to review and potentially revise the governance structure for Indigenous programming, initiatives and engagement. Under this heading, the university plans to develop an Indigenous Community Engagement Council to provide a forum for discussion among UVic leaders, local chiefs and community leaders.

Thursday’s announcement marked the conclusion of UVic’s Indigenous Week of Welcome. Held every September and January, UVic’s holds a series of events and activities to orient and support self-identified Indigenous students.

Just Posted

Two missing Victoria children found safe

VicPD responded to two separate missing children calls Tuesday

Saanich amalgamation committee holds first meeting

Saanich councillors call for a transparent process to ensure success of study

Crews repair damage after Tuesday night water main break in Langford

Flooding resulted in property damage, forced evacuation from Langford homes

Snow not melting fast enough for some Greater Victoria residents

Resident unhappy with lack of snow removal on Mount Doug trails

‘It consumed my life’: Inside the world of gaming addiction

World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a mental health condition

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Police seize bottles of grapefruit vodka from wanted man’s snow-pants

The men were pushing two shopping carts with a woman inside

Tonight’s sporting event costs more than the Super Bowl, and Obama is going

Tickets are going for more than $4,000 to watch the Duke - North Carolina basketball game

CRTC report finds ‘misleading, aggressive’ sales tactics used by telecom industry

Report recommends measures to make a fairer situation for consumers

Police dog tracks suspect through wintry Vancouver Island backcountry

Assault suspect arrested after two-hour track by Nanaimo RCMP police dog Jager

Trudeau takes personal hit amid SNC-Lavalin controversy: poll

Overall, 41 per cent of respondents believed the prime minister had done something wrong in the affair

B.C. photographer captures otters on ice

A Langley photographer was at the right place at the right time on the Fraser River

Unplowed Roads parody song destined to be a classic

Move over Weird Al, Island elementary students on the same level

Most Read