Dear King’s community,
This week we will mark two very important days.
On Friday, September 30, King’s will join people across the country in observing the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is a day to recognize the injustices suffered by Indigenous Peoples in Canada through, among other things, forced attendance in the country’s residential school system, a practice that caused deep and lasting generational trauma and one that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide.” Among the 94 Calls to Action [PDF] the Commission published in 2015, Call to Action 80 appealed for the federal government of Canada to establish a statutory holiday “to honour Survivors, their families and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
In Nova Scotia, observance of the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation is followed by Treaty Day on October 1, a day when we celebrate the treaties of peace and friendship signed by the Mi’kmaq and the Crown in 1752.
Both of these days provide an important opportunity for learning and reflection; reflection on what it means to be Treaty People and reflection on what Reconciliation means for us individually, and as a community.
In our community at King’s, we recently announced a cohort initiative for Mi’kmaw journalism students—an initiative that I believe will deepen our community’s understanding of what it means to be Treaty People. Beginning in the fall of 2023, King’s will fully cover the cost of tuition for up to three Mi’kmaw students each academic year who are studying in the university’s undergraduate Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) program. At the same time, the supports available to all Indigenous students at King’s will be enhanced: King’s will strengthen its relationships with the Elder-in-Residence Program and the Indigenous Student Centre, both at Dalhousie, and funding will be provided to hire an Indigenous student advisor who will be available to King’s students on a priority basis; a dedicated space for Indigenous students will be created on King’s campus; and collaborative work is underway with Mount Saint Vincent University to develop and share additional resources for both universities’ Indigenous students.
The Mi’kmaw cohort initiative and the related supports King’s will offer are being developed in close consultation with the Mi’kmaw community. Together, these efforts mark an important step forward as King’s continues its work of Reconciliation and our obligation to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action on Education.
The work of Reconciliation is complex, often difficult and also mutually fulfilling. It holds the promise to make us all better human beings. It cannot be overstated how much we, as a community, benefit from the generosity extended by members of the Mi’kmaw community who have provided their insight and support as we develop and launch such initiatives. In particular, I wish to thank Ann Sylliboy, Catherine Martin, Sheila Isaac, and Rogers Chair in Journalism and King’s alum Trina Roache for their assistance.
Throughout our community, every day, important and considered efforts are being made to advance the work of Reconciliation. One example I would like to highlight is a book launch taking place on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, for the fourth edition of We Were Not the Savages, written by Mi’kmaq Elder Daniel Paul. Organized by Dr. Dorota Glowacka, professor in the Contemporary Studies Program, in coordination with Paul Mackay, manager of King’s Co-op Bookstore and with Fernwood Press, this promises to be a remarkable afternoon. Daniel Paul will be in attendance, as well as the noted Mi’kmaw lawyer, academic and activist Dr. Pamela Palmater, who will deliver the keynote address. Catherine Martin, King’s Board of Governors member and director of Indigenous Community Engagement at Dalhousie University, will be the guest speaker and singer. I hope you will join me in Alumni Hall on the afternoon of September 30 for this opportunity. For those who cannot attend this event in person, it will be live streamed.
As we approach these two important days, I encourage all members of our community to reflect on the history that led to their creation. Let us work toward Reconciliation and continue to explore what it means to be Treaty People in the way we live, work and study, not only this week, but every day.
President, Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Law