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Universities and the legacy of residential schools

Read a message from Senior Director of Indigenous Directions Manon Tremblay and Concordia President Graham Carr
June 30, 2021
By Manon Tremblay and Graham Carr

Concordia joins First Nations, Métis and Inuit families in grieving the tragic loss of their children in residential schools across Canada. We walk together with you in your sorrow. As we mark national holidays, we must also reflect on the history of colonialism and its impact on Indigenous peoples and communities. This includes the erasure of rich, ancestral knowledges and languages, and the assimilation policies that led to the intergenerational trauma experienced by many Indigenous people today.

In light of the terrible discoveries at the Kamloops and Marieval residential schools, and with the likelihood of more shameful discoveries to come, Concordia recognizes that it must both address its own association with key players who were involved in the creation, establishment and management of the residential school system and work to move forward in a good way.

Through its Indigenous Directions Action Plan, Concordia remains deeply committed to the decolonization and indigenization of our university and continues to uphold the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action and the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

One of the consequences of colonial practices in Canada has been to severely discourage Indigenous access to and participation in higher education. As a university, Concordia has a responsibility to remove barriers to Indigenous student success within our university and enable Indigenous students to achieve their highest academic potential. We will be a better university for it.

Equally fundamental is our recognition of the role that universities must play to help Canadians better understand the truth about residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and other injustices inflicted on Indigenous peoples. At Concordia, we partly accomplish this through our Pîkiskwêtân Learning Series, a series of awareness and education workshops offered every academic year to the Concordia community, through our undergraduate First Peoples Studies program, and in efforts across the university to decolonize the curriculum.

In the coming weeks, Concordia will be working in close collaboration with its Office of Indigenous Directions and the Indigenous Directions Leadership Council to find meaningful and respectful action-oriented ways to support residential school survivors and commemorate the thousands of children who lost their lives in residential schools.

Concordia encourages anyone affected by recent events to contact the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line, which provides 24/7 support for residential school survivors and others who may be affected: 1-866-925-4419.

Every Child Matters.

Graham Carr
President and Vice-Chancellor
Concordia University

Manon Tremblay
Senior Director, Indigenous Directions
Concordia University


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