Over 1,000 CapU students, staff and faculty gathered at the University over a week of events surrounding truth and reconciliation
Annalisse Crosswell // News Editor
Photography by Tae Kim, Visual Media Specialist
Seventy thousand people banded together in 2013 on the streets of Vancouver to march for reconciliation. Since then, efforts to reconcile the history of Indigenous populations in Canada have become a more prominent aspect of the conversation at both national and provincial levels. From the time of this initial march, Capilano University has held five annual Reconciliation Weeks, the latest of which ran from Sept. 24-28.
The growing success of the event is evident from a 1,250-person turnout, the majority of which were students, with employees and senior administrators in attendance as well. This is an increase from previous years when the week has seen engagement of between 800 and 1000 people. With a week packed with events, including a drum circle with Willie Lewis, a writers feast potluck and a keynote address from Steven Point in the BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts that drew a crowd of more than 200, there were events that catered to all individuals interested in engaging.
David Kirk, CapU’s Indigenous Faculty Advisor, is keenly aware of the importance of this type of engagement with First Nations culture and history within schools. “It’s really key that institutions continue this kind of work because it’s really important to share the history,” he said. Though younger students may have received some level of education on the topic during their K-12 years, it’s likely that older students within the University will have had little to no contact with the history of the First Nations people during their prior academic careers.
Kirk said that it is important to bring this history into university experiences in Canada in all aspects of education. “I’m a firm believer [that] we need to know who we are and that means knowing where we come from – we need to know a connection to the land, to community, to language,” said Kirk. Though he is aware that there is further to go in growing awareness, he acknowledged that the University is making beneficial progress with the center itself and the pavilion that sits outside, as well as the three Indigenous language courses that are offered.
CapU offers courses in the languages and culture of the Lil’wat, Sechelt and Squamish Nations, which is integral to repairing the damage of a culture dismantled by residential schools and the pervading fear caused by them.
Reconciliation Week and the other efforts to increase awareness are important to the University in breaking down the systematic and social barriers faced by First Nations students coming into their post-secondary education. There are still many false ideas held by non-Indigenous students about the opportunities available for First Nations students, many of whom already struggle with starting their education as the first person in their family to attend university. The perpetuated idea of financial handouts is one of these, one which Kirk commented: “The truth of the matter is that the bulk of our students pay for their own tuition because they don’t have their status or, even if they have their status, it doesn’t mean there is funding available.” Kirk encourages those interested in these issues to watch First Contact on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
The success of Reconciliation Week within CapU holds importance not just for the changing ideologies on campus, but nationwide. An increasing awareness and acceptance that the history of abuse cannot be ignored if the country wishes to reconcile its past is a huge step for a people that Kirk said cannot heal without the reparation efforts of the nation as a whole.