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National Building Reconciliation Forum convenes university leaders, Indigenous communities to advance institutional change and healing

Université Laval and the Université du Québec network to co-host annual 2020 forum 

(SAULT STE. MARIE, ON- Thursday, October 10, 2019) – Higher education and Indigenous leaders took action towards reconciliation and creating meaningful institutional change at the fifth annual Building Reconciliation Forum held October 8 to 10 at Algoma University – the only university in Canada located on the site of a former residential school.


Jointly hosted by Algoma University, Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, Nipissing University, Cape Breton University and the University of Northern British Columbia, the forum brought together more than 250 participants including university and Indigenous community leaders, Elders, residential school survivors, partners and students from across the country. The theme of this year’s forum was Wiiji-nookiimding wii-noojmoweng, dibaajmotaading, doodamowin miinwaa debwe’endaagziwin – wii-ni-niigaaniing, meaning to work together to advance healing and reconciliation in the Anishinaabemowin language.

In advance of the fifth anniversary of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the forum offered participants a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas and share best practices on how to advance reconciliation through higher education and support the healing journey. Activities foregrounded the history of the Algoma University site, where the Shingwauk Residential School operated from 1874 to 1970. Participants had the opportunity to explore Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall, the first and only survivor-driven permanent exhibition in a former residential school in Canada.

At the closing ceremony of the forum, it was announced that the Université Laval and the Université du Québec network – which together represent 12 of Quebec’s 19 universities – will co-host the 2020 forum. Under the theme “From reconciliation to reconciliations,” the 2020 forum will convene a wide variety of voices and stakeholders in the Indigenous and academic communities to explore how reconciliation efforts are experienced in Quebec and how they can be understood in the context of the national reconciliation conversation. 

The annual national Building Reconciliation Forum brings together leaders from universities, colleges and Indigenous communities to create meaningful and lasting institutional change in the higher education sector to advance reconciliation. Working with the local host institution(s), Universities Canada plays a national coordinating role in the annual events.

QUOTES

“The fifth annual Building Reconciliation Forum has been a unique opportunity to come together and learn from universities – from Prince George, BC to Sydney, NS – as well as Indigenous communities, Elders and residential school survivors. This year’s focus on the unique strengths and reconciliation work of smaller institutions has provided valuable learnings for Canada’s universities as we move forward hand-in-hand with Indigenous communities to advance reconciliation through education.”

– Paul Davidson, president, Universities Canada

“It has been an honour to co-host the fifth Building Reconciliation Forum on the Shingwauk site in partnership with three other universities and one of the Ontario Indigenous Institutes. Our work with Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig to realize our special mission of cross-cultural learning between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is inspired by Chief Shingwauk’s vision to develop a Teaching Wigwam on this site almost 200 years ago. This mission, coupled with the opportunity to share the truth of Canada’s history through the survivor-led ‘Reclamation of Shingwauk Hall’ exhibit, has provided a valuable context in which to engage in a national conversation with leadership teams from across the country. The opportunity to collectively consider the role of Canadian universities over these next five years of reconciliation has made this a unique and incredible three days.” 

– Asima Vezina, president, Algoma University

“We are happy to have been a part of hosting this year’s forum. Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig has always been guided by the knowledge that Indigenous control of Indigenous education is the key to success – it is our inherent right. It is our hope that from this forum, more institutions across the country are encouraged to build meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities on whose territory they operate and leverage their institutional power to make way for Indigenous peoples to lead.” 

– Della Anaquod, president and academic dean, Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig

“Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples has been ongoing for decades; the TRC and its Calls to Action have encouraged all Canadians to be involved in these efforts. The university sector has worked hard to develop relationships with Indigenous people and this forum is an opportunity to share that work and build upon it.”

 – Mike DeGagné, president, Nipissing University

“The post-secondary education sector has a major role to play in ensuring that the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are implemented. This forum is a powerful way to increase dialogue on reconciliation issues and to build relationships and partnerships that will serve to ensure continued communication, understanding and a shared vision for the future.”

– David Dingwall, president, Cape Breton University

“The conversations the Building Reconciliation Forum fosters allow us to exchange ideas about how we can integrate the essential Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into everything we do as institutions of higher learning.”

– Daniel Weeks, president, University of Northern British Columbia 

“It is with great pride that, together with our Indigenous partners, we take on the role of hosts for next year’s Building Reconciliation Forum. The gathering will be an opportunity to take stock of postsecondary education initiatives undertaken by universities and First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations, and to understand the various forms reconciliation can take. We all wish to make this event a defining moment that will inspire lasting commitments on the path to reconciliation.”

– Sophie D’Amours, rector, Université Laval and Johanne Jean, president, Université du Québec 

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