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Truth and Reconciliation on Campus

U of T committee reviewing implications of TRC's report for the university

photo of Jonathon Hamilton-Diablo

The injustices Indigenous people have faced throughout history have become a big focus for the Canadian government.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada recently published Calls to Action outlining the ways the country can continue the reconciliation process and improve the future for all Indigenous people.

The University of Toronto, having played an important role in the country and its history, is addressing the TRC’s Calls to Action as they apply to the university.  

This resulted in the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Steering Committee, co-chaired by Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, director of Aboriginal Student Services at First Nations House and coordinator for the Council for Aboriginal Initiatives, and Professor Stephen Toope, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs. The other members of the Committee are Indigenous Elders Lee Maracle and Andrew Wesley; Professor Eve Tuck, OISE; Professor Brian Gettler, department of historical studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga; Professor Bruce Kidd, vice-president and principal at the University of Toronto Scarborough; Professor Keren Rice, department of linguistics in the Faculty of Arts &Science; Dr. Lisa Richardson of the Faculty of Medicine; Hart House Warden John Monahan; students Diane Hill and James Bird; and staff member Jackie Esquimaux-Hamlin.

“The government’s involvement is a really big step and brings much needed attention to this important matter,” said Hamilton-Diabo. “When we read the TRC report, we looked at what the university has already been doing, ways to enhance what exists, and how we can create additional programming and services. This is a great opportunity to increase the Aboriginal presence on all three of our campuses.”

Five working groups were created to provide recommendations on the subjects of Indigenous curriculum, Indigenous students, Indigenous faculty and staff, co-curricular programming, and research ethics and community relationships. These groups may choose to conduct additional consultations with members of the university community.

“Each working group has representation from faculty, staff, students and a member of the Aboriginal community,” said Hamilton-Diabo. “We are encouraging everyone to share their voice and submit their recommendations. Our goal is to making this as collaborative as possible and increase dialogue surrounding these issues.”

Written submissions regarding implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action as they apply to the university can be sent to munkschool.director@utoronto.ca by October 1, 2016. All submissions will be reviewed by the Steering Committee and will help influence the Committee’s recommendations to the president and vice-president and provost. An interim report is expected by June 30, 2016.

With the marking of Canada’s sesquicentennial, the university will also include Indigenous issues, research and themes as they pertain to the history of Canada and U of T.

“With 150 years behind us as a nation, it’s important to understand our history as well as today’s culture,” said Hamilton-Diabo. “Reflecting on events of the past allows us to set a direction for a better future for the Indigenous peoples of our university and our country.”