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.
“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,” said Dr. Daniel Weeks, president, University of Northern British Columbia.
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 exploreReclaiming 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.