In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recorded testimony of more than 6,000 survivors affected by residential schools. These testimonies were published in a report detailing the experiences and impacts of the residential school system, creating a historical record of its legacy and consequences. Read The Survivors Speak for the Survivors’ stories and lived experiences.
An outcome of the TRC’s report into the history and legacy of the Canadian residential school system was this document detailing 94 calls to action across a wide range of areas including education, health, child welfare, and culture.
Through Laurier Continuing Education, community members can learn about Indigenous history, knowledge, and practices, and how systems in Canada have impacted Indigenous communities. Explore courses and certificates are offered through the Centre for Indigegogy, Faculty of Social Work (FSW) Professional Development, and the Centre for Public Safety and Well-Being (CPSW).
The Indigenous Strategic Plan provides a pathway to creating an inclusive university community that incorporates Indigenous knowledges, perspectives and experiences into the fabric of the university. It aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action numbers 10, 11, 16, 62 and 65, which call for improving the gap of educational attainment for Indigenous learners; respecting and honouring treaty relationships; supporting Indigenous languages; integrating Indigenous knowledges and teaching methods into classrooms; and advancing understanding of reconciliation through research.
Throughout the summer of 2023, artist Mike Cywink hosted engagement sessions for members of the Laurier and wider community to help create a mural that expresses Laurier’s commitment to reconciliation, decolonization and Indigenization at the university and beyond. Dozens of faculty, staff, students and community members participated in the engagement sessions, learning more about Indigenous storytelling, culture and art. The Indigenous mural project is a collaboration between the Laurier Library, Robert Langen Art Gallery and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives and hangs on the southwest wall of the library on Laurier’s Waterloo campus. The mural was unveiled at a special event in fall of 2023 in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Laurier alumna Charity Fleming (MSW `09), an Indigenous social worker and an intergenerational survivor of the residential school and sixties scoop programs. She has dedicated her life to aiding the recovery of indigenous people from experiences and impacts of historical trauma.
Kawennakon Bonnie Whitlow, Indigenous special projects officer at Laurier, speaks of her journey to learn the Mohawk language and the way it informs her teaching methods in the Voices from the Land podcast presented by the Legacy of Hope Foundation. The foundation is an Indigenous-led organization that has been working to promote healing and reconciliation in Canada for over 22 years.
“The reason that I fell so in love with learning the language is that it absolutely rooted out colonial thought and gave me the worldview of my ancestors by learning how they said something.”
Wilfrid Laurier University invites faculty, staff, students and the community to participate in university and community events planned to commemorate this day.
*List of 2024 events to come.
Sept. 30 is also recognized as Orange Shirt Day. Designed by Maggie Allan from the Office of Indigenous Initiatives in 2023, the Laurier bookstore on both the Brantford and Waterloo campuses are selling orange shirts, with all proceeds going to support the Woodland Cultural Centre. Laurier community members are encouraged to wear an orange shirt on Sept. 30 to demonstrate support for the survivors and victims of the residential school system.
The Indigenous Student Emergency Fund is a multi-campus bursary available to Indigenous students facing unexpected financial crisis, no matter where they’re studying from. As the number of Indigenous students at Laurier increases, the number of students facing financial emergencies also increases – and every year those emergencies get more expensive. The Indigenous Student Emergency Fund forms one part of the Indigenous Student Services’ circle-of-care approach to supporting Indigenous students at Laurier. Support staff at the Indigenous Student Centres work one-on-one with students to ensure they have access to the unique resources, support and community they need to succeed in their studies and thrive at Laurier.
In honour of this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, please consider donating to Laurier’s Indigenous Student Emergency Fund or the Indigenous Knowledge Fund, which brings Indigenous knowledge holders to visit Laurier campuses to share Indigenous ways of knowing across the many different programs at Laurier. Thank you for your generosity.