Queen’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission Task Force reveals final report

One year after national commission’s calls to action, Queen’s committee answers

Among the report’s recommendations are a focus on Indigenous research at Queen’s.
Photo via Truth and Reconciliation Task force final report

On Tuesday night the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Task Force revealed their final report titled “Extending the Rafters” at a special reception held by the University. 

The crowd at the reception, hosted at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, included Principal Daniel Woolf, students, staff, faculty, alumni and members of the local Indigenous community. 

The TRC Task Force co-chairs, Mark Green and Jill Scott, hosted the event which showcased a traditional Mohawk opening ceremony presented by lecturer Nathan Brinklow, and other presentations by: Elder Marlene Brant Castellano and student Lauren Winkler, an Anishinaabe Honour Song performed by the Four Directions Women Singers and a Haudenosaunee Round Dance, led by performers from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

In an email from Green, he explained “the report has 25 key recommendations ranging from governance and visibility of Indigenous Peoples on campus to incorporating significant Indigenous content in curriculum for all programs at Queen’s.”

The TRC Task Force was originally created to form a response to the national commission’s calls to action for post-secondary institutions. The report is intended to serve as a guideline for the University to implement change. 

According to Principal Woolf’s message in the report, “Queen’s University participated in a number of traditions that caused harm to Indigenous communities, but perhaps most importantly, our university failed to educate our students on the long history of deep rooted conflicts between Canada and Indigenous Peoples.”

The University’s goal is to reduce the barriers to education and create a more welcoming and diverse campus for students, staff and faculty who identify as Indigenous. To demonstrate their commitment to this goal, Principal Woolf announced that the University will be creating an Office of Indigenous Initiatives in the coming months. 

The TRC Task Force’s report explores issues such as relationship-building, changing perspectives and policy, and promoting an awareness of the rights, histories, and contemporary issues of Indigenous peoples.

The final report included outlined recommendations and timelines for the above themes. As well, it contained reproductions of artwork featured in the Indigenous art collection at the Agnes.  

The report was also titled in three languages: “Yakwanastahentéha” (Mohawk), “Aankenjigemi” (Ojibwe), and “Extending the Rafters” (English). Green said that the first recommendation “emphasizes the importance of relationships and partnerships with Indigenous communities.”

“This is underscored by the Principal’s recent acknowledgement of Queen’s role in the colonial system that led to the Residential School System, and the Friendship wampum belt presented at the recent Special Senate meeting to commemorate the 175 anniversary of the first classes at Queen’s.”

In addition to the creation of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, the TRC’s recommendations in the report call for continued efforts to develop and strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities in the Kingston region.

As well, it recommends  that Queen’s improve awareness towards Indigenous-focused research occurring on campus and ensuring the necessary supports are in place to allow research in these fields to flourish.

Every program offered at Queen’s is to include significant and meaningful Indigenous content, “so that graduating students gain a basic understanding of Indigenous knowledge systems relevant to their discipline.”

“The implementation of these recommendations will transform the relationship between Queen’s and Indigenous communities, and enrich the educational experience at Queen’s for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike,” Green said. 

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