Students & staff respond to TRC & PICRDI reports

Concerns arise over implementation of TRC report at Queen's

Speakers engaged in discussion in Mac-Corry on Wednesday.
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After reviewing final reports released by two of the University’s most recently developed committees, the Queen’s community met on October 11 to share their thoughts on issues of equity, diversity and Indigenous inclusion on campus.

Students, staff and faculty were invited to Mackintosh-Corry Hall as part of the Gender Speaker Series to discuss the continued prioritization of an equitable campus.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission response 

Intended to serve as a guideline for the University to implement change, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Task Force was originally created to form a response to the national commission’s calls to action.

By April 2017, the Commission released its own final report, producing 25 recommendations to implement the Canada TRC’s calls to action through various collaborators, including both Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty, staff, students, administrators and community members.  

Consultation for the TRC report included meetings with the Queen’s Aboriginal Council, Native Student Association, the Mohawk of the Bay of Quinte, United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising, as well as several other university-based groups and external institutions. 

Newly appointed Director of Indigenous Initiatives Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), expressed her thoughts on the completed TRC report by highlighting some of the key recommendations made. 

Amongst them, Hill said it’s imperative for Queen’s to ensure training on ethical approaches to Indigenous research as well as increasing their number of Indigenous staff and faculty. 

“I’ve always said, we’re in a place where we’re training policy makers and decision makers for this country and beyond,” Hill said. “And I think we do a disservice if the graduating class has no knowledge on the history of Indigenous communities and presence on the land here.” 

Hill indicated that the creation of an implementation committee would be beneficial in ensuring the recommendations were carried out. 

The subject of implementation was further raised by Mark Green, member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Professor in the Department of Structural Engineering at the University. 

“Sometimes it’s happened in the past — the recommendations just sit there,” Green said. 

He continued by indicating that some parts of the report could be implemented on a smaller scale. Specifically, Green gave the example of indigenizing curriculum within the subject of Engineering in relation to water quality.  

“Talk to your curriculum committees and see how you can indigenize the curriculum,” Green said. “If you’re a student, talk to your professor about what could be relevant when indigenizing content in their courses.” 

Following speakers’ remarks, a member of the audience asked if any progress had been made in regards to a course on Aboriginal Studies as a graduate requirement that would be effective University-wide. 

“What we recommended wasn’t a specific course, but that each program had to identify how they would meet Indigenous learning outcomes,” Green said in response. “One way would be to have a course, but there may be other ways that may be dispersed throughout the curriculum.” 

Green added that the choice would be left up to faculties to decide whether they would want to implement an Indigenous-focused course, as the TRC hadn’t recommended it explicitly. 

Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion (PICRDI) response

PICRDI was established in 2016 following student outcry against incidents of racism on campus. Made up of six members, the committee was oriented towards identifying barriers to recommendations made in previous reports regarding racism on campus.

With multiple reports published at Queen’s since 1991, PICRDI was tasked with understanding why most recommendations from these reports had never been implemented.

The committee was able to identify several barriers to implementation in a final report equating to over 100 pages released in April of this year. 

ASUS Equity Commissioner Laura Anderson told the group that all seven ASUS committees had undergone restructuring to ensure that equity remains a priority within the society.

“Instead of talking about mental health in a bubble, we can talk about how marginalized students on campus have different experiences with that because of complex identities,” Anderson said.

Formerly known as the Red Room, ASUS will re-introduce the space in Kingston Hall as the Reflection Room in November. Available through ASUS services, the goal of the space will be to integrate a place for conversation with an inviting atmosphere for students to feel safe in. 

Concerns of implementation didn’t escape the PICRDI report either, particularly in consideration of past reports concerning similar topics. Student speaker Vishmayaa Jeyamoorthy, ArtSci '18, expressed a sense of being “hesitantly hopeful” upon reading the entire report. 

“It’s really great to have a list of actionable items,” she said. “But is it just going to be another report? Is it going to just be one of those things where a few things happen, not even the majority? If so, then what’s the point?” 

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