'The Journal' sits down with Principal Patrick Deane

Principal discusses Indigenization, student Walkout, and COVID-19

Queen’s to reconsider model of National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in future.
Credit: 
Supplied by Bernard Clark

“I want to bring the university back from COVID building on what new things we discovered and learned about ourselves, and I want to make the institution stronger than it was before.”

In an interview with The Journal, Queen’s principal Patrick Deane spoke about the university’s plans for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the recent Student Walkout, and a safe return from the pandemic. 

On the topic of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation , Deane said it was the university’s goal to centre focus on the need for reconciliation. 

“The university, in thinking about how we would commemorate the day, was mindful of the fact that [Sept. 30] needed to be a day in which people’s minds were brought to concentrate on the importance of reconciliation, and learning, and understanding the history of Indigenous peoples,” Deane said. 

Along with events planned on Sept. 30, Deane said the university will have an ongoing conversation internally regarding Indigenization. 

“We have ongoing discussions in the university about the process of Indigenization. Indigenization is one of the priorities in the strategic framework of the university,” Deane said. 

“In our various bodies we will continue to talk about the relationship between the culture out of which the university has come, and the obligation of the university to work towards reconciliation.”

Chancellor Murray Sinclair will play an important role in Queen’s efforts towards reconciliation, Deane said.

“The Chancellor provides the university with a remarkable opportunity to become educated and thoughtful about this topic. He will be representing Queen’s by leading a national dialogue on Indigenous identity throughout the year,” Deane said. 

READ MORE: The Journal sits down with Chancellor-designate Murray Sinclair

Deane acknowledges the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation might be recognized differently in the future.   

“I think the way in which we choose to mark the day may change year to year. I can see that suspending classes for a day and allowing individuals, and individual instructors to think about how they would like to commemorate the day could be one of the ways we proceed,” Deane said. 

In partnership with the Indigenous community, Deane explained more discussion will take place before a decision is made.

During the interview Deane also discussed the importance of the walkout in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence at Western University

READ MORE:  Walkout saw thousands gathered at Summerhill

“This is a hugely serious issue which the events at Western have brought home to everybody. At Queen’s we have extensive measures in place. We also educate students on the issue of consent,” Deane said. 

“I would say there is programming on many fronts available to students, and I think simply inquiring from the Sexual Assault Response Centre will provide people with all the information about the measures that are underway [...] we take [this issue] immensely seriously,” he said. 

According to Deane, there’s a deeper question the university still needs to address on sexual assault and violence.

“With these kinds of intractable social problems, they are intractable because they are difficult to address because they are deeply embedded in the culture. Not just the culture of the university. By the time students come here, they have attitudes on issues of sexuality that are well-formed,” Deane said. 

“A related issue is making sure students know what supports are available [...] we do have to make sure the educational opportunities are highly visible and always available,” Deane said.

More broadly, the principal spoke about current circumstances with respect to COVID-19. 

“Because of the high vaccination rates, public health is advising us that should we have cases they will be manageable, and we shouldn’t have to go largely online again,” Deane said. 

“Our hope is that because of the effect of vaccinations, the continued use of masks, the limits on non-academic gatherings, and everyone behaving responsibly, we will keep the numbers small and disruptions to educational programming will be proportional,” Deane said. 

Deane also discussed the relationship between the Kingston community and the university in light of large parties and gatherings seen in the University District.

“The mayor is very supportive of the university and is keen to see the students and the community cohabitate [...] it is true that large parties put a strain on that relationship and can be destructive to the fabric of the university,” he said.

“If students engage in behaviour for which they receive tickets or fines, that brings them within the purview of the code of conduct,” Deane said. 

Overall, Deane highlights that “goodwill and determination” exists despite the effects of COVID-19 and the exhaustion that has impacted staff and faculty.    

“Overwhelmingly, returning back is a positive thing, but it's not easy for everybody. For students, there’s adjustment required. For staff and faculty there are considerations that bear upon concerns about safety,” Deane said. 

“There is a great deal of goodwill and determination, and we will re-establish ourselves in something that will look a little more like conventional university life.”

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