This article discusses the atrocities committed in Residential Schools and may be triggering for some readers. Those seeking support may contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation or Four Directions. For immediate assistance, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.
Late in 2021, Tayte Gossling, ArtSci ’22, started a petition calling on Queen’s to rescind Duncan Campbell Scott’s honorary degree.
Scott, a civil servant, was awarded an honorary LL.D by Queen’s in 1939. He was also known for his role as the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs in the early 20th century.
Gossling feels having Scott on the list of honorary degree recipients devalues such an honour.
“I think it’s really problematic that an educational institution that is here for knowledge production would endorse genocide,” Gossling said in an interview with The Journal.
Gossling first learned about Scott in a gender studies course.
“I gave him a super quick Wikipedia search, and I saw that not only had he been a super integral part of the residential school system, but Queen’s also gave him an honorary degree.”
Gossling believed it was her role to advocate against the awarding of this degree as a settler on Indigenous land.
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One of Gossling’s professors brought up the matter during a Senate meeting
in November. After reading the meeting minutes, Gossling felt there was limited acknowledgment of the issue from other members of the Senate.
“The sentiment was more of ‘we don’t want to acknowledge this, and this isn’t our problem—why does it matter?’” Gossling said.
She felt “no one” in the Senate had prior knowledge on the matter.
“The fact that he still has the degree is disgusting.”
Gossling attempted to speak at Senate, but later found the process inaccessible and difficult to navigate for students.
“What I can really take away from this experience is that Queen’s is super entrenched in white supremacy, and are very performative about the ways that they deal with it,” she said.
“The processes that are meant to hold admin accountable, and that students are supposed to participate in, they’re not really meant for us to actually do that.”
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In an email sent to The Journal, Lon Knox, secretary of the university and corporate counsel, said the Senate and Honorary Degrees Committee reviews requests to revoke degrees.
“Any decision taken regarding a request that an honorary degree be revoked would require a review with due care of the evidence in support of revocation by the Honorary Degrees Committee, which would then recommend a decision to the Senate,” Knox wrote.
According to Knox, the Senate is still in the process of developing a policy around revoking honorary degrees.
“Queen’s has only revoked one Honorary Degree since it began awarding them in 1872. The Honorary Degrees Committee of Queen’s Senate is currently developing policy guidance to make clear the process to properly and fairly consider any request to examine the past award of an Honorary Degree [sic],” Knox said.
“These honors [sic] are conferred on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to society on a national or international scale,” Knox said.
“Queen’s Senate awards honorary degrees annually in accordance with established policy.”
honorary degrees, petition, Senate
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