Five reasons why you should come to the Indian Residential School Day of Learning


Stolo WomenWhen you’re handed a Wednesday in September without your usual classes it might seem like a bonus day off, but UFV didn’t suspend regular programming for a day so that students could sleep in or go to the beach.

UFV is transforming the curriculum for this one day because the legacy of the Indian Residential School system affects all Canadians, whether we know it or not.

Here are five reasons why you should make the effort to attend the events being planned for the Indian Residential School Day of Learning on Sept 18.

  1. The legacy of the Indian Residential School era affects all Canadians. We are part of a society that condoned the forcible removal of children from their parents and home communities for multiple generations. Many of these children had horrific and abusive experiences at residential schools. Our government has owned up to this and formally apologized for it. It is our duty as citizens to learn about this legacy.
  2. If you’re studying at UFV, then you are learning (and probably living) in Stó:lō territory. The members of the Stó:lō First Nations were the first human occupants of this geographical area, here for many thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived. So even if your family has been here more than 100 years, you’re still a relative newcomer. It’s only polite to learn more about the culture and experiences of the people whose territory you have settled in.
  3. You may have heard negative stereotypes about Aboriginal people. But have you ever taken the time to learn more about why those stereotypes persist, and why they are wrong? A day spent reflecting on these stereotypes, and learning how to unlearn them, would be beneficial to many people.
  4. No matter what you’re studying at UFV, you will likely be dealing with long-term effects of the legacy of the residential schools when you become a working member of society. Health care professionals, teachers, social workers, criminal justice system workers, civil servants, business people, and caregivers work with Aboriginal people and families who are still living with the damaging legacy of the residential schools, and working on their healing process.
  5.  You’re at university. You’re here to learn. Yes, you may be working within a particular field of study, but you’re also here to broaden your mind. Take advantage of this rare opportunity, get out of your comfort zone, and learn more about a part of our history that has had a profound effect on our society.

“There is a misconception out there that this is only First Nations history. It is part of Canadian history. All Canadians have a responsibility to learn about what happened in the residential schools. Doing so will help the general population understand First Nations people better. There are still a lot of misconceptions, negativity, and hostility towards First Nations people. This is a positive step towards building a more authentic relationship. When we understand each other better we can move forward together.”

—     Dr. Wenona Victor, UFV Indigenous Studies instructor.

 “The legacy of the residential school system has an impact on  the occupations that our graduates will be working in, including social work, teaching, counselling, nursing, early childhood education, medicine, research, criminal justice, the civil service, indigenous governance, economics, and business, to name a few. It is valuable for all of us to learn something about the long-term effects of taking generations of Aboriginal children away from their families and their culture. As this is a legacy that affects us all, we can benefit by learning and working together, coming together as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.”

—     Dr. Peter Geller, UFV Vice Provost and Associate VP Academic


“We believe that it is our responsibility as a university to participate and show leadership in the process of examining, discussing, reflecting upon, and healing the wound in our national fabric caused by the legacy of the residential school system. We look forward to bringing the UFV community together for one day as we take responsibility for understanding the history and legacy of the residential school experience, and move forward together to build awareness and reconciliation.”

—     Dr. Eric Davis, UFV Provost and VP Academic

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4 Responses to Five reasons why you should come to the Indian Residential School Day of Learning

  1. Kathryn Stobbart September 17, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    “When you’re handed a Wednesday in September without your usual classes it might seem like a bonus day off, but UFV didn’t suspend regular programming for a day so that students could sleep in or go to the beach.”

    “You’re at university. You’re here to learn.”

    How incredibly condescending.

    If UFV wanted this to be a successful event (and the superfluity of e-mails and blog posts encouraging, pushing, and now shaming students into attending seems to imply concerns that it won’t be), classes should not have been cancelled.

    Events worked around classes, perhaps even over a week-long period, would have ensured that the majority of students would be exposed to the enormity of this issue and certainly more receptive to the breadth of knowledge being offered on Residential Schools and their lingering effects in our communities.

    Instead, I have heard many students say they will abstain from the event on principle and do not believe classes should have been cancelled. This is a valid standpoint. Furthermore, since the issue of Residential Schools is taught albeit to a lesser degree at the secondary school level, some students feel that commuting to campus when there are no regular classes is a waste of their time and energy. Whatever the issue in question, this is also perfectly valid – since students pay for their time at university, missing class or in this case the Day of Learning is within their discretion.

    It is downright insulting for the writer of this blog post and anyone else to assume that the sole reason for students deciding not to come to campus tomorrow is to sleep in or go to the beach. The latter statement quoted above comes across as the voice of an adult instructing a child. University students are not children; we are adults who are responsible for the use of our time and money.

    I sincerely hope this will be a meaningful event for all who participate. But frankly, I don’t appreciate UFV assuming students are ignorant, irresponsible, and disrespectful – regardless of each individual’s choice whether or not to attend the Day of Learning and their reasons for doing so, I feel an apology is in order.

  2. Ashley Mussbacher September 18, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    You’ve got to be kidding me.

    When I read this blog post I was in utter shock. If I was on the fence about attending the Day of Learning, I’m definitely not going now. Thanks, UFV, for the push. I’m not sure who approved this blog, or whether it goes through any sort of hierarchy of editors before it’s posted (like a PR, for instance), but this is a major fail.

    “UFV didn’t suspend regular programming for a day so that students could sleep in or go to the beach,” and “You’re at university. You’re here to learn,” are both completely condescending. We’re not children. Apparently UFV Admin believes students are disrespectful, irresponsible, and completely arrogant.

    It’s really very sad. This event should have been organized better. Staggering events through a week-long period would have been great. It would have ensured a high attendance, but instead cancelling classes and then trying to guilt students into attending (because the organizers are starting to realize their idea might not have been a well thought out one) is insulting.

    I hope admin can learn from their mistakes here. I’m ashamed to admit I’m apart of such an institution, where admin (ironically) acts like children.

    This blog post should be removed, and an apology should be sent out.

  3. Kari Klesh September 18, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Like most things in life, we must always consider the intent and not the delivery. I am very proud to be a part of UFV and appreciate the extreme efforts that it has taken to bring another form of education to the masses. This is about our education, as a society, as well as your education, as a student. Everyone gets a bonus class in Canadian History, if they choose to take it.

    I grew up in Mission. I played fastball at the field behind St. Mary’s. I had no idea of the history or intent of the school. My family, my community never spoke of the atrocities or the ramifications for the “students”. I grew up thinking, “wow, a school just for the Indian kids.” How messed up is that? But I knew what I was taught, and that was nothing.

    We need to teach our kids the truth. We need to learn the truth and consequence, first. Sometimes we need a hard push to get out of our comfort zones.

    This is our push.

    • Ashley Mussbacher September 18, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      I’m not saying this issue is not important. Nor am I saying we should remain ignorant. I’m wishing UFV had organized such an important event better. One day is not long enough to get across the significance of the issue. And degrading students in the process is not the professionalism expected from an institution with “university” in front of its title.