Heads of Mission visit UVic for BC tour

- Tara Sharpe

On Sept. 30, UVic hosted 51 dignitaries from 47 countries. Credit: Photo Services

Dozens of international flags flew above the path leading to First Peoples House from the University Centre on Sept. 30. The University of Victoria, in the biggest such event ever for our institution, hosted 51 ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls general from 47 countries around the world—from Ethiopia, Ireland and Iceland to Guatemala, Poland and the Philippines.

The Heads of Mission tour of BC was planned in collaboration between the Governments of British Columbia and Canada to showcase our country as a mature economy.

The UVic visit provided an opportunity for the university to advance its reputation and to emphasize UVic’s focus on internationalization, clean energy and oceans, as well as highlight the university’s ongoing commitment to Indigenizing the academy.

A significant day on campus for BC tour

It was also Orange Shirt Day. Upon arrival that morning, the international visitors would have observed multiple orange shirts being worn by many on campus that day in the spirit of hope and reconciliation to show respect for residential school survivors and their families. 

The Heads of Mission were also greeted at the entrance to First Peoples House by UVic students handing each dignitary a handmade cedar rose made by Lucy George from the Songhees Nation.

The visit officially opened in the Ceremonial Hall with a Welcome to the Territory by Songhees Elder Dr. Skip Dick.

International dignitaries each received cedar rose at Heads of Mission tour to UVic
A short excerpt from the speaking notes of UVic’s director of global engagement that morning on the significance of the cedar rose: "In the same way that strands of cedar are woven together to make this cedar rose, we have woven ourselves together at UVic to help one another make positive differences for Indigenous students and communities."

In his opening remarks, President and Vice-Chancellor Jamie Cassels also spoke to UVic’s international connections and how the university is ranked number one in North America for international research collaboration.

Through our programs of education and research, we are training the next generation of global citizens and tackling the world’s most challenging problems such as environmental and social sustainability, climate change, technological change, health and social justice. These issues are not confined by borders and we look forward to exploring new ideas and opportunities for international collaboration.

— UVic President and Vice-Chancellor Jamie Cassels

One of the day’s first activities was a panel discussion on the world's first Indigenous law program—UVic’s new four-year JD/JID degree program, officially launched in the same location one year earlier.

The discussion was led by four panelists: Susan Breau, dean of UVic Law; Sarah Morales, acting director of the JD/JID program; second-year JD/JID student Beth Fox; and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law John Borrows—one of Canada's foremost legal scholars, who co-developed the JD/JID program with fellow faculty member Val Napoleon.

Focus on international research collaboration

Later that morning, the Heads of Mission travelled by bus to UVic’s Ocean-Climate Building at Queenswood, the new research and technology site jointly funded by the provincial and federal governments, for the visitors to experience firsthand how collaboration is so vital in furthering UVic’s research and development of technology related to data, oceans and climate science.

Heads of Mission tour of BC includes UVic visit
ONC, PICS, PCIC, IESVic and the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences were all represented in the presentations at UVic's Ocean-Climate Building at Queenswood that day.

The UVic complex at Queenswood is home to Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative and the anchor group in the building. Also showcased in the morning activities wereUVic’s Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC); School of Earth and Ocean Sciences; Institute for Integrated Energy Systems (IESVic); and the UVic-led Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).

Various collaborations were also part of the presentations including: between ONC and BC Ferries; for ONC’s early earthquake warning system; and between ONC and Indigenous communities in better understanding what is happening in our oceans.

The international group of visitors then proceeded to engagements elsewhere in Greater Victoria before finishing the day at UVic at an evening reception hosted by the university.

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In this story

Keywords: international, oceans, climate, technology, Indigenous, Orange Shirt Day

People: Jamie Cassels, Dr. Skip Dick

Publication: The Ring

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