Statement on the TMT project on Mauna Kea

- University of Victoria

The following message was sent to the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), an organization that assists in coordinating large-scale, national astronomy and astrophysics initiatives with its member institutions. UVic is one of 20 member universities in ACURA.

I am writing on behalf of the University of Victoria regarding the status of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

The University of Victoria is deeply committed to respect and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, not only in Canada, but around the world. Therefore, it is fundamentally important to us that a TMT supported by ACURA be developed in a way that respects local communities and their cultural practices.

The University of Victoria is also strongly committed to astronomy research through the work of our faculty and their collaborations with both NRC Herzberg and associations such as ACURA. We recognize and value the importance of the groundbreaking science these researchers produce.

The TMT project will provide enormous scientific benefits to astronomy research and support important advances in knowledge. However, these benefits should not be achieved without the engagement and support of the local Indigenous people.

I trust that ACURA’s approach to the TMT project will reflect these essential commitments.

Dr. Lisa Kalynchuk
Vice-President Research
University of Victoria


August 1, 2019

What is UVic's relationship to the TMT project?

UVic’s connection to the TMT is through ACURA, and the university made its position on the project clear to the association board in our July 23 public statement. ACURA assists in coordinating the involvement of Canadian universities in large-scale astronomy and astrophysics initiatives and acts as a liaison between its members and international partners in international and world observatories.

In a statement made on July 25, ACURA called for “a peaceful path forward that respects the wishes of Native Hawaiians” and recognized that “there is more to be done” in the “spirit of respect and reconciliation”.

Who are the partners in the project?

The TMT project is a non-profit international partnership between the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and Canada’s National Research Council (NRC). Visit the TMT International Observatory website.

Funding for the Canadian portion of TMT comes from the Government of Canada through the NRC.

Are any UVic faculty members involved?

Several UVic faculty and adjunct faculty individually are advisors on the technical aspects of the instrumentation that could be used in a Thirty-Meter Telescope facility, wherever it is located. UVic itself has no research contracts or formal affiliation with the project and is not involved in funding its construction.

Individual faculty members have the right to decide on the nature of their involvement in research-related projects such as the TMT, without influence from the university. UVic’s representative on the ACURA board, however, has made it clear that “UVic astronomers have always said that they do not want to be involved in research projects that are not welcomed by the local communities.”

What has UVic been doing since it released its statement on July 23?

UVic continues to liaise with ACURA and is awaiting the outcome of the discussions with Indigenous community leaders in Hawaii that were initiated by the Governor of Hawaii on July 23 and which are aimed at finding common ground.

As of August 1, it is clear that these conversations and the events in Hawaii continue to evolve.