President Kevin Hall’s statement on reconciliation and partnerships

The tragic confirmation of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School is part of the long history of colonial violence and cultural genocide at the hands of Canadian educational institutions, the Canadian government, and religious organizations. Sadly, these atrocities happened here in our country—oftentimes right in our own backyards—and happened recently, within many of our lifetimes. It is important that we face head-on the realities of Canada's history and present.

These atrocities were also inflicted on the most defenseless in our society—innocent children who wanted nothing more than to stay at home with their parents and loved ones. 

This knowledge defies our sense of who we are as a country, as a community and challenges us to reflect deeply on what we stand for as Canadians.

The University of Victoria, along with all educational institutions and other organizations in our community, must acknowledge and address our role in perpetuating colonial systems and violence inflicted on Indigenous people.  We must reflect not only on our own activities and practices, but we must also explore the many historic partnerships and relationships we have with those outside of our university, and support our partners in doing the same.

One such relationship at UVic is with the Order of the Sisters of St. Ann. It is well established that members of the Order played an integral role in the operation of the Kamloops Indian Residential School and staffed three other residential schools.

The Sisters of St. Ann are interwoven throughout much of our city and community including here at the University of Victoria. There are daily reminders of their role in Victoria congregations, civil society, health care and education, and many in the Victoria area make use of the grounds at St. Ann's Academy.  Here at UVic, there are a number of student awards that have been established by the Order.  The university also purchased the site of the current Queenswood campus from the Order.

The events of the past week have once again brought into sharp focus the histories and experiences that most Canadians either did not or could not hear. 

The full history of the Sisters of St. Ann is unknown to many of us. Out of respect for the many victims and survivors of the residential school system, and especially in honour of members of our UVic community who were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School or who have been inter-generationally affected, the university must thoroughly consider the history of the Order.  It is not appropriate for the university to acknowledge only part of the history as we have done. We must acknowledge the entire history including the Sisters of St. Ann’s involvement with the residential school system.

I encourage the Order to continue to address its historic role within the residential school system in Canada and I offer the support and assistance of the University of Victoria in doing so. This work must be done with the guidance of the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pec First Nation and other Indigenous communities where the schools operated.

In our own work of truth and reconciliation, the university is undertaking open and honest conversations to understand and address how we can move vigorously forward with respect for Indigenous peoples in all areas of our institution. This includes supporting our partners that also are engaged in exploring their own history and are committed to truth and a path of reconciliation.

The university and the Sisters of St. Ann have already started a conversation about this matter over this past week and I look forward to further dialogue as we each continue on our paths of reconciliation. On this path, we must all first expose the truth. Only then can we do the work necessary for reconciliation to occur.