Flags lowered to honour children of Kamloops Indian Residential School tragedy

KPU President Alan Davis released the following statement:

Like you, I have been deeply saddened and appalled by the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. We stand together with Indigenous community members at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and beyond as we hear of the awful news out of Kamloops. 
At Kwantlen Polytechnic University, we work, study, and live in a region south of the Fraser River which overlaps with the traditional and ancestral lands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and SENĆOŦEN speaking peoples, including the Kwantlen who graciously bestowed their name on this university.
We offer our sympathy and solidarity to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, to all those who survived residential schools and to all the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
Today, we have lowered the flags at all our campuses until further notice in honour of every child found buried at Kamloops Indian Residential School. Further, we invite you all to join our colleagues in Teaching and Learning who will be holding a 2 minute 15 second period of silence at 2:15 p.m. today.
On the eve of National Aboriginal History Month, it is important for those of us who are settlers on this land to do more than simply acknowledge the profound loss of life. Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, Associate Vice President, Teaching and Learning, has recommended reading the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, if you haven’t already, as well as BCcampus’ Pulling Together Guides for Indigenization of Post-Secondary Institutions for instructorsfront line staff, or administrators
Our Indigenous Advisory Committee is meeting tomorrow and we will keep you appraised of any further initiatives arising out of that discussion.
We recognize that the news coming out of Kamloops will be devastating for many and there are resources and supports available to you, including:

  • Indian Residential School Crisis Line (24/7 telephone support) emotional & crisis supports for former Residential School students 1-866-925-4419
  • KUU-US Crisis Services (24/7 support) 1-800-KUU-US17 (1-800-588-8717) 1-833-MÉTIS-BC (1-833-638-4722) Adult/Elder: 1-250-723-4050
  • Hope for Wellness (24/7 telephone and online) Mental health counselling and crisis intervention for Indigenous peoples 1-855-242-3310 Online chat:http://hopeforwellness.ca
  • Kids Help Phone (24/7 telephone and text support) Professional counselling, information and referrals for youth 1-800-668-6868 or Text “First Nations” “Metis” or “Inuit” to: 686868
  • Fraser Health Crisis Line (24/7 telephone support) Crisis intervention counselling, emotional support and information on local services 1-877-820-7444 or 604-951-8855
  • Foundry Health and wellness supports, services and resources for youth aged 12 to 24 In-person: https://foundrybc.ca/get-support/find-a-centre/  

Alan Davis, PhD
President and Vice Chancellor

Shifting from Equity-Seeking to Equity-Deserving

Shifting from Equity-Seeking to Equity-Deserving 

By Teresa Smith

Pause for a moment and consider the power of words.

Research participants view a surgical procedure more favourably when it is described as having a “70% success rate” rather than a “30% failure rate”[i].

If you ask a witness how fast two cars were going when they “smashed” rather than “contacted” each other, they will report a much higher speed.[ii]

The words we choose shape the way we think, and the way we think shapes the way we behave.[iii] If we want to be an anti-racist, we need to recognize that our words shape the world we live in. 

Anti-racism work is based on the fundamental belief that all humans deserve equitable treatment. That no matter who you are, you have a right to be treated fairly, without bias. And yet, when we talk about Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, why do we refer to them as “equity-seeking” rather than “equity-deserving”? 

Think about it. To seek something is to ask for something from someone else. And if equity is a right, which it is, no one should be put into the position of having to ask for it. The act of asking for something puts the asker in a vulnerable position. The asker assumes all the risk: the risk of appearing needy and the risk of having to give control over to someone else. And what of the person or group being asked? The “askee” becomes the one with all the power – the power to give, the power to deny, and the power to look the other way.

That is why I support the challenge of Professor Wisdom Tettey, Vice President and Principal of University of Toronto Scarborough. In his 2019 installation address, he calls on us all to change our words and to start thinking of relating to, and referring to, marginalized people(s) as “equity-deserving” rather than “equity-seeking”. 

Reflecting on language is an important aspect of anti-racist work. What words have hurt you or helped you in your life? How do the words you use create or uphold certain relationships, values, or power structures? By making a shift in your words, you can help change how people think and act towards BIPOC members of our community. Equity is something we all deserve.

Want to learn more about how to shift your language? Visit the City of Edmonton’s Inclusive Language Guide and the BCCDC COVID-19 Language Guide.  

Teresa Smith is the Senior Manager, Organizational Development and Employee Experience in KPU’s Human Resources Department. Her work involves building and supporting equitable and inclusive practices that contribute to a healthy and thriving community.

[i] http://www.alisonledgerwood.com/uploads/1/2/1/9/121950029/ledgerwoodboydstun_2014_jepg.pdf

[ii] https://labs.la.utexas.edu/gilden/files/2016/04/Loftus_Palmer.pdf

[iii] https://www.edge.org/conversation/lera_boroditsky-how-does-our-language-shape-the-way-we-think

This is the first in several opinion pieces to come. We welcome your thoughts, advice, and unique insights.  

All comments will be moderated. For your comment to be approved and made public, it should respect the dignity of others and meet the standards of KPU policies and collective agreements. Personal attacks or comments which promote hatred or contempt for any social, national, or ethnic group will not be tolerated. 

Arts Faculty Council Issues Statement on Antiracism

The Faculty of Arts condemns long-standing anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Canada and around the world, including the most recent instances of police brutality against members of these communities. Racism, systematic oppression, chronic abuse, and coercive violence are everyday, endemic realities for too many BIPOC Canadians across the country. These realities are rooted in colonial and capitalist systems of power and knowledge that have created — and that sustain — a dominant culture of white privilege and impunity. That dominant culture disguises and excuses oppression, and it normalizes suffering.

We grieve for missing and murdered Indigenous women, for young Black men dying on our streets, for the many cultural groups that inherit the burdens of colonialism, racism, and intergenerational trauma. We live in a society that venerates pluralism and diversity, yet white privilege remains entrenched in a multitude of ways. An Indigenous grandfather and his granddaughter are handcuffed by police while trying to open a bank account. A white supremacist kills a volunteer guard at a mosque. An Atikamekw woman is insulted and sworn at by hospital staff as she lies dying. We allow racialized people to face greater challenges in employment, health, and education. We permit racialization, gender, sexual orientation, and differing ability to be con7nuing risk factors for violence, brutality — and in many cases, early death.

As educators, we refuse to be bystanders to these injustices. We play a unique role in the struggle for a just society. It is our duty to identify and expose the roots of injustice and to challenge the socio-cultural, political, and economic structures that sustain them. We acknowledge our complicity in the systems of power. We recognize the ways in which the traditions of academia reflect and sustain colonial attitudes that perpetuate harm. Indigenous students grapple with practices, norms, and policies that undermine and denigrate their cultural values. Racialized students face an array of incrementally corrosive barriers. In their long and often fruitless struggle for equity, fairness, and justice, impoverished and vulnerable students often just give up.

Universities are institutions that hold power and that are built upon colonial structures which often impede the work of BIPOC educators and their allies. As university educators, we must enlist the aid of powerful, decolonial, antiracist pedagogies and practices. We must remedy historical and persistent wrongs and create the conditions in which transformation is possible.

We must work within KPU and also reach beyond our own institution in our quest for change. We call upon Canadian society to address police violence as a brutal and public form of state violence and to devote greater resources toward community well-being. We call upon all levels of government to fund programs to improve the mental health and well-being of marginalized and racialized groups as they struggle with the daily consequences of systemic

racism. We call upon the BC government to integrate UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) into all government departments, regulations, and programs. We call upon the Federal government and Canadian society to act fully on the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations and those of the MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women) Inquiry.

The Arts community at KPU welcomes and supports the work of the Task Force on Antiracism (TFA) and other such initiatives within the Faculty of Arts and the university as a whole. Furthermore, the Arts community at KPU commits to examining, and proactively making changes to, hiring practices, curriculum, teaching methods, research, leadership, and administration: in short, the full range of systems and structures that perpetuate toxicity and harm. We must be courageous in our compassion and empathic in our support for one another in instituting these changes.

The Faculty of Arts commits to creating an atmosphere in which talking about and confronting racism is a norm and not a challenge. We commit to building an environment of trust and emotional safety in which we can grapple with our legacies and our capacities. We will devote resources to enhancing our relationships with one another and with community elders and mentors who can guide us. We will help our colleagues shift their pedagogical approaches, evolve our governance beyond colonial structures, and support our students in making their way forward and beyond racism. These are commitments we make today, and tomorrow, and for as long as it takes to heal the long shadow of systemic racism.

KPU Partners with National Dialogue on anti-Black racism and Black Inclusion

On September 21st, KPU partnered with the University of Toronto’s National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Education and Communities, a series of national forums focused on addressing equity and inclusion in Canadian post-secondary education. The first in the series is a National Dialogue that will focus on anti-Black racism and Black inclusion in Canadian higher education, and will take place on Thursday, October 1 and Friday, October 2, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (ET).

Further details are available here: 


KPU’s Task Force on Antiracism (TFA) to begin its work in September

On July 16, KPU President Alan Davis announced the establishment of an institution-wide task force on antiracism (TFA). President Davis noted that the recent tragic stories from the U.S. and Canada have been top of mind as a result of immense media and social media attention. He wrote: “We denounce the racism that led to these events, but we recognize that these are also the latest in a long and ongoing history of race-based violence and discrimination. The issues coalesced around systemic racism toward Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in our communities and on our campuses.”

KPU’s Vision 2023 calls for positive changes to the experiences of KPU students, employees, and friends; to cultural and social sustainability; and to increasing value-based scholarship that addresses social needs. President Davis noted that none of these goals can be successfully achieved without working against racism and, in particular, paying attention to the experiences of BIPOC members of the KPU community.

KPU has already undertaken various equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives. Currently, an EDI action plan, an Indigenization strategy, as well as a number of other projects are in progress. The President’s Diversity and Equity Committee (PDEC) and a number of other important internal and external networks have been set up to further advance KPU’s commitment to EDI. KPU is also a signatory to the Dimensions charter on EDI, and taking action on antiracism will be integral to meeting these commitments. Many at KPU are already actively engaged in advancing antiracism in the classroom, in student life, and in the community. The TFA will build on these initiatives and provide an opportunity to work on issues of racism in particular.

“Words are important, but action will set us on the path to change. This is why we have taken some time to carefully consider how best to approach this very important work at KPU, even during these extraordinary times of re-imagining our core mission during a global pandemic,” wrote Davis.

The TFA will be a catalyst for action, and will include key faculty, staff, administrators, and students, and will be led by Dr. Asma Sayed, whose teaching and scholarship includes many aspects of antiracism and intersectional social justice.

“I am glad to see KPU’s commitment to antiracism. We will hear from and consult with BIPOC at KPU and learn from their lived experiences. Over the next 18 months, the TFA will provide us with opportunities to self reflect, to recognize our biases, and to move forward toward making concrete long-term changes through education, collaborative thinking, and policy changes,” said Sayed.

Over the next 18 months, the TFA will work towards creating institutional supports and opportunities for teaching, research, and scholarship on racial equity, systemic oppression, and intersectional social justice. It will also create a space for the KPU community to share their experiences, knowledge, research, creativity, and teaching resources relating to confronting racism.

The TFA steering committee will begin its work in September, with the initial goals of setting the terms of reference, long-term objectives, and planning various educational initiatives. Progress will be reported out regularly, with updates being posted to https://wordpress.kpu.ca/antiracism/

From Thought to Action

On June 26, 2020 President Alan Davis convened a meeting of concerned faculty and administrators (including members of the President’s Diversity and Equity Committee) to discuss some initial ideas generated by the Associate Deans of the Faculty of Arts for how our university community might address the serious issue of racism. That meeting concluded with the formation of a steering committee that includes Dr. Asma Sayed (Department of English), Dr. Deepak Gupta (Associate Vice-President, Research), and Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani (Acting Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning). This steering committee was tasked with making some recommendations and outlining next steps.

The steering committee held its first meeting on June 29 and decided to create this website to share periodic updates with the broader university community. One of the recommendations of the steering committee was the creation of a task force on antiracism.