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Children in a classroom at a Residential School.

A reminder of the responsibility we have

A message from UM President Michael Benarroch

June 14, 2021 — 

The immense importance of reconciliation is never far from my mind, and in these recent weeks, it has come into even greater focus.

How appropriate then that June is National Indigenous History Month and the 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day, reminding us of the responsibility we have to educate ourselves on our present circumstances, and our past failures.

A horrific piece of history was brought to light in the discovery of the remains of hundreds of children in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (Kamloops) and at other former residential school sites across Canada – the lasting effects of the residential school system and colonization still poignant today. In response, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) shared this message with us and with the nation on the importance of concerted national action.

The University of Manitoba, in partnership with NCTR and Indigenous partners, is committed to honouring the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Our alumni community is an important part of that. We all must do what we can to help this country and its people heal by continuing to push forward and demand all 94 Calls to Actions are fulfilled.

Every small step in the right direction is powerful: read the history of residential schools, read Survivors’ stories, read The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, read the Calls to Action. We cannot say we support Truth and Reconciliation without a commitment to learn the truth.

To the more than 100 of you who reached out to the NCTR to make a gift or learn more about its mission, thank you. The NCTR has expressed to me its gratitude for the incredible generosity and compassion of our alumni community.

To our Indigenous alumni, I have not stopped thinking about you since I heard this devastating news. I want to say to you what I shared with Indigenous faculty and staff, because I hear the distress and pain you are experiencing as you grieve for the lives lost and for the unresolved injustices they represent. Processing the enormity of this tragedy is even more painful in a context where communities cannot gather for ceremony or shared grieving.

Resources are available to support you, such as:

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission noted, “to build for the future, Canadians must look to, and learn from the past.” We all must educate ourselves and engage meaningfully in this process, even when the truth of our past and present, is shockingly dark and painful. We are still a long way from knowing the full truth of what happened, so our path of reconciliation stretches far into the future. We must walk it together.

Sincerely,

Michael Benarroch

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