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Calgary students, post secs with different opinions on recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

A decision to remain operational on a recently acknowledged federal statutory holiday has been met with mixed opinions by students at Mount Royal University. (MRU)

While some believe this is the right thing to do, others have called it “a slap in the face.”

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be recognized as a federal holiday on Sept. 30 for the first time.

According to the federal government, it’s a commitment to reconciliation and ensuring that the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten.

“This may present itself as a day of quiet reflection or participation in a community event,” read a statement on the Government of Canada’s website.

Even though the holiday has not been recognized provincially, MRU said they are committed to the latter.

“We are creating and coordinating many meaningful activities for the whole campus community to participate in,” said Tim Rahilly, President and Vice-Chancellor of MRU.

“I believe this is an opportunity for us all to acknowledge, reflect and learn about the history and pain of residential schools and to consider how we can advance reconciliation in our lives and work.”

There will be activities on the day itself, as well as in the weeks before and after including speakers, a PowWow, a parade with Indigenous dancers and drummers, and a student-led event on intergenerational trauma that will involve and engage our students, faculty and staff.

Facilities and Management will also light the Charleton Pond orange on that day in honour of Truth and Reconciliation.

Cautiously optimistic

As this is the first year that the events and the recognition will be taking place, Spirit River Striped Wolf, an Indigenous student, and Student Association president, said he hopes it educates and brings an end to the ignorance he’s seen amongst both faculty and students at MRU.

“One thing I hear a lot from indigenous students is that there’s just still so much ignorance in the classroom from both students and faculty about the realities,” he said.

Images of the damage after a fire at a residential school victims memorial. CALGARY POLICE SERVICE

“They said this is an opportunity to educate the campus community and help the campus community recognize the atrocities, the genocide that’s happened in the country.”

But not everyone agrees.

A difference of opinion

In a comment thread on Facebook regarding the announcement, many students shared their opinions. While some understood the reasoning behind staying open, others disagreed.

“As an Indigenous student, I feel the day should be honoured as a statutory holiday and still (have) recognition given ie. November 11th,” wrote MRU Student Tiffany Singer. (It’s) upsetting and kinda like a slap in the face,” she added.

Not all universities are doing the same.

Unlike MRU, The University of Calgary (UofC) has decided to close operations on September 30.

In a statement to the campus, University of Calgary (UofC) President Ed McCauley said this is to honour survivors, their families, and their communities and to set aside time for the UofC community to learn about and reflect on this dark chapter of our nation’s history.

They will, however, hold a series of events guided by Indigenous Elders and members of the Indigenous Engagement team.