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Truth & Reconciliation

A view of the Ring, a public art piece on the university campus

In May 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released the report PDF fileHonouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, external link. The report outlines the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system for Aboriginal children. The Commission’s report included 94 Calls to Action in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation. Several of these Calls to Action were directly addressed to post-secondary educational institutions to:

  • Develop Indigenous focused programs in specific fields, including education, health care and law;
  • To increase opportunities for intercultural competency training; and,
  • To promote an awareness of Indigenous rights, histories and perspectives.

Others were connected to education more generally.

Our commitment to truth and reconciliation

The University is overcoming the legacy of a painful past. For years there was a lack of understanding of the concerns of its Indigenous community and little desire to accept responsibility to address these concerns. There was also a reluctance to acknowledge the harmful role played by the university’s namesake. 

But attitudes are changing. Within the TMU community there is growing recognition of the need to demonstrate respect and understanding of the land the university sits on, and to recognize the cultural knowledge and ways of knowing brought by Indigenous students, staff and faculty.

This is an important time at TMU to acknowledge the harms of the past and move forward along the path to reconciliation. The PDF fileCommission’s Principles of Reconciliation provide the building blocks needed for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canada to occur. A key step in this process, as recognized by the Commission, is the elimination of the educational gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. 

Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win (Standing Strong) Task Force

Research on Egerton Ryerson’s role in Ontario’s public education system began in 2010 by TMU’s Aboriginal Education Council, and his harmful connection to the Indian Residential School System was later documented in the 2018 community consultation report. In order to seek an understanding of Egerton Ryerson’s life and legacy and the role of commemoration in our community, President Lachemi struck the Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win (Standing Strong) Task Force in November 2020. 

The PDF fileStanding Strong Task Force Report and Recommendations includes 22 recommendations, such as renaming the institution, increasing support for Indigenous scholarship, and providing more opportunities to learn about Indigenous history and Indigenous and colonial relations. Though the specific objectives of the Working Group and Task Force are distinct, together they promote the Indigenization of campus, define the university’s priorities, and support a path to Truth and Reconciliation.

Pow Wow (September 2018)

In 2018 the Pow Wow was relaunched at the university, after a nearly 20 year hiatus, with the help of the Saagajiwe Centre for Indigenous Research and Creation at TMU’s The Creative School. The following year, the Pow Wow expanded to include a week of educational programming and a vendor market, which features classes, panels, workshops and promotes community engagement. In 2020 and 2021 the event pivoted temporarily to a digital format in response to COVID-19.

Joanne Dallaire appointed Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

Elder Joanne Dallaire

In October 2019, Joanne Dallaire, Toronto Metropolitan University’s longtime campus Elder, has been given a well-deserved seat at the leadership table in a new position. Her appointment as Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor – Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is a significant step towards TMU’s commitment to increasing Indigenous representation at the senior level, and to embedding the community’s knowledge and perspectives into the university’s culture.

Strategic Vision (2020)

A view of the SLC building on campus

In 2020, five major strategic plans were released at the university:

These plans serve as a blueprint for the next several years and are united by an overarching Strategic Vision for the period 2020 to 2030. Each of these documents emphasizes Indigenous perspectives and resurgence as key priorities or essential components of the plan.

Standing Strong Task Force (November 2020)

President Mohamed Lachemi struck the Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win (Standing Strong) Task Force in November 2020 to seek an understanding of both Egerton Ryerson’s life and legacy and the role of commemoration in our community. The Task Force fulfilled their commitment with the submission of the PDF fileStanding Strong Task Force Report and Recommendations.

The PDF fileStanding Strong Task Force Report and Recommendations: Acknowledging the past, learning from the present, looking to the future captures the work of the Task Force from November 2020- August 2021, including an in-depth historical research project, and two-month community engagement period.

Next Chapter (August 2021)

A view of campus at night with an orange sky

In August 2021, the University’s Board of Governors committed to the implementation of all recommendations from the Standing Strong Task Force to address the legacy of Egerton Ryerson and establish principles to guide commemoration across campus. 

Our work has begun to implement all recommendations. Where possible and appropriate, we are embedding the initiatives in pre-existing processes and structures across the university and maintaining the established functional accountabilities, responsibilities and approval frameworks.

Indigenous Ring (September 2021)

In September 2021, the university unveiled the installation of a large-scale public artwork to honour the Dish With One Spoon Territory, the land on which the university is built. Located east of the Gould Street and Nelson Mandela Walk intersection, the “ring” is the end result of a multi-year project that emerged from the thoughtful and ongoing work of the university’s Truth and Reconciliation Strategic Working Group in collaboration with members of the university’s Indigenous community.

The installation of such a prominent art piece on campus is one of many ways the university is working to implement recommendations from its PDF file2018 Truth and Reconciliation Report, which includes the important practice of acknowledging the traditional territory and presence of Indigenous peoples on this land.

Note on language and terminology

Aboriginal Peoples in Canada include persons who are First Nation, Inuit or Metis. The term Aboriginal peoples was established by the federal government as an umbrella term for diverse Indigenous peoples in Canada.

First Nation(s) has been adopted in Canada to replace the term “Indian band” or “Indians,” however, this may not be a term with which Indigenous peoples identify. They may identify with their Nation, e.g. Anishinabe, Haudenosaunee, Mi’kmaq or Dene and/or other terms such as Native, Native Indian, Native American or Indigenous peoples. All of these identities can be part of the umbrella term of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Status refers to First Nations peoples who are recognized by the federal government as “Indians” under the federal Indian Act; Treaty refers to those who are Status and belong to a First Nation that signed a treaty with the Crown; Non-Status refers to individuals.

Change is coming

In August 2021, the University’s Board of Governors committed to the implementation of all recommendations from the Standing Strong Task Force to address the legacy of Egerton Ryerson and establish principles to guide commemoration across campus.