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Tkaronto: Our Meeting Place

By: Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire, Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
May 18, 2022

A reflection from Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire (iskwao/woman), Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation on the university's next chapter and our new name, Toronto Metropolitan University.

Joanne Dallaire extends her heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all members of the Standing Strong Task Force, the University Renaming Advisory Committee and the Central Communications team for their efforts in supporting Toronto Metropolitan University through the renaming process.

*speaks in Cree

Once again I announced that my ancestral name is ShadowHawk Woman and I'm from the Wolf Clan and my ancestry *speaks in Cree from Attawapiskat

So, today I want to talk to about our name. I am so excited about this, because it means, so much. So, first of all let's talk about the process now, there was a process.

You know that was one of the Standing Strong Task Force recommendations was a name change for the university, it was a large part of the work that you did there.

And it was certainly a huge undertaking. And the rollout when the name finally came. I was absolutely flabbergasted by the amount of behind-the-scenes work that comms people had to do, I mean the rolling out of. All the. Just.

Having the materials ready and get out there, like in a heartbeat you know. I was at the Board meeting and by the time I got down, I got into my car, it was on the radio, it was announced, and just it's overwhelming acceptance for. From the mayor, from people who are kind of looking at Ryerson and kind of how we do things and Ryerson had this is the.

You know Ryerson had a real reputation and Toronto Metropolitan University is going to build on that incredible reputation in a way that has never been done before, and for the University to go through this incredible process of changing the name; a name that represented pain.

History that was built on prejudice, separation and division, judgment and shame was being changed to represent something that meant a global connection with Ryerson’s new acquisition of the Egyptian campus. I mean that's amazing and when you think of the word ‘metropolitan’ to me what it means is a big vibrant city, that is the welcoming place for all people and that's what Toronto Tkaronto meant.

A lot of Indigenous people saw this as the meeting place. This has been a meeting place where people came and met each other, and traded, and got to know each other. And so it’s always been a community of gathering, of many people from all over, sharing goods and ideas, and what a perfect perfect thoughtful way to look at this name. And what it represents for me is, finally finally, you know there is none of the bristling and there is going to be some talking about it, but none of the bristling with it. When I had to say ‘Toronto Metropolitan University.’ Because in my community when I used that, it could really instil trauma and pain, or at least disgust or anger with people.  But what we have now is really an opportunity to be part of something global. 

Toronto Metropolitan University was very brave and getting this done and very brave and for taking the challenge on, and is now sitting out front and centre for other universities and colleges, to take a look at.

You know, to really we have once again been the person to blace the university, to blaze the trail, and you can't ask for a whole lot more than that.

When you pick a new name for the university. Now you know it's going to be time for us to get comfortable with it because we're still in transition phase.

We had a great rollout of the name, yes, but now is the transition phase of people getting it to comfortably roll off your tongue.

To talk about the disappointment, the wishing it had been something else, maybe even thinking that the name is wrong, we've got a process.

What this means for everybody, and so we have to listen, even when people think it's absolutely horrible. We just have to give them voice.

You know, nobody could have done, no one or no organization, but done a more thoroughly inclusive job of finding out the information from students faculty and staff at Ryerson about what they thought this university should be called. But it's still an adjustment phase, it's going to be a while before we get a new email addresses, and so we just have to be patient and take time to understand that there's still going to be some trauma maybe coming from this and the fact that we're not already fully in transition.

You know we're excited about the new name but we're still going to see the Ryerson name pop up and so that is something unfortunately we just have to tell ourselves when that happens that this is temporary, that this is going to be gone that as much as it irritates involve yourself now because we still see the Ryerson name that soon going to be gone for forever in our in our day-to-day workings at the university.

I have great pride, for the work that Toronto Metropolitan University had done up to the point of when it was Toronto Metropolitan University — incredible we've led a lot of things you know.

We have a lot of programs that are Indigenous, we've done a lot of things Standing Strong Task Force.

That was wonderful now, this is one of the top recommendations from the task force is now living and now we have the 21 other ones of the recommendations that are going to be rolling out and happening.

We are in a very good place a very good place, and you know people don't have to worry about you know if you want to get your new parchment with Toronto Metropolitan University on that you can do that.

You know that we're still going to be able to get that the merchandising hopefully that will be coming soon.

Right now, I guess, all the stuff that says Ryerson in there in the bookstores is flying off the shelves, because those are going to be paid keepsakes I guess or collectors items I don't.

But anyways I think it's a very exciting time, it's still a bit unsettling, but I want everyone to hang on to the fact that we're moving forward.

In a way, we never thought we would be, for I never thought we would, I can't speak for everyone else, I never thought we'd be at this place.

But under the leadership of Mohamed Lachemi and all the people to that are so dedicated to doing this, everything is happening, this is going to be a very powerful time for us to come..

These next few years are going to bring about a lot of change and we can all hold my head high and having had a part of that and planting those good seeds and preparing education for the next seven generations of her children.

So I hope you enjoy the new name, I hope you get comfortable with it, and I hope you can celebrate with all of us that this is a fantastic move forward.

And I couldn't be any more excited. Catherine Ellis my co-chair at the Standing Strong Task Force you know, took the time and put out a beautiful letter from her and I.

And I just love that woman to bits and she's been such a great part of the work that we've done and I know that she was also part on the naming committee. I believe correctly. So this is a very exciting time for her and I and with Rachel and Melanie that the core group of working on this name of Tyerson for so much in the Standing Strong Task Force, we are all celebrating.

So I hope you can join us, I hope you're going to be part and there's all kinds of creative ideas we can come up, so throw your good ideas out there and see how you can TMU this university. Take care of yourself and have a really good, great day. Miigwech.