President Brown: Papal apology and YukonU's Strategy on Indigenization and Decolonization

This week, I watched as Indigenous people from across Canada received words of recognition and apology for years of torture and abuse experienced in residential schools across Canada. I watched as tears fell on faces and as single arms were raised high into the air, and I saw that in seeking what is right, Indigenous people once again showed what it means to act with bravery, and with courage and with unbreakable spirit and indomitable resolve.

I respect that the words delivered this week have landed differently amongst those who are scarred by the actions of the Catholic Church and I respect that recognition and apology can feel like a trite offering to a history of abhorrent physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and sexual abuse; after a history of cultural genocide.

Her Excellency, Governor General Mary Simon, tells us that in the events this week, we were “reminded that the human spirit can persevere and that, by working together, we can make progress through reconciliation” and she asked us to consider “what we want to do next... in helping to build a more just society and a better tomorrow.”

The history that I witnessed this week has reinforced the need for action and while I understand that plans must proceed action, I also understand that there needs to be a vehicle for action. As a university, our vehicle for action is education. Like the Honourable Murray Sinclair, I believe that education is the way to create change; the way to create different and the way to create better.

As a university, our vehicle for action is education. 

As you know, we are developing a Strategy on Indigenization and Decolonization for Yukon University. Through this strategy we will articulate what Yukon University will do to help build a more just society and a better tomorrow.

For me, this commitment needs to extend beyond curriculum and teaching spaces, and it needs endure across the systems and processes and the policies and frameworks that define the operations of this university. Beyond this, it also means a commitment to ensuring that perspective from Yukon University is considered in the national pursuit to decolonize post-secondary education.

I want Yukon University to help build a more just society and a better tomorrow; I want us to help lead change. Yukon University will not be indifferent.

I invite you to help Yukon University develop a Strategy on Indigenization and Decolonization. Please engage in these discussions and share your voice. For more information explore this link: Indigenization at YukonU.


Dr. Lesley Brown
President and Vice-Chancellor
Yukon University