Message from the CACUSS Board of Directors, re: verdicts of trials related to the deaths of Colten Boushie & Tina Fontaine

February 28, 2018

The recent trials in Saskatchewan and Manitoba related to the deaths of two young members of the Indigenous community, Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine shocked and saddened many of us. This has stirred disappointment in the justice, child welfare and other Canadian systems, as well as anger at the racism and violence directed towards Indigenous peoples. Many have lost hope that reconciliation is possible.

Although it is easy to point out the systemic problems within the Justice system, in light of these cases towards Indigenous peoples Post-Secondary is not exempt.  We must look to our own systems, hear stories and do better for our students.

However, the shock, anger, and pain felt by so many in the wake of the verdicts has been a call to action – as seen in the outpouring of support for the Indigenous communities and for the loved ones of the victims of violence like Boushie & Fontaine. Our thoughts are with the families and communities as well as with our indigenous colleagues, who are not only taking care of affected indigenous students but who are likely hurting themselves.

We want to acknowledge how painful this is for our Indigenous colleagues across Canada. In addition to the shock of hearing the verdicts, there was a disturbing surge in racist backlash that has surfaced directed at Indigenous peoples across the country. This is not acceptable.

We believe it is important that we speak out against both the injustice and against the racism that plagues our country. It makes it feel difficult to move forward.

The CACUSS Board believes we must all strive to change our future and support the important work of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples across Canada.  The status quo is not acceptable and we feel strongly that we need to do our part to fight against injustice, the flaws in systems, and against the racism that plagues our country. Failure to address this on a national level is a huge barrier to moving forward toward reconciliation on our campuses.

We know that many CACUSS members are committed to fighting racism and supporting efforts towards reconciliation & change on their campuses. We, as a group, can and must do more. We can stand up to support our students and colleagues, speak out against racism and hatred, and use our positionality to condemn violence directed towards Indigenous peoples. Many of you have attended rallies and vigils, written letters, and will be working this week to encourage difficult but important conversations and to support students who feel despair. We value this work and want to find ways we can come together as CACUSS members to support each other in these efforts.

As an association, we are committed to building indigenous cultural awareness for our members, and the first step is we need to listen. We need to hear some difficult realities and commit to doing better. We encourage all members to pause and reflect on what changes they can influence at their home institutions to make a more just environment for all.