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Diversity Week starts conversations, challenges perspectives

Exhibit on Tuesday marks Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, by exploring the residential school experience
March 20, 2017
A group of students and parents from the Saddle Lake Reserve (Alberta), en route to the Methodist-operated Red Deer Indian Industrial School, Alberta, date unknown. Photo courtesy Woodruff / Library and Archives Canada / PA-04071

A group of students and parents from Alberta's Saddle Lake Reserve en route to the Methodist-operated Red Deer Indian Industrial School, date unknown. Photo courtesy Woodruff / Library and Archives Canada / PA-040715

Every year on March 21, the United Nations (UN) marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, an event highlighting the issues surrounding the fight for rights and equality that continue to face human beings around the world.

The date was chosen for its international significance — on that day in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, as they protested the apartheid “pass laws.” The UN General Assembly proclaimed the day in 1966 and has called on the international community to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, through resolution 2142.

At the University of Calgary campus as a part of Diversity Week 2017, campus community members are invited to commemorate the day on Tuesday with a national perspective through a display of the 100 Years of Loss: the Residential School System in Canada, in Murray Fraser Hall 2370.

“Most Canadians are not aware of the history of cultural genocide and institutionalized racism that has been the reality of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, historically and today. This exhibit helps us understand the residential school system and the '60s scoop, government-sanctioned actions that destroyed families and communities,” says Valerie Pruegger, PhD, director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure, one of the key organizing groups behind Diversity Week.

This exhibition features archival images and texts, art and first-person statements from the Legacy of Hope Foundation, from the beginnings of colonization through to Confederation, the establishment and growth of the residential school system, and its decline.

“In light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it is incumbent on all of us to learn this history and work together to dismantle discrimination wherever we see it,” says Pruegger.

Gord Downie’s The Secret Path will also be screened, a collection of poems that were later turned to songs by the lead singer of The Tragically Hip, and illustrated by comic artist Jeff Lemire. The Secret Path brings to light a dark part of Canada’s history, and explores the impact of the mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system, with the hope of starting a conversation and journey to reconciliation.

All are welcome. The event will take place in Murray Fraser Hall, Room 2370 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A light lunch will be provided.

Diversity Week is an initiative to celebrate diversity and inclusion on University of Calgary campuses through a variety of events, open to all community members. From March 20 to 24, we can embrace our differences, get involved and create safe and inclusive campuses for everyone. Find an event for you here