Colonization is the act of control over and appropriation of Indigenous peoples and land. The specific, systemic elements of colonization have been described as “domination,” as “colonizers” establish regimes that inhibit or prevent people from participating in political life and in legislative law-making and decision-making.
Colonization and racism go hand in hand. Colonial legislation and policies like the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 and the Indian Act of 1876, resulted in Canada’s enforced residential school system. These legislative acts and policies also led to the dispossession of Indigenous lands and the imposition of a legal order aimed at limiting Indigenous rights and the suppression of cultures to make room for settlement and economic development. The consequence of this was the devastation of Indigenous identities.
An objective of colonization was to assimilate Indigenous peoples, if needed by force: nations were fractured into small communities, people were displaced and families were separated. Racism openly inspired the actions of public authorities that engaged in practices now regarded as genocidal. This approach culminated in the policy that sent more than 150,000 Indigenous children to residential schools where they experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse, leaving scars of immeasurable impact. The legacy of residential schools had a devastating effect on generations of Indigenous peoples in Canada, causing language and cultural loss, socio-cultural disparity, and intergenerational trauma.
Truth and Reconciliation
After several years of inquiry and testimony involving residential school survivors, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its comprehensive report in 2015, boldly revealing the truth behind residential schools.
Alongside the report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission also released "94 Calls to Action", calling upon Canadians to take part in the path towards reconciliation. It is these specific and direct calls to action that challenged organizations and institutions across the country to begin active and assertive planning for the journey towards reconciliation.
Because education played a fundamental part in the implementation of the destructive assimilation policies of the past, UCalgary is dedicated to its moral and ethical obligation to walk the path towards reconciliation. The university is committed to renewing relationships with Indigenous peoples, and to creating an inclusive, mindful and respectful institution of teaching, higher learning and research institution of higher learning. This will require system-wide transformation.