One year of ‘Extending the Rafters’

One year of ‘Extending the Rafters’

An event on campus marked the anniversary of the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force's final report.

By Phil Gaudreau

April 9, 2018


Friday saw a feast of celebrations at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, as members of the Queen’s and local Indigenous communities came together to mark an important anniversary.

In March 2017, the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Task Force issued its final report. “Extending the Rafters” contained 25 recommendations aimed at building better relations between Queen’s and Indigenous communities. It acknowledged the role Queen’s has played in traditions which caused harm to Indigenous communities, and that the institution needed to do a better job in educating students about Indigenous Peoples. Later this month, the Provost’s Office will release a formal report that will provide an update on the progress made on those recommendations.  

In the meantime, the event, which was hosted by the Agnes and the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, offered attendees the opportunity to reflect and celebrate the year gone by. Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Director of Indigenous Initiatives, opened the event with brief remarks, and there were performances by Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee singers.

This event was generously funded by the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area: Jim & Julie Parker Fund, The Regina Rosen Fund, The Edward Ratcliffe Fund, and the Larry Gibson Community Fund.

Some members of the Queen’s community have also offered up their thoughts to the Gazette on reconciliation efforts at Queen’s over the past year:

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Director, Indigenous Initiatives; and TRC Task Force member

“I am pleased and encouraged by the level of engagement with the report and recommendations across every sector of the university.

Senior administration very early on undertook KAIROS and Cultural Safety training, thereby modeling to the rest of campus the importance of taking responsibility for our own learning. Strategic planning documents are considering and incorporating aspects of Indigenous knowledge and engagement; events and services are working towards inclusion of Indigenous customs and language; faculties are increasing Indigenous knowledges in faculty hires and curriculum; and student groups are being more mindful of inclusion of Indigenous students, customs, and language.

As many have said, we still have a lot of work to do but we have made amazing progress this year and I am hopeful going forward.”

Thanyehténhas (Nathan Brinklow), Lecturer in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and part-time Chaplain

"I have been very excited to see the progress of the Mohawk Language Certificate as it approaches final approval. This is exactly the kind of program which the university can support that will make a positive contribution to the future of the language in our communities. The support from the various committees who have offered their input has been very encouraging and it is just one small part of the overall direction and mandate from the TRC that the university has embraced."

Kandice Baptiste, Director, Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre

"As we reflect on the contributions of both the national and Queen’s reports and their calls to action, it’s important to honour the spirit of which those reports were crafted in. Reconciliation requires actions born out of love; for land, nationhood, youth, knowledge keepers, and a future that breathes new life into creating a more just country and campus."

Mark Green, Professor and Associate Head, Civil Engineering; and co-chair of the TRC Task Force

"I was honoured and excited to be a part of the TRC task force team. I have been quite delighted at the response the report has received and the leadership taken by senior university administration in terms of readily implementing many of the initial recommendations. I can see great progress has been made over the past year.

There has also been a groundswell, a grassroots response - people at every level of the university want to contribute in different ways. The leadership has helped to make that happen, but a lot of people are thinking it is the right thing to do and want to contribute.

There still is a lot to do. Modifications to curriculum, and building real connections to Indigenous communities where we can have long-term impact in building capacity, will be challenges moving forward."

Vanessa McCourt, Aboriginal Advisor, Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre; and member of the TRC Task Force

"As the contact staff who sends out event notices to the broader Queen’s community, I can say it has been a remarkably busy year since the release of the TRC task force report! Many faculties, departments, student groups have taken it upon themselves to organize events incorporating Indigeneity and beginning the work of reconciliation.

My hope is that this momentum continues. While there is much being done, much more still needs to be accomplished. Our students are still feeling unsafe on campus, primarily in classroom settings – both by other students in the class, and their professors."

Wiiwagaa'ige (Darian Doblej) (Artsci’18), member of the University Council on Anti-racism and Equity (UCARE), and Co-chair of the Queen’s Native Students Association Conference Planning Committee 

"I am proud to see Queen's take steps to make campus a better place for Indigenous students. But there is always much more to do. The end of the report should have read 'to be continued' as this work will never end here on campus so far that Indigenous students aren't achieving their full potential, and that Queen's students aren't being fully educated on issues that matter to Canada, their fields, and to them.

As we look to one year and beyond, we have an opportunity to make history and create new paths to be one of the best campuses across Canada for Indigenous students. The TRC gives Queen's the mandate to set out an ambitious vision, take bold steps and think of new ways."

Dylan Robinson, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts

“I am happy to see the university implementing change that responds to the TRC report. And yet the reality is that we still have few Indigenous faculty at Queen’s, and the kind of transformation called for in the report will not be able to occur without the leadership of Indigenous faculty across all departments and programs.”