Residential School Islamophobia Statement

June 9, 2021

Statement from the Dean, Faculty of Social Work

The last couple of weeks have been hard for us to maintain hope.

Recently, we heard the devastating news when the Tk’emlúps te Sewépemc First Nation discovered the unmarked graves of 215 children who attended the residential school in Kamloops, B.C. In 2015, the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada identified the high death rate for Indigenous children who attended residential schools across the country – but also highlighted that the official numbers likely underestimated the true number of children that had perished. This truth has always been known through the stories of survivors of the residential school system who spoke of the little ones that never came home.  The discovery of the unmarked graves provides physical evidence of the brutality inflicted on Indigenous communities and the genocidal policy of the residential school system. We need to know the truth – reconciliation can only be achieved if we know the truth. For those Indigenous faculty, staff and students please know that the Faculty of Social Work stands with you in this time of grief and will continue to speak the truth of the residential school system to ensure that future generations know the true history of Canada.  

In the last few days, we have been deeply shaken by the murder of 4 members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario by an individual motivated by hate. Our hearts weep with grief for the 9–year-old boy – the lone survivor of this horrific attack. We pray that he is surrounded by love as he grows up without his family. Again, we need to face the truth that Islamophobia exists in Canada and has increased over the years. For our Muslim faculty, staff and students the Faculty shares your grief in this time and know that we at the Faculty will always stand up to Islamophobia in our teaching and research.   

Both of these events are motivated by hate for the other. And there are forces within society that are fanning the flames of hatred for political gain.  We must fight against these forces through our words and actions.

We need to grieve. We need to support each other.

But as we grieve we must never lose our hope for a better world. As social workers we are committed to social justice which means knowing the truth but then continually working for solutions to the make the world a better place. The work that we do in our faculty through our teaching and research can move these solutions forward. 

Dr. Cathy Rocke