Heads Up

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Message from Naheed Bardai, Head, Middle Division

Naheed BardaiIt’s been a rich week for conversations across the school, and specifically in the Middle Division.

At last Friday’s assembly, we continued to focus on the theme of pluralism that we introduced earlier in the year. Specifically, we looked at the notion of identity: who I am, what do I believe and why am I the way I am. We explored this in the context of our indigenous peoples in Canada.

No doubt that, over the course of the past year or two, our boys have heard a great deal about some of the historic injustices that have taken place towards our indigenous communities. From the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports to missing and murdered indigenous women, the struggles of indigenous communities have become more prevalent in the mainstream media and in the Canadian consciousness.

We focused our attention on residential schools at our assembly. Imagine your 11-year-old son being taken from you and put in a foreign institution that was meant to “civilize” your son, stripping every aspect of his identity to create someone new.

To be more specific about the intentions and thinking of residential schools, here’s a quote from Sir John A. Macdonald in 1883 when speaking to the House of Commons:

“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with his parents who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.”

Despite the obstacles and injustices, the battle for identity for our indigenous peoples has been a resilient one. We looked at the example of one of Canada’s most spoken-about bands, A Tribe Called Red. Check out this video.

We had the pleasure of having an indigenous elder, Cat Criger, speak to the boys on Monday. He works at the University of Toronto and frequently works with schools. He and principal Sam McKinney spoke about the importance of the land that we live on, and of acknowledging the significance of that land to our indigenous communities. The outcome of the assembly was the sharing of UCC’s statement of land acknowledgment:

“I (we) wish to acknowledge this land we gather on today at Upper Canada College. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of many peoples, including the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and more recently the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to gather and learn on this land.“

If you have the opportunity, and haven’t already done so, please read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports. Speak with your son about identity, pluralism and our indigenous communities.