November 12, 2021


T/W: Anti-Indigenous Semantics, Denial of Genocide, Indian Residential Schools, Unmarked/ Mass Graves of Children

Dear Alma Mater Society (AMS) of University of British Columbia (UBC), 

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) does not support the UBC Students for Freedom of Expression’s event titled “An Honest Conversation About Canadian Residential Schools and Mass Graves.”

This event, although held by an external group and not sponsored by UBC, will cause significant harm nonetheless to Indigenous community members. Even though the in-person portion is canceled, the online portion is still continuing. We discourage any form of this event taking up space. 

There is no debate on the history and genocide caused by the residential school system. There is no two-sided discussion on this, especially from non-Indigenous folks. The news of the unmarked graves and the numbers continuing to rise are retraumatizing Indigenous People(s). This event invalidates the lived experiences of Indigenous community members and their families. 

The “freedom of speech” rhetoric is being weaponized to further inflict colonialism, racist ideology, and white supremacy. Settlers need to stop taking up space when discussing Indigenous histories and experiences. Though the “UBC Students for Freedom of Expression” is not an officially recognized club under AMS, we urge you then to work with UBC to remove the institutional name attached to this group. 

Indigenous students are already unsafe within post-secondary institutions. From harmful professors and triggering discussions in classrooms, this event is only an additional reason for the distrust of post-secondary institutions to be further cemented. All spaces and ways of learning environments need to be safe for Indigenous People(s). As allies, we must ensure that we speak up and stand in solidarity with Indigenous People(s) opposing such events.

We also want to acknowledge that UBC Students for Freedom of Expression are holding this event to gain attention in mass media. The sensationalization of this conversation as an event or entertainment is racist and disgusting. The energy that could otherwise be used to support Indigenous People(s) is instead being used to platform speakers who claim to be debating established facts. 

We encourage you to not only release statements but to create the necessary policies to ensure that events or spaces like these do not even occur in the first place. We urge you to instead make space, support, and amplify Indigenous joy, excellence, community, and culture. 

The SFSS calls on AMS to do the following: 

  • Advocate for the cancellation of the event (in-person and online) 
  • Create an external policy regarding Indigenous Students Supports and Commitments to Reconciliation
  • Recurring meetings with the SFSS Executives to ensure that both our student societies are doing everything we can to support Indigenous Students 
  • Make a donation to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) 
    • On June 20, 2021, the SFSS Council passed a motion to donate $6000 to the IRSSS 
  • Issue an Apology to Indigenous students and community members; alongside a list of culturally relevant supports