The following is a statement from Mike Brown, Chair of the Vancouver Island University Board of Governors, Shawn Atleo, VIU’s Chancellor, and Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU’s President and Vice-Chancellor:
“The Board of Governors and administration of Vancouver Island University strongly condemn the letter to the editor published in the Nanaimo Daily News on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, entitled “Educate First Nations to be modern citizens.” The Board of Governors passed a unanimous motion to this effect at its meeting today at VIU’s Cowichan campus.
This letter can only be described as misinformed, derogatory and racist. As a university, we are proud of the fact that we embrace and celebrate our partnerships with First Nations communities. We are equally proud to welcome more than 2,000 self-identified Aboriginal students – many of whom come from communities outside of our region – to our campuses where they will find a supportive learning environment to help achieve their dreams.
It is for these reasons that we feel the opinions expressed in this letter have no place in civilized debate or on the pages of an established newspaper. It not only goes against the values of respectful dialogue and human rights which are at the core of our institution; it does not reflect the values of openness, tolerance and respect which are hallmarks of the Nanaimo community.
We wish to express our profound disappointment with the Nanaimo Daily News and the Glacier Media Group for allowing this letter to be published. While we acknowledge that Glacier Media has issued an apology, VIU has nevertheless decided to suspend all activities with Glacier Media until further notice.
Furthermore, we invite the Glacier Media leadership to meet with representatives of the VIU community – students, faculty and staff – to further enhance their understanding of how respect for and understanding of traditional Aboriginal knowledge and culture is integral to education, not only for Aboriginal peoples but for all citizens. The University will be pleased to offer space to the community to host a dialogue on the importance of Aboriginal education, mutual respect and reconciliation.
After all, providing education for modern citizens is what universities help to do. ”