We would like to address the statements made in your “yellow paper” that was distastefully distributed across the UNBC campus on March 7, 2018:
Rather than engaging in a respectful conversation about supposed apathy, you chose to slide your written perspectives underneath the First Nations Centre door, which we feel judged us and undermines the work that students are involved in. After provoking dialogue in this manner, you expressed on social media that you had heard that the First Nations Centre was a friendly and welcoming place. During your 4-5 years of your undergraduate career at UNBC you failed to address the issues expressed in your “yellow paper” that you seem to be so concerned with. This could have been accomplished by seeking to understand and form relationships with us by visiting and engaging with out First Nations Centre community, in a peaceful and friendly manner. Rather, you sought to judge first and then confirm your assumptions second by instigating a quarrel rather than inviting discussion towards reciprocity and mutual understanding.
Since time immemorial, Indigenous peoples around the world have had their own governance systems that often differ from Western systems. If you had taken the time to understand our systems and who we are, you would see many of the Indigenous students on campus are fully engaged in traditional governance, and current Canadian issues both political and social, on and off campus.
For many Indigenous students at UNBC, attending a post secondary institution comes with already well-documented hurdles and barriers that many non-Indigenous students do not face, and may not understand first-hand. There is a consensus among many of the Indigenous students at UNBC that there is a lack of capacity building initiatives provided through NUGSS for the position of Aboriginal Rep. There is also a lack of collaboration with other student unions who provide the opportunity to develop skills, and foster leadership on a provincial level – without draining the already strained resources of undergraduate students. The lack of incentive on top of a lack of pay in the Aboriginal Representative position makes the commitment to that position a difficult one to consider as we are already strained for time and resources. There is a negative opportunity cost at spending time at a forum where our voices are not heard or valued, when we need to manage our time effectively between our leadership roles in family, community, academia, and at provincial, national, and international levels – all while maintaining success as students.
Something you have neglected to acknowledge in your “yellow paper” is that the position of Aboriginal Rep has recently been placed on the Equity Council as part of a restructuring due to recent budgetary issues faced by NUGSS. This move disempowers the role of the Aboriginal Rep and other minority representation on the Council. We understand that these budgetary constraints have limited what NUGSS could provide, and while this may have been a wise decision to adjust the financial priorities of the organization at the time, we expect this restructuring to be temporary. If this new structure is maintained past the period of necessity, it will be seen that NUGSS is being complacent in undercutting the critical importance of minority representation (put in place to decrease inequity in access to education) – or even deliberate in its intent to do so.
Attacking your constituents is counterintuitive to encouraging active engagement. Your assumption of apathy suggests we are not political when being Indigenous is inherently political. If you wanted to have “meaningful and respectful” conversations around student apathy, engaging students prior or during the nomination period without singling out our Aboriginal, Women, and LGBTQ communities would have been more effective.
We understand that your letter does not represent the values of NUGSS, but we are disappointed in your actions that have reflected negatively on NUGSS itself. In the future we would like to see better relationships between the NUGSS Board of Directors as a whole and the First Nations Centre. We expect and would appreciate a public apology for your deliberate attack on our community.
Students from the First Nations Centre