Working together: What non-Indigenous members of our community can do to advance reconciliation at U of T

When the U of T Truth and Reconciliation Commission Steering Committee titled its final report Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin—incorporating a Cree word that means “working together”—it shone a spotlight on the collective nature of the journey ahead. As we mark the fifth anniversary of the report’s entrustment, Jodie Glean, executive director, equity, diversity and inclusion, is urging non-Indigenous faculty, librarians, and staff to find ways to engage meaningfully with this work—today and every day.  

“Reconciliation is a lifelong process of self-reflection, continuous learning, and relationship-building,” she says. “In order to bring about change, we need individuals and teams from across the tri-campus to take personal responsibility for advancing reconciliation within our community.”  

She adds, “Welcome leadership from our Indigenous community members, but do not wait for Indigenous communities to do the work.” 

An important first step in advancing reconciliation is to read, or re-read, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final report and Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin. Familiarize yourself with the steering committee’s 34 Calls to Action, which fall into six categories: Indigenous Spaces; Indigenous Faculty and Staff; Indigenous Curriculum; Indigenous Research Ethics and Community Relationships; Indigenous Students and Indigenous Co-Curricular Education; and Institutional Leadership/Implementation.  

The training sessions offered by the Office of Indigenous Initiatives (OII) are another key starting point for learning about current issues affecting Indigenous communities, as well as Indigenous cultures and histories. The OII currently offers four training sessions, with plans to expand these offerings.  

“Once you’ve completed a couple of the training sessions, you’ll have a sense of what you can do in your department or division or where that work could start,” says Shannon Simpson, senior director of Indigenous initiatives at the University of Toronto.  

At this point, it’s time to consider what concrete action might look like. Glean suggests reading the OII’s annual reports to see the great work already being done, and then considering how and where you might contribute. 

Reflect on what opportunities exist for you to do more and ask questions in your department and division,” says Glean. “Have conversations with your manager, with your director, to see what more can be done.”   

Once you have an idea—or if you have questions—connect with the OII for discussion. This office exists to guide and support the implementation of the Calls to Action, to report on institutional progress, and to serve as a central resource for learning, consultations, and support to the U of T community. 

“I know many in our community are worried that they might do the wrong thing, but we welcome having a conversation about what you can do,” says Simpson.  “And yes, they can be challenging and difficult conversations, but the way we get some of the really good work done is by engaging together. We are all learning in some way, and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives is here to partner with you and connect you with others, to help facilitate that learning.”  

 

Read a Q&A with Shannon Simpson and Jodie Glean about the University’s progress in fulfilling the steering committee’s recommendations.