By Darwin Li
The Shared Trail trip, in June 2022, began UCC’s largest initiative to further truth and reconciliation. The trip, consisting of a detour to Smithers, BC for three days then Vancouver for five, took 18 students on a transformative experience, focused on expanding connections with Indigenous students, “unlearning” the preborn prejudice we have all held, and deepening understandings of the Indigenous culture.
95% of British Columbia is unceded territory (ironic, considering its colonial name). The Shared Trail trip, an appropriate name to describe such a relationship, first explored lands up northwest of British Columbia, in a small village called Hazelton. With a population consisting mainly of Indigenous residents, the Hazelton lands were a sacred sanctuary of spirit and peace. Talking to the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en peoples, Indigenous groups centered in British Columbia, and local students from Hazelton Secondary School, we learned of the rich Indigenous culture that has existed and were given a firsthand account of Indigenous lives in Canada. They told us how influential the 1997 Delgamuukw court case was to them, for it gave them hope of being able to preserve their lands; how the Keystone XL transnational pipeline was threatening to desecrate their home; how they didn’t have to right to say no; and how they had been living under the constant oppression, due to the tremendous disbalance of power between them and the Canadian government. These are the devastating truths that we must acknowledge in order to achieve reconciliation and in embarking on the Shared Trail trip, UCC has taken its largest step in many years to truth and reconciliation.
Cathy Busby, the artist who created the We Call installation here at UCC, were among the individuals we met up with on the trip. While enjoying the stunning landscapes of British Columbia, we embarked on several tours through local schools, homes, lands, and workshops. The extensive connections we established on this immersive experience with the Hazelton students, local residents, and Indigenous peoples, will continue to exist, despite returning to Toronto and being in a different half of Canada. In fact, Ms. Sehgal in Horizons currently runs weekly sessions with the Hazelton students, which is simply a chance to meet virtually and continue the connection. Additionally, the Truth and Reconciliation Council led by Daniel McDonald is working on many exciting plans to develop a more inclusive environment here at UCC, including reworking the land acknowledgement to make it more specific to UCC. Both Ms. Sehgal and Daniel encourage students to join the program and share the trails.
Students on the Shared Trail Trip
Cathay Busby and Darwin Li
Stunning British Columbia landscapes