Around this time last year, Assistant Professor Robyn Bourgeois of the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies was gearing up for nine hours of testimony before the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, both as a survivor and as an expert researcher.
Now, she’s responsible for the launch of the Decolonial Reading Circle, a unique opportunity for students, staff, faculty and community members to engage with the final report of the Inquiry.
Bourgeois’ research explores how governmental knowledge production mechanisms are related to violence against Indigenous women and girls. When the Inquiry’s final report was released in June, she was determined to do what she could to stop it from ending up on a shelf, collecting dust.
“Many Indigenous communities use sharing circles — literally sitting and speaking in circle — as a core mechanism for sharing knowledge,” says Bourgeois. “This is not a lecture session where I will present information. This is about us sitting in circle together and collectively processing the findings.”
At monthly meetings of the Decolonial Reading Circle from September to April, participants will come together to talk about designated sections of the report with an ultimate goal of creating an action plan for supporting the implementation of the 231 Calls for Justice. Bourgeois hopes to provide Elder support and trained trauma responders who will be available for anyone who may be triggered by the discussion at each meeting.
“Ending this violence will require the end of colonialism,” says Bourgeois. “I think that term is unsettling for people, but we need to get past that because, literally, our lives as Indigenous people are at stake. The circle will provide a space for folks to engage with Indigenous ideas around decolonization.”
Bourgeois has high hopes for the project.
“I hope people will come having read the appropriate sections and open to engaging in hard discussions about the findings,” she says. “I hope they will come away with a better understanding of violence against Indigenous women and girls, as well as the strength and resilience of Indigenous women and girls. I also hope people go away with ideas for direct action they can take to support the 231 Calls for Justice and end this violence.”
Two information sessions, held on Thursday, Sept. 19 and Thursday, Sept. 26 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Student Justice Centre in Thistle Complex 252 A are open to those interested in participating or learning more.
The Decolonial Reading Circle is co-sponsored by the Student Justice Centre with the assistance of Michelle Mudge. Anyone interested in providing support or co-sponsorship is encouraged to contact Robyn Bourgeois.