Earlier this month, a remarkable series of events, including a poignant installation of red dresses across the Brock campus, was organized and led by a committed group of Brock students, faculty, staff and community members.
The annual weeklong display of the dresses and accompanying series of events are part of the REDress Project, a national effort to help remember missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
The Brock community has organized an installation of red dresses since 2018. For 2021, as we remain in the grip of the global pandemic, the display and the virtual events organized by an amazing team of volunteers had an even deeper impact. Red dresses swayed in the February winds on a campus left empty by the pandemic.
These events provided an important opportunity for our students, sisters, friends and loved ones to voice their stories. Virtual events helped raise awareness of the long-standing injustices suffered by Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit, lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (2SLGTBQQIA) people over the past 40 years.
Brock students and our Indigenous leaders shared impactful statements about the anguish, hurt and despair that colonialism in Canada has produced. That violence continues today. Together, we learned that action is required to protect Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGTBQQIA people from violence.
These events are important and meaningful. They are not enough.
I was shocked, saddened and angered when I read some negative tweets about the REDress events found on an anonymous Twitter account. That account, which uses the Brock name without authorization and is in no way a part of Brock’s official social media platforms, was called out by students, Indigenous leaders, community members and faculty.
The comments on this Twitter account do not reflect our University, nor do they represent what so many people across campus are working hard to do: help lead a culture of truth and reconciliation while fostering a climate of respect and decolonization. I have great pride in the members of the Brock community — and especially in our students — who engaged this account and spoke out against the comments it made.
We cannot allow anyone’s comments to undermine what collectively we are trying to accomplish. To our students, particularly those involved in leading the events of the REDress Project, I want you to know that your courage inspires and motivates me and all of the Brock community.
Brock University stands with you and will walk with you, to enact change and speak against hate, racism and colonialism. Every day, with the inspirational leadership of Dr. Robyn Bourgeois, our Acting Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, we are making great strides to build our vision for Indigenization at Brock, including hiring more Indigenous faculty and staff, expanding our Indigenous programs, supporting our Indigenous students and reaching out to community.
There is much work to do. Together, we can make the change that is so desperately needed.