Bishop’s criticized over plans for indigenous centre

By Gordon Lambie
Bishop’s criticized over plans for indigenous centre
Divinity House (Photo : Record Archives/Gordon Lambie)

A social media post by Mi’kmaq Hip hop artist Quentin Condo raised concerns on Thurs-day about the legitimacy of Bishop’s University’s plans to build an Indigenous gather-ing space on campus. In a video, Condo criticized the school for “taking advantage of indigenous funds,” based on the premise that only part of the former Divinity House building would actually be dedicated to specific space for Indigenous students.
Speaking with The Record, the artist made it clear that he was not present at a recent meeting between the administration and the university’s Indigenous Cultural Alliance (ICA), but said that he had been told about it by students afterwards. Based on what he was told, he argued that the designation of the building as an indigenous space was more of a publicity stunt than a serious commitment.
“I’m (…) upset with the fact that BU used the Truth & Reconciliation buzz word to access funds to renovate a building that was otherwise going to be demolished,” he said. “All of their press releases clearly stated what the building is for but suddenly they’ve unilateral-ly decided to use the building for other faculty offices.”
The Record reached out to Shawna Jerome, co-leader of the university’s Indigenous Cultural Alliance for that group’s position on the status of the project but was told after the fact that the ICA would not be making any public comment on the matter. Jerome was, however, one of many who publicly shared Condo’s video on Facebook.
Trygve Ugland, Bishop’s Vice-Principal Government Relations & Planning and project leader for the space said that the school is in “ongoing discussions” with the indigenous student popula-tion about how space inside the building will be allocated, but he stressed the fact that there has been no sudden change in the plan.
“There has not been any change in the plans from when we applied for funding to today,” Ugland said.
The Vice Principal said that the building has been given the Abenaki name Kwigw8mna, mean-ing “our house.” From the beginning, he said that the vision for the building included a dedicated gathering space for indigenous students, seminar rooms, offices, and an apartment for visit-ing elders.
To the concern that only part of the building will actually be for the needs of the indigenous community, Ugland said that the space is all meant to be “indigenous-related.” He pointed, out for example, that although the plan includes office space, those offices are destined for the indigenous support persons at Bishop’s and Champlain College, as well as a future indigenous research chair.
“There is one room that is really dedicated, that is (the students’) safe place and they will con-trol on their own, but there will be indigenous-related activities in the whole building, and that has been the case from the start,” he said.
In a message shared with the Bishop’s community on Thursday afternoon, BU Principal Michael Goldbloom acknowledged that the ICA had raised concerns about the building and said that the school is “committed to continuing a respectful dialogue.”
“I remain hopeful that we will be able to come up with a solution that everybody can support,” Ugland said, noting that another meeting will take place with the students next week.

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