A sharing circle from this year’s social justice week. (Caterina Amaral)

A round dance from this years social justice week. (Courtesy Caterina Amaral)

The open letter 

A group of students called Indigenous Students Rising sent Ryerson an open letter last week calling for the university’s support for the indigenous and black populations.

“Every day, as students, we are faced with sideways glances every time we open our mouths to stand up for ourselves and our communities, and with the isolating feeling of having to always be the ones to speak up,” the letter says. “We have witnessed these acts against our black and indigenous faculty as well. Racism is alive and thriving at Ryerson University.”

The letter was sent to Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi, the university, the office of equity diversity and inclusion, the Faculty of Community Services and the Ryerson school of social work on Nov. 15.

The Black Liberation Collective pledged its support for the letter and said it stands in solidarity with Indigenous Students Rising. On their Facebook page, they said that, “Black liberation will not come without indigenous liberation.”

Changes that need to be made

Some of the changes the open letter calls for are: an increase in the hiring of Indigenous faculty and staff as well as an increase of hiring anti-Black racism scholars.

They are also asking for solidarity and allyship training workshops, land acknowledgements at the beginning of every semester, discussions of micro-aggression in the classroom, extra funding for indigenous and black students in the school of social work and a concrete approach to examining privilege and allyship in the social work curriculum.

“It is our hope that this meeting will offer the office of the president an opportunity to show what concrete and immediate changes they are committing to. Further it is an opportunity to get on paper some integral short- and long-term goals,” Indigenous Students Rising said via e-mail.

Ryerson’s response

Lachemi has responded to the letter and extended an invitation to meet with Indigenous Students Rising.

“I received the letter. I take those issues very seriously,” said Lachemi. “I’m very committed to this. It’s a sincere invitation to talk about issues.”

Indigenous Students Rising has not yet arranged a time to meet with the university.

In an e-mail response to Lachemi’s office, it said that the group “can not in good conscience move forward on any community or administrative discussions until the Black Liberation Collective (BLC) has been given the space and time to begin the process of hearing and addressing (its own) concerns.”

Danielle Lee is a multimedia journalist based in Toronto. Her interests include film, television and music.

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