NEWS
10/24/2015 16:54 EDT | Updated 10/24/2016 01:12 EDT

New university president says other schools looking to it for guidance on TRC

SASKATOON — The University of Saskatchewan's new president says other Canadian universities are looking to it for guidance in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Peter Stoicheff told a convocation ceremony in Saskatoon on Saturday that the university must become the best place it possibly can for aboriginal students and their communities.

The ceremony marked the installation of Stoicheff of president of the institution, which has one of the highest populations of aboriginal students among Canadian universities. 

Stoicheff noted the University of Saskatchewan will host a national forum Nov. 18-19 in partnership with Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde to examine how universities can respond to the TRC's calls to action.

Justice Murray Sinclair led the commission on the Indian Residential School system in Canada, and his report resulted in 94 recommendations aimed at bridging the experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

Stoicheff says it is "crucial" for the modern university to respond to what he calls "the most urgent issue of our time" in Canada.

"I can tell you that other universities in this country look to us to make a difference in this regard. They're doing a lot as well, but they're also looking to us," Stoicheff said during his installation speech.

"And so I ask myself and I ask you, if not us, who?"

Stoicheff made it clear in August after being named as president that he would make aboriginal issues would be a top priority.

Sinclair told a justice commission earlier this month he believes law schools must better educate themselves on indigenous law and how justice was served before Europeans arrived in Canada.

Next month's forum, called "Building Reconciliation: Universities Answering the TRC's Calls to Action" will include university presidents, First Nations and Metis leaders, student leaders and aboriginal scholars.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigated physical and sexual abuse that occurred in residential schools in Canada over decades.

The new university president also said during his speech that the university has the expertise to make Canada a leader in addressing global challenges particularly around food and water security, infectious disease, and the environment.

The Canadian Press