Memorial University recognizes the critical importance of Indigenization and the fundamental role universities like ours play in reconciliation.
As part of this recognition, Memorial has been actively engaged in the process of indigenizing the academy. We are committed to this process as a path to bringing Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing into all areas of our university, and creating safe and welcoming spaces for all Indigenous students and communities.
Recently, there has been public discourse about the claims of Memorial President Vianne Timmons’ Mi’kmaw heritage. Understanding Indigenous identity and Indigenous ancestry are complex questions, and any answers must be led and understood from an Indigenous perspective. These are important conversations that must be had, and as a Board, we are continuing our learning journey and seeking guidance from the Indigenous community.
In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, it is with humility that our Board recognizes our need for the necessary Indigenous perspectives and knowledge to truly understand this matter. Reconciliation must be rooted in place. This is why we are striking a committee of Indigenous leaders to lead a Roundtable Engagement with Indigenous Peoples to consider the president’s claims of Mi’kmaw heritage and provide guidance to the board on this matter. It is only through Indigenous-led conversation and dialogue that we will truly gain the knowledge and understanding necessary to inform our perspectives on these matters.
We have started the process of engaging with Indigenous leaders in our province to lead these conversations and we will have an update about the scope, timelines and leadership of the Roundtable Engagement soon.
We wish to express our gratitude to those in the Office of Indigenous Affairs at Memorial who have been leading conversations with our community. Over the past several days, we have come to appreciate this conversation is of importance to Indigenous Peoples both within and outside of our campus community.
As a Board, we have been reflecting on how to proceed in a way that is respectful of Indigenous people, our president, and the Memorial community. While our initial understanding was that President Timmons did not claim Indigenous identity, we have received a lot of feedback from the community. We have received important questions about the president’s actions, and we believe we have a responsibility to Indigenous Peoples and a fiduciary duty as a Board to explore these questions further.
President Timmons respects this position and understands the importance of giving the space necessary for these conversations to happen. Out of regard for this process and the Roundtable Engagement, President Timmons will be taking a voluntary, paid six-week leave of absence from her duties. On behalf of the Board, we would like to thank President Timmons for her continued commitment, leadership and support of indigenization at Memorial.
We have appointed an acting president to ensure the continued operations of the university. Dr. Neil Bose, interim provost and vice-president (academic) and pro vice-chancellor, will assume presidential responsibilities on an interim basis, effective March 12, 2023. We appreciate Dr. Bose’s leadership in overseeing presidential duties and as a respected member of the administration, we know he will continue to ensure the ongoing operations at Memorial.
Our vision is, and remains, to create a Memorial University where every aspect of the academy is integrated with Indigenous ways of doing, being and knowing. Our Strategic Framework for Indigenization is a key tool in this journey, which we recognize requires cultural humility alongside structural and systemic changes. We want to be clear that all of this work has been led by Indigenous members of our community and that the Board will continue to seek their guidance to inform any of its actions, perspectives or decisions.
It is also important to acknowledge that the lands on which Memorial University’s campuses are situated are in the traditional territories of diverse Indigenous groups. We respectfully acknowledge the diverse histories and cultures of the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, Innu, and Inuit of this province. We look forward to hearing the perspectives of the Indigenous community and receiving guidance on our continued process of Indigenization.
Chair, Board of Regents