Spring Decolonization, Indigenization and Reconciliation Committee (DRISC) Report

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE) Standing Committees meet at least twice a year in Vancouver, normally in the fall and spring. Read more to see the spring 2021 Decolonization, Indigenization and Reconciliation Committee (DRISC) Report from our LFA rep, Justin Wilson.

By Justin Wilson

The past fiscal year at DRISC has been extremely slow moving given the current pandemic and pivoting learning towards online forms of instruction. Since FPSE’s Annual General Meeting last June, DRISC has spent the entire fiscal year educating a new FPSE executive. This has not been without its challenges especially as it pertains to disclosure and transparency.

Many of you may recall the AGM report I prepared as co-chair of the DRISC standing committee, in which I identified how FPSE, as an umbrella organization, can operationalize Bill 41 – 2019 (Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act) within each of our locals. Many of us are doing the work, but our dialogue and deliberations continue to centre on Indigenous (and BIPoC more generally) structural exclusion, systemic barriers, micro-aggressions, or even outright racism towards Indigenous faculty/staff who simply want to preserve and enhance their spiritual and cultural integrity as distinct Peoples inside our places of employment. For as much pride as we all place on academic freedom, DRISC remains vigilant at giving voice equally to cultural freedom in all our scholarly practices as a core principle of collegial relationships. Indigenous faculty who bear the full force of institutional mobbing and bullying (or psychologically unsafe working conditions) not only have to navigate the negative impacts this has on our teaching, but mitigate the embodied impacts when our scholarship is demeaned, diminished, or disempowered on a daily basis.

Sadly, there hasn’t been a DRISC meeting that’s gone by where the level of structural racism hasn’t been discussed during committee deliberations. At the resiliency and community of practice end of the spectrum, DRISC prides itself on honoring each other’s diverse ways of knowing and being, our humxn dignity, and making sure everyone has a voice in community-based, participatory, and equitable ways. But there is also a shadow side of the work DRISC does. Those of you who do socio-educational justice work will know the challenges and rewards this intersectional work can have at the best of times, but one of the biggest obstacles DRISC has faced this fiscal year has been White-fragility. Learning to become an ally is not easy work and can’t be done alone with cultural sensitivity training, MOOCs, or even territorial acknowledgement statements for that matter. These are all good starts, but as in all aspects of continuous learning, there are other paths to Calls to Action that are being institutionally silenced.

To remedy this, DRISC is developing resources directly from Indigenous Peoples' knowledge and experiences of surviving and resisting racism inside post-secondary and beyond. We are developing workshops designed specifically for locals to bring to the fore the ways that racism is experienced and the layers of effects that ripple back and forth through different institutions, environments, and generations. Instead of hiring high-priced consultants and legal firms, we will be providing our own definitions of anti-racism, decolonization, Indigenization in reconciliation that centre Indigenous perspectives (rural, remote, and urban alike) and reject neo-liberal reformulations that ignore systemic issues and reduce the dialogue (lack of fit, in group solidarity, not a team player) to interpersonal attitudes and interactions (a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the bunch instead of looking at the barrel).

We need your help. Current and future community-based resources that we’re working on include:

Developing posters about how to support and enhance Indigenous Workplace Safety
A "top ten" list of common micro aggressions Indigenous staff and faculty experience on a daily basis
A working conditions study of Indigenous/BIPoC staff and faculty experiences with daily racism with identification of culturally and spiritually informed interventions that maximize selection, engagement, and retention strategies inside places of employment.

If you’re interested in helping DRISC paddle in an authentic, ethical way, drop me a line at [email protected]. Wishing you and your loved ones safety, kindness, and self-compassion during these incredibly stressful times.

W`ai, all my relations,