Message from the Vice-President Academic

Friday Message June 4, 2021

wicihitowin – Life Giving Energy, Convocation Details, and Plagiarism Extortion

This week has been one of extremes – the tragic uncovering of remains of 215 children at the site of Kamloops Residential school, the opening up of COVIC restrictions amid falling case counts, and the final preparations for Convocation 2021.

Bearing Witness

This week, as people living on Turtle Island, within the country called Canada, we are called to bear witness to a dreadful discovery: Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir announced that the remains of 215 children had been found near the city of Kamloops – students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

At StMU, we lowered the flag to half-mast for the week in recognition of the terrible loss of these children’s lives as part of the cultural genocide wrought through a government and church mandated attempt to strip Indian children of their language, culture, kinship, and identity. The last residential school in Canada was only closed in 1996. The deep wound of colonialism still reverberates across this land, with an on-going legacy of racism and deep harm.

What will it take to heal from this deep wound?

We often hear that people do not know how to move forward in trying to be an ally and contribute to the healing that is so evidently needed. None of us personally built residential schools or constructed the Indian Act, some argue. So, I offer two concrete ways for you to consider how you might respond, to the genocidal tragedy in Canada that was so awfully illustrated a week ago: attending to relationships in a good way and actively addressing specific calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission speaks directly to the basis of reconciliation in relationship:

Because the structures of colonialism, including residential schools, enacted a profound breaking of relationships between the First Peoples of this land and those who came after, to heal, then, we need to focus on building relationships – in the words of Papaschase Cree scholar, Dwayne Donald, learning to be good relatives. Donald offers the Cree teaching about wicihitowin as “the life-giving energy that is generated when people face each other as relatives and build trusting relationships by connecting with others in respectful ways. In doing so, we demonstrate that we recognize one another as fellow human beings and work hard to put respect and love at the forefront of our intersections” (2016, p. 9). With respect and love as our guides, we can place relationships at the center of our journey forward and take accountability to learn more, and act. A first step is to read the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Another is to learn the true history of colonialism in Canada and its roots in racism and resource greed. Take one of the StMU Indigenous Studies and Anti-Racism credit or extension courses scheduled in the fall and winter. Read books. Ask Elders. Justice, Elder, Dr. and Commission of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Murray Sinclair, locates a large part of the work of reconciliation and restoring relationships in Education. ‎ “Education has gotten us into this mess, and education will get us out,” said the Hon. Senator Sinclair.‎ Here are a few of the TRC recommendations to get us started:

  1. Reconciliation is a process of healing relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.
  2. Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal peoples’ education, cultures and languages, health, child welfare, administration of justice, and economic opportunities and prosperity.
  3. All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.
  4. Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian society.

Where will you start to honour the lost children and begin to generate wicihitowin?

Graduate Exit Surveys

Today the 2021 Graduate Exit Surveys will be sent out to all Arts, Sciences and Education grads. Show your StMU spirit and share your experience with us. These surveys are really important is helping us assess what’s working well in our programs, what we need to improves, and in satisfying regular quality assurance reports for the government.

Also, we give you a chance to win an elegant StMU frame for your parchment by completing the survey. Please take the 5-10 minutes to complete the survey. We really appreciate it!
My goal is to get a 95% response rate – can you help us reach that?

Celebrating Class of 2021

While this year did not unfold how we had hoped, your courage, determination, resilience, and dedication this year is nothing short of amazing. We know this hasn’t been easy but as a community we have rallied around one another and helped support each other during these difficult times. We could not be prouder of what you have achieved!

We will be hand-delivering specially curated Grad Boxes on Tuesday, June 8th to each 2021 grad. Faculty, staff and student leaders are looking forward to seeing your smile as we hand you a special box filled with mementos to help you mark your considerable accomplishments. Some of the contents will remain a surprise until you open the box. Your parchment, mortarboard, and Convocation program are in the box so you can fully celebrate during the Convocation event on June 11th.

VIRTUAL CONVOCATION – 6-7pm, Friday June 11th, 2021

We may not be able to gather for in-person convocation this year, but we will celebrate! A special Virtual Convocation Ceremony will air for everyone to enjoy on Friday, June 11 from 6-7pm. Wherever you may be viewing this ceremony, we hope that you realize how tremendous an accomplishment is your graduation, we are joining with you to celebrate your accomplishment in achieving your degree!


Please CLICK THIS LINK to attend the Virtual Convocation Ceremony. If you are unable to attend the live viewing at 6pm on Friday, June 11th, the ceremony video will be uploaded to later Friday evening.

Here is another link to Virtual Convocation in case you encounter challenges with the first link:

Extortion re Plagiarism Mills

You may have heard there has been an increase in academic misconduct during COVID. While not as widespread at StMU at other universities, we have also seen an uptick in various forms of academic cheating. It is my hardest task at the university to suspend or expel students who are caught cheating or plagiarising during their studies. It also saddens your faculty, who want the best for you and feel personally let down when you cheat. It comes down to relationship again – the relationship breaks.

In addition to having significant negative consequences to your academic career and your relationships with those in your learning community, plagiarism has another potential impact: extortion. The following news article shows how the unethical companies selling papers and assignments online are adding extortion to their list of grievous behaviour.

Fortunately, you don’t need to risk your academics or your bank account: if you don’t know how to cite sources properly or how to summarise or paraphrase them, consult with a peer mentor through CLASS: or visit the Library for How-To Guides.

May you care for yourself and build trusting relationships through respect and love.

Until next week,

Tara Hyland-Russell
Vice-President Academic
St. Mary’s University