Today is the day that the University of Regina had planned to host poet George Elliott Clarke for the annual Woodrow Lecture, a man who has a close working relationship with Stephen Brown (previously Steven Kummerfield). Brown is a poet currently working at the University of Mexico who was charged with manslaughter for the death of Pamela George. When the community learned about Clarke’s connection with Brown, Clarke was asked to refrain from reading any of Brown’s poetry during the lecture. Clarke could not make this promise. Eventually, with insistence from Indigenous women and communities across Canada, Clarke made the decision to cancel this lecture, despite the University of Regina insisting that this lecture should not be cancelled due to academic freedom.
As the University of Regina Students’ Union, we represent the needs and interests of over 16,000 students on this campus, this includes thousands of Indigenous students, many of whom have been made to feel unsafe and unwelcome on our campus due to the University of Regina’s prioritization of “academic freedom” over Indigenization and the safety of Indigenous women. Amongst the students we represent are Indigenous students who have ties to Pamela George, Pamela’s family, and Pamela’s community. Our hearts are with these students, and all students, who have been re-traumatized throughout this past month, as they’ve had to watch as the public minimizes Pamela’s death as a topic of academic freedom vs. inclusion.
Pamela George was a student of the University of Regina. She was a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a human being whose life was cut short because of colonialist and misogynistic violence. Today, we are thinking of her and encouraging all campus community to participate in the First Nations University Student Association’s Smudge Walk this morning, and to attend the Matriarchs on Duty event at First Nations University in the evening.
URSU strives to advocate for a safe and welcoming campus for all students to be able to receive a quality education. Until all students can be assured of a safe and inclusive campus life experience, we will continue to push our campus community leaders to do better.