Ryerson Students' Union sign. FILE PHOTO
File Photo

Timeline: Breaking down the RSU Colonialism 150 campaign

In News /

By Jacob Dubé and Noushin Ziafati

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) didn’t waste any time getting their name plastered on every newspaper in Toronto. In case you missed it, here’s the rundown of what happened this summer.

June 26: The RSU posts Colonialism 150 statement

A statement was released on the official RSU Facebook page regarding the student union’s criticism of Canada 150 celebrations, due to the country’s roots in colonialism. The post was shared more than 1,000 times and had over 300 comments. This post started a countdown to Canada Day with more posts informing the community about Indigenous history and culture.

June 30: Tensions rise at the executive meeting

After public backlash from the colonial- ism statement, a motion was brought forward (and ultimately withdrawn) by vice-president student life & events Lauren Emberson at a public executive meeting that would require all media statements regarding the Colonialism 150 campaign to be approved by the entire board. RSU president Susanne Nyaga said that the motion would be policing the decisions of vice-president equity Camryn Harlick—who was on a reserve during the time of the meeting—and that the entire executive, except vice-president education Daniel Lis, approved the initial statement that was released. However, Nyaga said that vice-president operations Ali Yousaf wanted to withdraw his vote to approve the statement.

July 1: RSU makes demands to Ryerson University for Indigenous justice

The RSU made a list of 11 official demands for Ryerson University on Canada Day regarding Indigenous justice. The demands in- cluded a name change for Ryerson University to strip its colonial ties to Egerton Ryerson, mandatory Indigenous content in all programs and removing Egerton Ryerson’s statue on campus.

July 4: Three RSU executives and several board members release a statement about the colonialism campaign

Emberson, Lis and Yousaf, along with several board members, released a statement on Facebook that said they weren’t made aware of the campaign before it was posted on Facebook on June 26 and it wasn’t approved by the board.

July 19: Harlick addresses Colonialism 150 campaign

Before the board meeting, Harlick, the only Indigenous executive on the RSU, said that only one of the board members who signed the July 4 statement actually approached them with questions about the campaign, and that they received death threats due to the campaign itself. Harlick finished their speech by saying that the board should work together no matter what slate they ran on.

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