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Opinion: Langara Students’ Union needs Aboriginal representation

Two students are running for Aboriginal student representative this fall, guaranteeing a rep for the first time since 2014

Danni Beardy and Daniel Kennedy.Rena Medow illustration.
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By Kelsea Franzke

Langara needs Aboriginal student representation on the student union to continue to establish its relationships with Indigenous communities; relationships that Langara has committed to strengthening over the years.

The Langara Student Union elections are coming up, and this year there are two candidates running to hold the seat of Aboriginal student representative. This means that Langara will have its first Aboriginal student representative on the LSU in four years. Although the position was available during these past four years, the seat remained unfilled. That’s too long without Indigenous student representation.

Langara should educate on the history of the land

Indigenous people have faced a difficult history that still resonates today. It must be understood that the struggles of Indigenous people didn’t go away in 1996 with the last residential school closure. The remnants of horrific experiences have been passed down through generations and continue to be felt by Indigenous people today. Langara making an effort to have conversations about reconciliation and understanding that Indigenous history deserves attention is a great start, but this is an issue that requires a longer conversation. Having Aboriginal student representation in the LSU will encourage the avenue for conversation to stay open, and will make it more accessible for non-Indigenous students to learn about the history and experiences of Indigenous people.

The Aboriginal Education Policy at Langara states that the college will “provide full opportunity and support for Aboriginal students to achieve their academic potential.” Academic potential comes from more than just support in education; it comes from community representation, sense of belonging and a supportive environment.

Students’ Union should reflect commitment to reconciliation

Some may argue that representation of all different cultures should be paramount on the LSU, especially given that a large portion of Langara’s student population is made up of minority groups. While this is true, it doesn’t diminish the importance of having an Aboriginal student representative. The post of Aboriginal student representative is symbolic of a commitment to a group of people who have been mistreated and displaced in Canada’s founding history; something that Langara recognizes has been done on its very own land, and is now making amends for.

Langara has gone to great lengths to strengthen connections between many Indigenous groups and the college these past few years. For example, in 2016 Langara received the Musqueam name, snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓, that means ‘house of teaching’, and in 2014 Langara’s president was given the Musqueam name, Takaya. Additionally, Langara offers Aboriginal reconciliation classes taught by First Nations artists, and was the first school to implement a formal Aboriginal education policy in British Columbia.

Maintaining a seat for an Aboriginal student representative on the LSU mirrors Langara’s message that Indigenous representation and recognition is important to the college.

Langara College should be making efforts to better student experiences and education through various means, with cultural representation being one of them. The lack of an Aboriginal student representative on the LSU for the past four years does not reflect Langara’s commitment to strengthening connections with Aboriginal people, so it is time for the position to be filled.

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