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Dear Community,

I have received with gratitude many thoughtful comments about the decision to move in a new direction concerning an overall Indigenous Vision for the College. This new direction will:

  • Strengthen support for students who identify as Indigenous,
  • Enhance engagement with Indigenous Peoples and communities, and
  • Embrace a robust, community-consultative approach to Reconciliation.

I sincerely thank everyone who got in touch.

Today, acknowledging that we live and learn on the unceded territory of the Scia’new (Beecher Bay) First Nation, I would like to outline the way forward, based on these fundamental commitments:

  • The roles and responsibilities of the Indigenous Advisor and Educator and the Reconciliation Coordinator remain essential to Pearson College.
  • We will continue to provide strong support and space for students who identify as Indigenous.
  • We are committed to working closely with Elders, Indigenous community leaders and traditional knowledge keepers who will assist us in developing the initiatives outlined below and in ensuring that support is in place for all students, staff, faculty and community members.

In this, the College is working closely with Marcia Dawson, an accomplished Indigenous leader who will assist Pearson in developing an Indigenous Vision. Marcia will work to support Indigenous students, teaching and learning about and with Indigenous Peoples, and will facilitate consultation and dialogue with the Pearson community.

Marcia’s philosophy is belief in the strength and resilience of Indigenous people. She works to address equity for Indigenous people and Indigenous knowledge systems and has extensive experience in bridging Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships.

This new direction will ensure that culturally appropriate supports are in place for Indigenous students now and throughout the coming academic year.  Through consultation, practical experience and relationship-building we will develop a Vision that reflects authentic Reconciliation.

Marcia is Gitxsan, originally from Gitanyow in what is now known as north-western B.C.  Marcia and her four grown sons live in the unceded Lekwugen territory known as Victoria. Marcia is Lax Gibuu (wolf clan) and wilp Haizimsque (house of Chief Haizimsque); her ancestral name is ‘Naa-mehl which loosely translated means ‘to tell,’ as in messenger.  Marcia is the youngest of eight siblings, her father Magnus was a hereditary chief and mother Angeline a matriarch. Marcia acknowledges the connection to her Dawson family from the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation, a Kwakwaka’wakw community located on the coast of B.C. near northern Vancouver Island.

Marcia holds a Master of Arts in Leadership Degree from Royal Roads University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and Indigenous Studies, a Diploma in Public Sector Management and a Certificate in Administration of Aboriginal Governments, all from the University of Victoria.

Marcia draws from more than 20 years of experience working with a diverse range of Indigenous organizations, public agencies, non-profit organizations and governments at the community, provincial, and national levels including the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, North Island College, School District 71 (Comox Valley), Island Health (VIHA) the B.C. Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and the South Island Wellness Society, among many others.

I take very seriously the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s appeal to every individual and institution in Canada to step up, and we are continuing in this critical work at the College. As I stated in my first remarks as Head of College, “Now that the report has exposed the truth, the Commission challenges the country to participate in Reconciliation. This is not just a challenge to indigenous people, but to all Canadians.”

We are committed to ensuring that all members of our community understand the truth, history and contemporary realities of Indigenous people. I, and Pearson College, have not wavered from this commitment.

For all our students, we want to create safe, brave and supportive spaces. Through our words, and more importantly, our actions, we also want to continue to honour the Scia’new First Nation (Beecher Bay), upon whose territory Pearson is located and with whom we have a relationship that continues to grow in trust and respect.

I’m sure you will join me in welcoming Marcia to our community. We are committed to advancing Reconciliation on our campus and look forward to input from our entire community on how to move forward to ensure that the path of Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is one we will walk together.

With respect and gratitude,

Désirée McGraw
President and Head of College