When the verdict came down in the Gerald Stanley trial, and the courts announced that he had been acquitted of wrong doing in the death of Colten Boushie, it hit Tabitha Martens' Issues in Indigenous Communities class hard.
"According to the syllabus, we were supposed to watch a film, but it felt totally inappropriate given the circumstances," said Martens, who is an instructor in International Development Studies at MSC.
Instead they held a healing circle for the class, including two rounds of a talking circle for students to share where they were at.
Emotions in the room were complicated. "I heard Indigenous and newcomer students talking about being afraid in this country," said Martens, who is herself a mixed ancestry Cree woman.
"I wished I could offer something—some words of encouragement or some insight—to make them feel better, but I couldn't," said Martens. "But what I could offer them was the safety of this space."
The students then worked in groups to come up with a manifesto as a way of committing together that they would guard their classroom space as a safe space and remember the names of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine.
"Despite our deep cultural and life differences, we fundamentally believe in respect and positive change," said Sheldon Hoffman, a student in Martens' class. "We believe substantial change is possible and the first step is to acknowledge our shared values."
You can read their manifesto below:
Issues in Indigenous Communities Class Manifesto
We, the class of CRS/IDS 2443, recognize that we are on Treaty 1 territory, and the homeland of the Metis nation, drinking Treaty 3 water. We recognize the sacred relationships between Indigenous peoples and the land and the ability of all peoples to self-determine their own future. We believe in hope and love and a unity that includes reciprocal relationships.
We are committed to creating a space that supports the sharing and listening of each other's ideas, values, perspectives, and world views.
In this space, you are welcome and you are safe. We invite you to learn and share your experiences regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, background, race, culture, religion, country, economic status and differing abilities. We will not be complicit in discriminatory practices and actions or forms of injustice rooted in notions of otherness. We believe in having the courage to stand up for what is right. We encourage critical thinking and practices of reflexivity so that we may learn and grow from our experiences.
We believe everyone has a voice. We believe in equality, of peoples, animals, the waters, and land, and will stand for those who are voiceless. We believe our humanness connects us. We will say Colten and Tina's names and all of the names of those who were lost out loud.