Interview with CBC Radio, Jan. 17, 2023.
I did an interview with CBC January 17th that contributed to a web story on that day and short news items the following morning. I also did a segment with CBC's On the Coast.
After reporters run their stories I like to be able to share the wider interview context, more details on what I said. Reporters have a limited space and time to convey stories that can be complicated and nuanced. They need to do this for wider audiences that may have only a rudimentary understanding of the particular issue.
The Jan 17th story ran with comments I made about the importance of face to face meetings between UBC's President, Provost, and Indigenous members of the university community. I also underlined that they should essentially host a dinner to make things right. Other Indigenous people I know who heard the news items understood exactly what I meant. Other folks, not necessarily. One good friend, who knew what I was saying, teased and said 'they will just think you want a free lunch!'
I've highlighted below in the transcript the specific spaces where I talk about how to make things right. The reporter did a good job bringing these issues into their story. It's hard, though, for a wider community that is unfamiliar with Indigenous practices to understand these things beyond simplistic stereotypes. For those who want a longer film version on the importance of public witnessing and one version of it, click on the image below to watch a video from 20 years ago about a university project making sure Indigenous data is kept in community and returned properly.
The reporter’s comments summarized to highlight questions asked. My comments lightly edited for clarity. The published story is linked here.
[00:01:49.050] - Reporter
[What was your reaction to [the] letter [from UBC Leadership] when you read it?]
[00:01:53.590] - Charles
I've been on public record of being disappointed in the silence of the university leadership. … I think it was high time for them to act. However, from where I'm from, and for many people who are indigenous in British Columbia, simply sending a letter in the email box and posting online is insufficient. The letter does indicate that they plan to create opportunities of engagement. But I think what they need to do is host a dinner or smorgasbord and bring people out and have them publicly express the sentiment in their letter and then have that witnessed by people standing up and explaining to them why their behaviour could have been better situated.
[00:03:09.210] - Reporter
[Question of personal/community response].
[00:03:17.550] - Charles
Well, I think it really starts with the statement came out in the middle of October, which said that METL was hired with no recognition or consideration of her indigenous, proclaimed Indigenous, identity. And that just felt like gaslighting to everyone. And I think that the shock of that, the implication of that. And it has reverberations. And then when the university did nothing for so long, for whatever reason, that also has reverberations because it sounds, and as the letter itself mentions, it gave the impression to everyone that they were actually being supportive of the situation rather than being considerate of Indigenous faculty, staff, and students.
[00:04:32.950] - Charles
Well, I think the silence is a problem. The fact that they've decided to finally step into the daylight and to start taking ownership of their decisions publicly is a positive sign. And I think that's really the kind of the primary message. I see. I can also appreciate that probably there's all kinds of lawyers in their circles telling them to say nothing. ... While I can appreciate their legalistic approach to things. I cannot appreciate the way it left all of us feeling left out to dry, as it were.
[00:05:46.670] - Reporter
[What needs to be done to start to make things right?]
[00:06:01.970] - Charles
Every community has its own particular way of doing things. And so I can't speak for my cousins down in Musqueam, in the wider Salish world, but if you go back up the north coast and somebody makes a mistake or does something wrong that requires addressing, they host a dinner, they publicly acknowledge in front of witnesses the error that they've committed, and then they make recompense to the people who gathered to witness. And there's a traditional gift giving that occurs in that context. I'm not saying these guys [President & Provost] need to do that because they're part of a colonial institution, but I think before they start doing opportunities for engagement, I think they actually need to, at the very minimum, host of luncheon or dinner where they invite the indigenous community on campus and the partners into a space where they take ownership of their actions physically, in material terms, in terms of being there and being present.
[00:07:09.230] - Reporter
[Question on hiring practices.]
[00:07:19.710] - Charles
... The hiring of the prominent law professor was done at a targeted level, at a president's office level. There are many of us at the department level where most faculty are hired to do things completely different. We, in fact, already have an awful lot of processes in place. [At the department level] there are processes and policies at play, and when you have that kind of structured hiring where we normally do, it's a very different situation [than a targeted hire], it seems to me, from what I see, both my at own institution and across the country. The problems come when upper-level management get too eager to hire somebody who has some degree of prominence of some sort, and then things go by the [wayside].
[00:08:21.390] - Charles
My biggest concern is not so much the policies that got us to this place, the practices, but basically what they did once it became clear [misrepresentation seemed to be involved] and how that basically they didn't do things right at that point in time, ... I think the real issue here is what the university leadership did once it became known that things weren't quite right, weren't quite what they were presented as.
[00:09:19.750] - Reporter
[regarding returning honourary degree]
[00:09:44.640] - Charles
... I think that's appropriate [returning honourary degree], and I believe there's, like, eight to ten more to go.
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