The new reconciliation librarian at the University of Victoria says he hopes his unique role will help Canadians better understand Indigenous culture and what they have faced through history.
Ry Moran, a member of the Red River Metis and founding director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, will be joining the University of Victoria this fall.
His new role as an associate university librarian for reconciliation will involve collecting and showcasing Indigenous history as well as promoting reconciliation within university departments and courses.
University of Victoria President Jamie Cassels said Moran's position is the first of its kind in the country.
"Canada is a profoundly racist country. The origins of this country are built and founded upon racist ideas and notions and that is the record we have to set straight," Moran said in an interview. "Indigenous Peoples are not all of the things they have been accused of being."
Moran's work with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation involved collecting documents and nearly 7,000 video and audio recordings of residential school survivor statements given to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
In his new role, he will be collecting items ranging from oral histories to written accounts, and work with library officials to package and present the materials to make them more accessible to the public.
"We will be actively engaging in some very important conversations about how we approach memory in this country and the responsibilities that are embedded in memory-keeping professions," Moran said.
At the most basic level, Moran hopes his role will inspire students to seek more knowledge about reconciliation and Indigenous history.
"It's a magnification and an amplification of this long-standing effort to both teach and repair some of the terrible damage done by some absolutely terrible decisions made in this country," he said.
Jonathan Bengston, a senior librarian at the university, said he believes Moran's appointment is one step in helping academic institutions grow.
"We are that cultural memory," he said of libraries. "The goal is to re-examine our systems and structures within the academic library and to open them to different ways of knowing and being in this world. Indigenous voices are hugely important in Canada."
Bengston said he wants Moran's new role to inspire others.
"This is the first position of its type at a major Canadian university," he said. "I hope it shows a path for others to follow as well."
Cassels said he believes Moran's role as the reconciliation librarian will better the relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
"His work will foster mutual understanding and will greatly contribute to our university's goal of advancing respect and reconciliation," Cassels said in a statement.
This report was first published by the Canadian Press on June 25, 2020.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press