Co-written by student bloggers Laura Burrett and Danielle Howson
This past month, our campus hosted Congress 2017 and celebrated its theme: “The Next 150, On Indigenous Lands.” Congress participants, along with the Ryerson community, looked to the future of Canada by reflecting on its past through a series of innovative workshops, presentations and events. Excited to take part in this historical event, we decided to explore a few events happening around campus and see what Congress was all about.
The first event we visited took root in Pitman Quad through the efforts of the Indigenous Communication and Design Network. Bringing an Indigenous worldview into focus, this creative Tipi installation, titled Survival Through Sovereignty, displayed the names of 150 missing Indigenous youth. Between daily Tipi teachings, visitors were encouraged to gather around the central fire to share stories, learn about Indigenous culture and offer a prayer by burning a combination of sage, cedar and tobacco.
Congress also took the focus beyond Canada’s borders by examining the worldwide refugee crisis, which has forcibly displaced millions of people from their homes. We had the opportunity to be transported from the SLC Amphitheatre and step into the shoes of a refugee via a virtual reality simulation, developed by the Canadian Labour Congress. The innovative video follows the experience of a girl who loses her home, her family and her identity through war and terror. It was an emotional experience watching the fear, disorientation, and heartbreak that this child – and people like her around the world – face every single day. The interactive refugee hut encourages learning more about the refugee system in Canada and what you can do to help.
Our experience with Congress 2017 was both eye opening and educational. Participating in both of these creative installations widened our perspectives of our shared cultural landscape and ultimately, made us proud to be part of a university takin g the lead in innovation. Just a month away from the sesquicentennial, this was an incredible event to open up our campus and community to think about how far Canada has come and how much further we can go.