Providence University College’s eighth annual sociology fair, entitled “Expressions of Justice,” will showcase social justice-themed posters designed by students taking Introduction to Sociology II. The March 27 event is open to the public, and this year students and visitors will be invited to experience Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective through a Blanket Exercise.
Developed by ecumenical group KAIROS in response to the 1996 Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, a Blanket Exercise asks participants to stand on blankets representing the land while a narrator guides them through historical periods of pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance.
The Blanket Exercise that will be facilitated at Providence is called “Canadian History Uncovered” and has been revised, through theatrical and visual elements, to appeal to older teenagers and young adults.
Val Hiebert, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Providence, has herself participated in two Blanket Exercises and says the ceremony explores post-contact Indigenous history in a way that is relevant and accessible.
“When we did it in my church we had kids as young as 10 participating,” she says. “This is a way better way to experience emotionally what we actually did to Indigenous populations. We have so much to say sorry for.”
Many university students, Hiebert adds, begin their post-secondary education without knowing much about Indigenous history—something she says is key to understanding before social justice and, eventually, reconciliation, can be achieved.
“You always, always have to start with awareness. All social change begins with awareness. It’s always the first step down the road toward justice,” she explains, adding that Canada has not done a good enough job educating its next generation of civic participants, politicians and religious leaders.
“We’re not going to eradicate the racism that’s present in Canada if we don’t sensitize ourselves to what’s happened,” she says.
Hiebert also points out that it’s important for Providence to be a school that attends to such issues, and does so visibly.
“Our students are only going to recognize this as an issue if it’s visible on our campus as something we care about,” she says.
“Expressions of Justice” will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27 in the Student Life Centre. Posters will be displayed until 7:30 p.m., after which the Blanket Exercise will begin. The general public is invited to participate in this event free of charge.