The work of understanding our institutional legacy and of understanding the impact of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s policies on individuals today is a critical step in understanding who we are and where we come from. We acknowledge that for many, Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s legacy includes public statements and policy decisions that were racist and discriminatory. Those policies furthered the exploitation and oppression of Indigenous peoples in Canada. As a university, our purpose is to extend and deepen understanding of the world and ourselves through open-ended, disciplined, and critical enquiry. Uncovering and engaging with our community about the truth of that legacy is a critical first step in any process that would position the university to make decisions to address this situation. Once that work is completed the university will be in a better position to consider questions like this about the future.
We welcome the discussion about Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s life and times. As a university, our purpose is to extend and deepen understanding of the world and ourselves through open-ended, disciplined, and critical enquiry. Some Laurier community members don’t know the full impact of decisions made under Sir Wilfrid’s leadership, and some have strong feelings associated with what they know. The Laurier Legacy public history project will add to the diversity of perspectives on this issue.
The Laurier Legacy public history project is centred around the gathering of historical facts, and the interpretation of those facts in both their historical and modern context. The exploration into the university’s institutional history will be based on archival research, and again interpreted in their historical and modern context. As with all academic research the process will be transparent and open for review.
That is one of the questions that this project hopes to help address. Our connection to the former Prime Minister is one part of that association, but Wilfrid Laurier University is also defined by the more than 100,000 people who have graduated over the years and were inspired to lead lives of leadership and purpose.
We appreciate the ongoing dialogue about the significance of statues and monuments around the world, including on university campuses. At this time, we have no plans to remove the statue, but we also understand that there may be a variety of views about that. We encourage people to share those views with us and participate in the public history project.