June 11, 2021

A Message from the Dean

To the community of AMPD:

A rainbow flag at half-mast: perhaps no image better captures the painful mood of this June.

The revelation of the 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. has been a tragic reminder of the legacies of violence and the intergenerational trauma that continue today.

The hateful attack on the Afzaal family in London, Ontario — Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha, their daughter Yumna, and Mr. Afzaal’s mother – is both shocking and deeply distressing. It is a profound violation of what we all expect and deserve: to simply down the street safely in our communities.

Of course, many in our community have long known that this sense of security and safety is not afforded to everyone. These most recent events only add to the many other acts of violence, intolerance and cruelty around the world and closer to home, both those widely acknowledged and mourned, as well as the many – too many – that occur largely without public attention or recognition.

I am writing to you today to not offer another statement. I am writing to you today to offer my deepest condolences and acknowledge the pain of individuals and communities affected by these and other events. I encourage anyone who may be struggling to seek the supports they need and for us all to be patient and generous with each other amid these challenging times.

If I may share, there are a variety of supports available to the York community listed on the Mental Health and Wellness site and through the Employee & Family Assistance Program.

Students can always reach out to the AMPD Office of Advising and Integrated Student Services (OAISS) for holistic supports and to Student Counselling, Health & Well-Being. Additionally, Keep Me Safe is a 24/7 mental health support for students, including being able to be matched with a counsellor with preferred linguistic or cultural preference.

Supports specific to the York Indigenous community are also available through the Centre for Indigenous Student Services. Additionally, a 24-hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for former Residential School students at 1-866-925-4419.

Personally, along with my condolences and shared grief, I further commit to continuing and advancing the work across AMPD to ensure a safe, supportive and inclusive community for everyone: faculty, staff and students. As artists, designers, scholars, teachers and learners, our work is essential to imagining and realizing a better world for tomorrow. We know that we often fall short of our aspirations to an equitable and inclusive community. Amid these challenges, it is always tempting to despair but we must not relent. We must not stop working toward the ideal community and world to which we aspire.

In this month that celebrates National Indigenous History, 2SLGBTQ+ Pride and the culmination of so much student success at graduation, I hope that we will all be able to find moments of peace and opportunities for solidarity in our shared creativity and humanity.

I remain resolutely committed to these goals and I look forward to continuing this work with all of you.

With my warm wishes for a safe and healthy summer,

Sarah Bay-Cheng

Dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
at York University

Accolade East building
Accolade East