Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I am pleased to bring the attention of the Senate to my alma mater, Mount Saint Vincent University. This year, Mount Saint Vincent University, the longest-standing university in Canada for the advancement of women, is celebrating its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary.
Founded in 1873 by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, Halifax, the school was initially established in order to train novices and young sisters to be teachers. However, the sisters eventually realized that young women in the province were being overlooked and underserved when it came to opportunities for higher education. The sisters recognized that they were in a position to make a difference in the lives of young Nova Scotian women, so they opened their doors to them.
In 1925, the Nova Scotia Legislature awarded the school the right to grant degrees, making it the only independent women’s college in the entire British Commonwealth. In 1966, the school became a university. The following year, it admitted its first male students.
Honourable senators, I cannot speak about the university’s history and not acknowledge its role in Canada’s shameful residential school system.
Like all Canadians, Mount Saint Vincent University has had to face the hard truth and reflect on how that painful history has impacted entire generations of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and the devastating consequences it has had on their culture.
On October 20, 2021, Mount Saint Vincent University apologized to survivors, their families, communities and all Indigenous peoples for its role in helping to staff, specifically, the Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia and St. Eugene’s Residential School in British Columbia. The apology was accompanied by a list of commitments to Indigenous peoples, particularly commitments to listening, learning and ensuring action — things we should all commit to doing.
Honourable senators, the school is no longer run by the Sisters of Charity. Ownership and operations were transferred to independent boards of governors and senate in 1988. The school continues to grow, evolve and challenge the status quo, building on its commitments to social justice and promoting equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility for all. The advancement of women and girls through the pursuit of knowledge and academic excellence, inspired by a strong tradition of social responsibility, remains its mission.
I am a proud alumnus of “the Mount,” one of 37,000, and I am delighted to wish the school a happy one hundred and fiftieth anniversary.