Ceremony formally acknowledges Indigenous lands at Markham Centre Campus site

In a ceremony on Monday, July 23, York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti and York University Traditional Knowledge Keeper Amy Desjarlais formally acknowledged the traditional land at the site of the University’s future Markham Centre Campus. The ceremony comes in advance of the construction phase, set to begin this fall.

From left: York University Traditional Knowledge Keeper Amy Desjarlais; Laurel Schollen, vice-president academic, Seneca College; City of Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti; York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton; and Markham-Unionville MPP Billy Pang

The City of Markham is in the process of transferring almost five acres of land, located at Enterprise Boulevard and Rivis Road, over to York University. The new campus is set to open in 2021 and includes an important academic partnership with Seneca College.

“It was very important to me personally, and to the University, to participate in a ceremony that acknowledges the original stewards of the land and to further commit to be a responsible steward and a good partner in the years to come,” said Lenton. “Connecting with communities and community members is one of my highest priorities. Today’s milestone represents a beginning, and we look forward to continue building our relationship with the Mississaugas of the New Credit.”

The acknowledgment of the traditional land and the site’s Indigenous heritage is an important milestone in the history of the Markham Centre Campus. As part of the acknowledgement ceremony, the University and the City of Markham unveiled a sign at the site of the new campus. It bears an architectural image showing the new campus building and the logos of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the City of Markham, Seneca College, York Region, the Province of Ontario and York University. There is an additional notice on the sign that states that the land is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.

“Through this land acknowledgement we are recognizing the fundamentals of Indigenous traditions and values,” said Scarpitti. “We are showing our respect to the original inhabitants of the land we now know as Markham while charging toward an exciting future driven by innovation and fuelled by talent. The new York University campus fits well with the vision we have for Markham Centre and will build on Markham’s highly skilled, highly educated and diverse workforce.”

The Markham Centre Campus is already connected by 15 transit routes and is anticipated to welcome more than 4,000 students by 2024. York University is already part of a robust and thriving ecosystem of startups and industry leaders working out of two Markham-based locations, including YSpace, York’s state-of-the-art innovation and entrepreneurship centre, and as a partner in IBM’s Innovation Space, which focuses on research and development and commercialization.

The University has approved a $253-million design and build budget for the new campus, with construction set to begin this fall. Last year, the Ontario government contributed $127.3 million toward the cost of the new campus, and earlier this year York Regional Council formalized their $25-million contribution. York University is also raising funds for the project from its alumni and friends as part of Impact – The Campaign for York University.