Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, observed on September 30th, is a day of profound significance. It represents our shared commitment as a country to acknowledge and confront the historical injustices inflicted upon Indigenous peoples, especially the atrocities of the residential school system. Although Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) is committed to promoting continuous reflection, learning and action throughout the year, this day offers us a unique opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to reconciliation and deepen our collective understanding of Indigenous history in Canada.
The Role of Colleges and Institutes
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) identifies education as one of the five key areas requiring reform to attain reconciliation. This recognition underscores the pivotal role of colleges and institutes in Canada’s reconciliation journey. We take immense pride in this role, especially given we are the primary postsecondary education providers for Indigenous learners. Over 86% of Indigenous people reside within 50km of a college campus.
According to Statistics Canada’s 2021 Census data, colleges and institutes are making great strides. Out of the 37% of Indigenous people in Canada who hold a postsecondary credential, an impressive 75% obtained it from a college or institute. While this progress is encouraging, it’s crucial to acknowledge that disparities persist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Additionally, the fact that fewer than half of Indigenous people have attained a postsecondary credential serves as a reminder that reconciliation is a vital and ongoing effort.
We are proud of the fact that colleges and institutes are far from idle when it comes to reconciliation. We actively engage with Indigenous communities across the country to dismantle barriers and cultivate a culture of respect and inclusion within our institutions. Here are just a few of the many ways we’re taking concrete actions to advance reconciliation:
- Algonquin College’s Mamidosewin Centre offers a range of services and programs to support Indigenous students, including cultural activities, counselling, and academic support.
- Cégep de Sept-Îles implemented various initiatives to support Indigenous students, including access to sharing dinners, a First Nations Navigator and a First Nations Outreach Committee.
- The Yukon College’s Indigenous Governance Program offers students the skills, experience and knowledge to build northern leadership capacity and work collaboratively within the unique governance landscape of the North.
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) demonstrates its commitment to reconciliation by waiving tuition fees for eligible Indigenous students.
- Cape Breton University created initiatives like the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies and the Unama’ki College, which focus on Indigenous knowledge, culture, and business.
- The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s Indigenous Relations Strategy includes partnerships with Indigenous communities, support for Indigenous students, and the integration of Indigenous perspectives into curriculum and campus activities.
- The College of the Rockies’ Indigenous Student Services serve all self-identified First Nations, Métis and Inuit students and community members with training and education supports, including academic and career assessments, access to cultural gatherings and events and access to emergency funding sources.
- Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Indigenous Student Success Strategy supports Indigenous student success and includes academic advising, cultural support, and partnerships with Indigenous organizations to enhance access to education.
- Indigenous Languages Programs at Nunavut Arctic College are dedicated to preserving and revitalizing Inuktitut languages and are crucial for maintaining Indigenous language and culture in the region
Learn and Reflect:
For those seeking a deeper understanding of Indigenous history in Canada, here’s a curated list of our go-to resources:
- The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Reports
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 94 Calls to Action
- United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples
- The Canadian Encyclopaedia: Residential Schools in Canada
- Reconciliation: A Starting Point Mobile app
- CBC’s 30 must-read books for National Indigenous History Month
- Kenjgewin Teg’s Indigenous Knowledge Vol. 1
Feeling inspired? Colleges and institutes can continue to take a proactive step by joining the 72 institutions that have signed CICan’s Indigenous Education Protocol. It underscores the importance of structures and approaches to address Indigenous peoples’ learning needs and support self-determination and socio-economic development of Indigenous communities.
And join us for the National Indigenous Education Symposium 2023 – we hope to see you there!