Every college in Ontario is incorporating Indigenous knowledge into its programs and services, says a new report to the provincial government on the colleges’ response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
There is a dedicated counsellor for Indigenous students and an Indigenous education council advisory group at every one of the 24 colleges. As well, most colleges have implemented courses and learning modules specifically devoted to Indigenous issues.
“Incorporating Indigenous language, culture, identity and community in education is a key step towards reconciliation,” said Mitzie Hunter, Ontario advanced education and skills development minister. “I want to thank colleges for joining us in supporting greater access to lifelong learning opportunities for Indigenous people.”
“We’re working with Indigenous students to successfully pursue their post secondary education that will lead to a rewarding career,” said MaryLynn West-Moynes, Georgian College president and CEO. “Providing more opportunities for Indigenous students is a strategic priority at our college and throughout the province. At Georgian, we infuse Indigenous ideas and values into all classrooms and our Indigenous Resource Centres offer a culturally supportive environment to study, socialize and access spiritual and academic resources.”
There are more than 10,000 Indigenous students enrolled in Ontario’s colleges. The report to government, Addressing Truth and Reconciliation: Summary report of Ontario’s colleges, describes the findings of a 2017 survey of colleges on the programs and supports available to those students.
The survey was developed by Colleges Ontario, the advocacy organization for the colleges, and the Indigenous People’s Education Circle, a committee of college educators, counsellors and administrators. Other highlights from the survey include: all colleges are supporting student success through initiatives such as dedicated campus spaces for Indigenous students, cultural activities, workshops and more; more than 90 per cent of colleges have incorporated Indigenous ceremonial practices such as smudging ceremonies and powwows into campus life; and about 60 per cent of colleges have developed stand-alone education strategies or plans in collaboration with their Indigenous communities.
The report says it will take years to fully develop policies and programs through engagement with Indigenous communities and stakeholders. The colleges will be releasing an annual report on their progress.
“There has been significant momentum in the work we’re doing to address reconciliation,” said Carolyn Hepburn, Sault College dean of Indigenous studies and academic upgrading and Indigenous People’s Education Circle chair. “Clearly, there’s more to do, but colleges are committed to providing Indigenous students with the education and supports they need and deserve to be successful.”
Photo: MaryLynn West-Moynes