As we’ve marched together towards a penultimate draft of our new Academic Plan, I’ve been asked about the embedded commitment to Indigenous Knowledge. In the interests of transparency, I wanted to address the question of why this is so important.
Simply put, the learning and unlearning of Canadian history through an Indigenous lens is fundamental to being an educated person in this country. Accordingly, it should be requisite for all students – domestic and international – enrolled in colleges and universities across Canada.
This goal is aspirational and will take years to achieve. As Marie Wilson, a Truth & Reconciliation Commissioner, sagely said, “We must be mindful that a process that will be as long and complicated as the reconciliation of seven generations of inequity will require stewardship, study and ongoing attention”.
Under the auspices of our 2017-2022 Plan, however, Sheridan will make important strides toward meeting its obligations. Specifically, we will commit resources to a variety of curricular and co-curricular activities designed to support past, present and future Indigenous students. That work will rest on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, the Colleges and Institutes Canada Indigenous Education Protocol, Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
As we move forward, Sheridan will collaborate with our Indigenous Education Council. That newly formed Council is responsible for advising the College on challenges and barriers related to the success of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people. Specifically, they will provide advice on institutional policies, practices, procedures and programs to ensure they reflect an Indigenous world view. Together, we will work to increase recruitment, retention, and graduation rates – keys to closing the educational and employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners in Canada.
A heightened focus on Indigenous Knowledge is embedded under our commitment to “Advance quality teaching and deep learning through inclusive, learner-focused design that embraces the diverse strengths of our students.” It is no doubt, however, integral to our character and our accountability. Learners and educational institutions in Canada must heed the call Justice Murray Sinclair issued when he released the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action in 2015: “We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you the path to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing.”