On December 12, 2016, Vianne Timmons (President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Regina and Peter Stoicheff (President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan) published a policy brief titled “Post-Secondary Education in Canada: A Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada” through the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.
The brief outlines what universities across Canada (in particular the universities of Regina and Saskatchewan) are doing to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action dealing with post-secondary issues facing Aboriginal people:
- “We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.”
- “We call upon the federal government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.”
- “Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.”
- “We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.”
On June 2, 2015, Justice Murray Sinclair released the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action. It was a landmark moment in truth telling and reconciliation between Aboriginal1 and non-Aboriginal people in our country, and one at which many Canadians joined those who had already been mobilized around supporting Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Many universities responded to the Calls to Action by making public statements and looking inward at their institutions. This introspection was necessary and needs to continue. But most importantly, there needs to be action taken on multiple fronts in universities across Canada.
Simply put, one cannot dispute the post-secondary educational gap that exists between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal youth – a gap that has been caused in many cases by funding deficiencies as well as deeply rooted social and economic issues within Aboriginal communities resulting from Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal people over the past 150 years. According to the 2006 Census, a significant difference in university completion rates was noted between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults. This had not changed much by the 2011 Census. It reported less than half (48%) of Aboriginal people aged 25 to 64 had a post-secondary qualification. By comparison, about two thirds (65%) of non-Aboriginal people in the same age group had a postsecondary qualification, a difference of 17 percentage points. The policy issue is how universities in Canada can become part of the solution that addresses the deeply rooted social and economic challenges faced by many Aboriginal people.
— Introduction to “Post-Secondary Education in Canada: A Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada”