Preliminary report released on Aboriginal reconciliation at Queen’s

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force acknowledges steps taken, poses questions for further action

The Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre was acknowledged in the report as being a significant reconciliation effort for Aboriginal students at Queen's.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

An interim report has been released by the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force addressing Aboriginal reconciliation at the post-secondary level.

The report acknowledges steps taken by the University in recent years and prompts further and more effective action by the University for Aboriginal people in the post-secondary environment. 

The task force was established in April of this year, following a Law Student Society (LSS) vote. 

The task force was compiled of members of the community beyond just the LSS, incorporating staff, faculty and students from various programs and organizations on campus. 

The task force was responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) report released in December 2015. 

The report, titled “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future,” contains 94 calls to action to progress and support the process of Canadian reconciliation.

Many of these calls to action specifically address Canada’s post-secondary institutions, urging them to develop Aboriginal-focused programs, in fields such as education, health care and law, and to promote an awareness of Indigenous rights and histories on campus.

The report also urges the government to provide targeted funding to support Aboriginal-related initiatives in these Canadian colleges and universities.

On March 24, the LSS voted to allocate $25,000 to create an Aboriginal student entrance scholarship. 

Law students also voted at the time in support of creating a reconciliation task force at Queen’s. The task force, which was assembled a month later, is responsible for responding to the TRC report’s calls to action that are pertinent to Queen’s.

They are also charged with discussing the ways in which the university can address themes mentioned in the TRC report, such as changing perspectives, building relationships, and promoting awareness of the rights of Indigenous peoples on campus and beyond.

On August 26, the task force’s preliminary report was published online. 

According to the task force, the purpose of the preliminary report is “to establish the processes and strategies that the task force will employ to meet [its] objectives” and to serve as a “brief compendium of some existing initiatives that were designed with the intention of supporting Aboriginal students”.

The report also contains an overview of various initiatives at Queen’s that already align with the TRC’s calls to action, such as the Academic Plan implemented in 2011, which serves as a guide to develop Aboriginal-focused programming and integration of Aboriginal perspectives into Queen’s curriculum. 

Other examples included the development of the Aboriginal Council of Queen’s University (ACQU) to advise the Queen’s Board of Trustees and Senate with respect to Indigenous programs. 

Also mentioned were the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, which provides support to Aboriginal students, the Aboriginal Access to Engineering program, and the recently established AMS Aboriginal Academic Affairs Commissioner.

The report notes an increase in enrollment rates for Aboriginal students at Queen’s in recent years. 

A conscious effort by the University to raise Aboriginal admissions began in 2011-12. By 2015, applications were increased by 30%, offers by 61%, and confirmations by 93%. 

The report, after beginning with an outline of steps Queen’s has taken towards reconciliation, ends with a set of discussion questions to encourage conversation about what more can be done to fulfill the TRC’s calls to action. 

The task force will consider questions regarding Aboriginal awareness on campus, academic programming, recruitment, student support services, governance, research, and Indigenous faculty and staff, among others. 

In going forward, the task force will engage with the faculties, student affairs, and the Aboriginal Council of Queen’s University in order to “identify areas of strength and effective practices as well as areas in need of improvement,” according to the report. 

These consultations will begin in Fall 2016, with the deadline for a final report on Feb. 1, 2017.

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