U of T is looking to make changes in response to the 94 recommendations put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission was created to get Canadians involved in the ongoing process of reconciliation with Canada’s aboriginal community.
As a part of the Indian Residential School Settlement agreement, the TRC was established in 2008 to document and share with Canadians the accounts of the survivors of the residential school system.
In response to the “Calls to Action”, U of T’s president Meric Gertler and VP Cheryl Regehr have decided to create a steering committee responsible for implementing the TRC’s recommendations that are applicable to the postsecondary institution. The committee will be co-chaired by Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, the director of aboriginal student services at First Nations House at U of T, and Munk School of Global Affairs director Stephen Toope.
“It is my hope that any recommendations put forward by the committee will encourage in transforming the culture of the university community to become a more welcoming environment,” said Hamilton-Diabo. “The committee will build upon the work that has been occurring at U of T for over 25 years in order to continue to increase Indigenous participation in all parts of the university.”
The committee’s primary responsibilities include reviewing the TRC’s report and making recommendations that apply to the university concerning support for aboriginal students, staff, and faculty, including Indigenous material in U of T curricula and Indigenous content in university programming. The committee will begin meeting this month and has been asked to prepare an interim report by July 1 and offer final recommendations by the end of the calendar year.
The suggestions regarding postsecondary institutions include journalism programs and media schools requiring students to take courses on the history of Indigenous peoples, creating university and college degree and diploma programs in Indigenous languages, and educating teachers on ways to incorporate aboriginal knowledge and teaching methods in schools.
The recommendations specifically emphasized the need for an enhanced Indigenous programming.
“Enhancing Indigenous programming provides an opportunity for the U of T community to learn more about the people, culture, and issues. Indigenous students will benefit by having specific needs addressed but will also be able to see themselves reflected in the institution,” said Hamilton-Diabo. “It will be an invitation for others to become engaged. It will also be a chance to learn about, and from, different perspectives that can be found in Indigenous communities, which can contribute to issues that are being addressed in Canada.”