Last year, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its Calls to Action to redress the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. The 11th Call to Action asks the federal government “to provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education.” I would like to respectfully include the honouring and fulfilling of the Treaty and Aboriginal right to education in the Calls to Action.
The federal government has the legal obligation to adequately fund First Nations seeking post-secondary education, yet it has severely cut funding for those students in addition to implementing the two percent funding cap on First Nations programs since 1996. The result is that the federal government has not honoured First Nation’s Treaty and Aboriginal right to education through deliberate underfunding. It is our right to education secured in Treaties between Indigenous Nations and the British Crown. It is our Treaty and Aboriginal right to education to attend all educational institutions built on unceded and unsurrendered First Nations territories.
I call upon all post-secondary institutions to honour First Nations Treaty and Aboriginal right to education by immediately waiving tuition and fees for First Nations students.
I call upon the federal and provincial governments to provide adequate funding to post-secondary institutions for the purposes of: hiring more First Nations professors in tenured/tenure-track positions; financially supporting First Nations graduate and undergraduate student research; providing adequate on-campus services to support the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of First Nations students; increasing institutional power of First Nations students, faculty, and staff to create safe spaces in which to learn and work and to respond to all forms of discrimination in academia; and allowing and encouraging First Nations students, faculty, and staff to bring their Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies, and pedagogies into post-secondary institutions.
Universities across Canada should build off the University of Guelph’s response to the TRC Calls to Action, which includes hiring five tenured/tenure-track positions and thousands of dollars for MA, PhD, and post-doctoral research grants. These are only a few actions that universities can take to create real, impactful change for First Nations students and faculty in post-secondary institutions. If universities are serious about answering the TRC Calls to Action, then I call upon Canadian universities to support their First Nations students on their academic journey in this way that allows for us to do research that is meaningful and impactful for our First Nations communities and ourselves.
Hupačasath and Alexander First Nations