News Release

REF NO.: 179

SUBJECT: Education identified as key to reconciliation

DATE: June 18, 2015

Memorial University’s special advisor to the president on Aboriginal affairs calls the focus on the role of education in reconciliation in the recently released Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) summary report an opportunity for Memorial to play a pivotal role in facilitating the dialogue of this important aspect of Canadian history.

Catharyn Andersen says many of the issues named in the TRC report are also reflected in the recommendations in Memorial’s task force report.

“The TRC report calls for dialogue between and among all Canadians, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal,” she said. “With our special obligation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and as the only university in the province, I think we have a vital role to play and we are certainly in a position to facilitate that dialogue and much more.”

In a news release, Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC, said the 94 calls to action represent the first step toward redressing the legacy of residential schools and advancing the process of reconciliation. The significant role of education and post-secondary institutions in reconciliation was highlighted in several recommendations from the report, including a focus on increased access to post-secondary education for Aboriginal youth and the need for courses and programming on Aboriginal issues, culture and language.

Since releasing A Special Obligation: Report of the Presidential Task Force on Aboriginal Initiatives in 2009, Memorial University has been moving forward with identifying best practices in Aboriginal education and implementing appropriate strategic initiatives to support Aboriginal students.

Examples of initiatives at Memorial include the creation of a bachelor of education (primary/elementary) degree program for Nunatsiavut facilitated entirely in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, and aimed at members of Nunatsiavut and those interested in teaching in Inuttitut; the development of an Aboriginal student scholarship program; and the creation of the Aboriginal Designated Seats Program, which reserves seats for Aboriginal students in many programs university-wide. The program is the most comprehensive of its kind in the country and was granted special status by the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission in 2012, which protects existing designated seats and the program itself from any challenges.

“We are committed to developing Aboriginal education initiatives, strengthening Aboriginal programming and providing the best possible supports for Aboriginal students across our campuses,” said Dr. Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor, Memorial University. “The preservation and sharing of Aboriginal culture, language and history is fundamentally important to fulfilling our mandate and meeting the needs of the people of our province.” 

National Aboriginal Day, a special day to celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Canada, is on June 21. The Memorial community will celebrate National Aboriginal Day on Friday, June 19, with a variety of events for faculty, staff and students in The Loft in the University Centre on the St. John’s campus.

For more information, please visit www.mun.ca/aboriginal_affairs.

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