Putting a focus on Indigenous history

(Caterina Amaral)

Drum circle at Indigenous rally and march at Ryerson University’s sixth annual Social Justice week. (Caterina Amaral)


Bringing indigenous history into the classroom is the next major goal for Ryerson as it works to implement recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“What we are trying to do is get right the relationship, and that is what the TRC is about,” said Joanne Dallaire, elder and traditional councillor for the Aboriginal Student Services. “It is about the right relationship.”

She made the comments at the annual TRC check-in held Monday as a part of Social Justice Week.

The TRC is a component of the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which informs Canadians about the history of residential schools.

Ryerson University’s inaugural assistant vice-president, vice-provost Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Denise O’Neil Green, and Dallaire have been working to gather information from students, faculty and staff to see what truth and reconciliation means to them.

From these meetings, and presentations with the Academic Planning Group, the driving recommendation has been implementing TRC and indigenous history into all academic departments and curriculums.  

“Mandatory courses in aboriginal education was a thing (that) came through loud and clear,” said O’Neil Green.

This is a priority mentioned by indigenous student services member, Athena Pheasant, at the beginning of the panel.

The Ryerson School of Journalism will be one of the first programs to integrate a new indigenous curriculum.

That will come with the programs’ indigenous online beat reporting class, which is to be offered for the first time in January.  

Other priority recommendations, according to O’Neil Green, are to set targets for the number of indigenous faculty and staff on campus, increase funding for indigenous students, have a stronger commitment from university leadership for action, have a designated indigenous counsellor and provide indigenous language programs to support and recruit indigenous students.

“This is an ongoing interactive, organic process, not a one off,” said O’Neil Green.  

“It will take some time to embed and integrate … ”

There are still a couple consultations to be held with academic leaders such as the senate. But the goal is to draft a report with official recommendations by the end of this year.

Once this happens, the report will be posted online for feedback from the community. The report will be appropriately updated before going to Ryerson’s president Mohamed Lachemi.

“There are so many reports about indigenous people in this country that have been shelved,” said indigenous CBC journalist and visiting journalist at the Ryerson School of Journalism, Duncan McCue, about the TRC.

“If this very important report is going to be a living document, if it is going to change this country in the way the commissioners hoped it would, then we need to have events like this annually.”

Students can email trc.edi@ryerson.ca if they have questions or recommendations, or visit Ryerson’s TRC website  for information about future events.

Sounds of Indigenous drum circle at Oct. 31 rally and march at Ryerson University’s sixth annual Social Justice week. (Courtesy Jacqueline McKay)

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