Laurentian University cuts break commitment to reconciliation in Canada

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The Northern Ontario School of Medicine's East Campus, part of the Faculty of Medicine at Laurentian University. Image credit: Matt Strickland/Wikimedia Commons

Much has been written about the devastating cuts at Laurentian University, but little attention is being paid to their violation of Canada's commitments to Indigenous peoples. An essential part of Laurentian's mission is to serve northern Ontario's Indigenous communities.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) final report calls on federal, provincial and territorial governments to:

"Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms." 

It calls on governments to "provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education." It calls on the federal government to acknowledge that Aboriginal rights include Aboriginal language rights. It calls on post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.

The TRC also calls on governments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and calls upon "federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation" and to "develop a national action plan, strategies, and other concrete measures to achieve the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

Both the TRC and the UNDRIP confront the systemic implacability of colonialism and racism, and invoke obligations, rights and responsibilities that arise in settler states such as Canada.

Laurentian's matter involves the loss of highly trained faculty, damage to students' education (some of whom are in mid-degree and some who cannot easily relocate), and the loss of a highly regarded Indigenous program that has educated both Indigenous and settler students. The failure by governments to adequately support Laurentian in this moment violates the commitments we are all called to make to achieve reconciliation and measures of justice. 

Joyce Green is professor of politics and international studies at the University of Regina and co-chair of the Canadian Political Science Association Reconciliation Committee.

Image credit: Matt Strickland/Wikimedia Commons

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