We are Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty, students, and staff, sharing a commitment to transformative change. We want to engage you in a conversation on how to work towards reconciliation and decolonization, and why this matters in relation to our work at Ryerson – a university named after Egerton Ryerson who played a key role in the establishment of the residential school system.
In June the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) began wrapping up its work, releasing its summary of the final report, "Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future." Included in the summary were 94 recommendations to help Canadians and Indigenous peoples move towards reconciliation. The TRC was created in 2008 as an outcome of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, with the mandate to create an accurate historical record and make recommendations to redress the impacts of residential schooling and advance reconciliation.
The TRC made post-secondary education a focus by
including the following specific calls to action:
We call upon the federal government to provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking
a post-secondary education (Call to Action 11).
We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families (Call to Action 12).
We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages (Call to Action 16).
We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism (Call to Action 24).
We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to: i. Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students. ii. Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms (Call to Action 62).
We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation (Call to Action 65).
We call upon Canadian journalism programs and media schools to require education for all students on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations (Call to Action 86).
Given that the post-secondary achievement of Indigenous students continues to lag far behind the national average of 26.5% – according to 2011 census data, 1.7% of Inuit, 8.7% of First Nations, 11.7% of Métis Peoples have obtained a university degree – we as educators have a lot of work to do.
Already, Canadian universities are stepping up to answer the TRC’s calls to action. Laurier University has committed to implementing each of the TRC's recommendations regarding post-secondary education. A consortium of ten other schools – University of Manitoba, University of British Columbia, the University of Winnipeg, l’Université de St. Boniface, Carleton University, the University of Regina, Lakehead University, University College of the North, Algoma University, Red River College – have partnered with the TRC on a research agenda that will both increase understanding of the concept of reconciliation and work towards it.
The signatories of this letter invite you to join us in taking the next step. In the coming weeks and months, we will be reflecting on the TRC's recommendations and determining how best to make them a reality at Ryerson University. The Indigenous community is looking for the support of the Ryerson community at large, as Indigenous students, faculty, and staff continue to lead this important work.
We encourage all members of the Ryerson community to begin by reading the TRC’s Summary of the Final Report.
Please consider posting these materials on your course website or using them in class to encourage students to learn bout the impacts of residential schooling and ongoing Indigenous struggles.
We also invite you and your students to join us in a public forum on October 5 (10am-12pm, Oakham Lounge) during which we will discuss how we can collectively work towards the implementation of the TRC’s recommendations. The forum will be the first event to kick off the 5th Annual Ryerson Social Justice Week which features Indigenous scholars, advocates, and artists throughout the week. If you wish to participate more actively, please consider joining our planning committee (contact Julie Tomiak through email at
email@example.com for more information).
Whatever the level of your participation, we hope you will become part of the conversation about how, in our various roles and capacities, we can heed the TRC’s calls to action. In the spirit of reconciliation, let's make Ryerson University a place where Indigenous students can thrive.
Aboriginal Education Council
Ad hoc TRC Working Group
Centre for Indigenous Governance
Chair in Indigenous Governance, Dr. Pamela Palmater
Continuing Education Students' Association of Ryerson (CESAR)
Indigenous Students Association
Racialised Students Collective
Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA)
RFA Aboriginal Caucus
RFA Equity Issues Committee
Ryerson Students’ Union
Ryerson Sociology Students’ Union
Unifor Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Dr. Winnie Ng