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Setting the Context

Section Two: Setting The Context

The Ted Rogers School of Management building on Dundas Street on the Ryerson campus

Toronto: A Gathering Place of Knowledge and Exchange 

Ryerson is located in the heart of downtown Toronto. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is a cultural hub and home to one of the most diverse ranges of cultures based within the traditional territories of multiple Algonquian and Iroquoian First Nations. These First Nations historically established Toronto as a Gathering Place of trade, commerce and cultural exchange which remains reflective of the city today. 

Toronto continues to serve as a magnet for talented immigrants, attracting the highest number of new immigrants to Canada. For Indigenous Peoples today, education, employment and training are the key motivating factors for making the move to urban centres. As a downtown campus, Ryerson is in the heart of Toronto’s cultural institutions, government and business, as well as its thriving innovation sector, providing a wealth of opportunities for Indigenous students. Ryerson also has much to offer in working with and understanding the local urban Indigenous community, with Toronto having one of the largest and most diverse urban Aboriginal populations in Canada.2

2The agencies serving the Aboriginal community in Toronto estimate that there are 70,000 residents from this community in the city. However according to the 2006 census, there were 31,910 Aboriginal persons living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This represents 2.7 per cent of all Aboriginal persons in Canada and 13.2 per cent of those in Ontario. Among Aboriginal persons in the city, 67.1 per cent were First Nations, 26.8 per cent Métis, and 1.4 per cent Inuit. Source: City of Toronto - Indigenous People of Toronto., external link

I see a lot of students in my classes wanting to learn a different version of history, wanting to learn about Indigenous, non-Indigenous relations from Indigenous perspectives. What they often express in terms of encountering these stories is a sense of shock or sadness or anger, and realizing that as adults living in what is now known as Canada they didn’t know about residential schooling, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, about the Indian Act and, unfortunately, the list goes on and on…So, I think there’s a lot of learning and unlearning that needs to happen and institutions such as this university can play an important role.

Panel Member – Dr. Julie Tomiak, Assistant Professor,, Department of Sociology, Campus Dialogue on TRC Calls to Action, Social Justice Week, October 5, 2015

Snapshot of the Indigenous Programs and Services at Ryerson University

Ryerson University is home to a small but vibrant Indigenous community that includes the Aboriginal Education Council (AEC), Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS), the Chair and Centre of Indigenous Governance, as well as a number of other Indigenous initiatives. In May 2012, Ryerson University and Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services were presented with the Eagle Staff, one of the highest forms of honour, for leadership within Aboriginal learning and education. It recognizes the university’s effort to cultivate a strong, holistic support system for Indigenous learners and was designed especially for the university and Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services. The Eagle Staff is present at significant university events such as convocation and remembrance ceremonies. 

Ryerson Indigenous Programs and Services

The following is a snapshot of the many Indigenous resources and programs that currently exist at Ryerson.

Aboriginal Education Council (AEC)

In 2010 Ryerson established a University Advisory Council on Aboriginal Issues and Education (Aboriginal Education Council), which is committed to developing a new relationship of truth and reconciliation between Indigenous and nonIndigenous Peoples at Ryerson and within the community at large. Through initiatives driven by Indigenous needs and values, the AEC works to ensure that the next generations of Aboriginal Peoples have greater opportunities at Ryerson.

Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS)

Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services was initiated in 1993 by Monica McKay (Nisga’a Nation) as an Indigenous Social Work student at Ryerson. Presently the office includes a staff team of six Indigenous Peoples who provide services and programs to students, staff and faculty at Ryerson using a holistic, responsive model of support. 

Chair in Indigenous Governance and Centre for Indigenous Governance

The mandate of the chair is to conduct research and scholarship in relation to Indigenous law, governance and politics in a First Nations context. In addition, part of the chair’s work is to teach and develop curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate levels on topics related to Indigenous governance. The associated Centre for Indigenous Governance builds capacity for Indigenous governance, advances research in governance issues, and increases educational opportunities for Aboriginal students.

Aboriginal Knowledges and Experiences Certificate Program

This certificate program provides a broad orientation to Indigenous experiences in Canada and how Indigenous Peoples have been impacted by laws, policies and practices in the health, social services, human resources and other sectors. Indigenous and non-Indigenous students have the opportunity to learn about Indigenous lived experiences through curriculum from Indigenous perspectives taught by Indigenous scholars and experienced community teachers.

Aboriginal Human Resources Consultant

Ryerson’s Aboriginal Human Resources Consultant (AHRC) is available to candidates thinking of applying for Ryerson positions, Ryerson employees who seek support settling in, and Ryerson leaders who wish to hire Indigenous employees. 

Indigenous Student Association (ISA)

The ISA is a student-run group focusing on addressing the needs of Ryerson’s Indigenous students and widening the circle of understanding between the Indigenous community and the diverse cultural groups on campus.

First Nations, Metis, Inuit Community Group (FNMI)

The First Nations, Metis, Inuit Community Group (FNMI) is made up of faculty, staff and instructors who work at Ryerson. The group hosts scheduled events and activities during the year for members to meet each other, learn, share and support one another. 

Ryerson & First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) Partnerships

In partnership with the First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI), Ryerson offers two unique programs with the School of Social Work and the Department of Politics and Public Administration that are specifically designed to respond to the needs of Indigenous students and communities following in the traditional practice developed by FNTI.