First Nations group at Laurentian University calls on school to honour its commitments to Indigenous education
SUDBURY -- An advisory council at Laurentian University is concerned about the development of a French-only school at the University of Sudbury and how it could impact the future of the Indigenous Studies Program.
In a news release Tuesday, the Laurentian University Native Education Council (LUNEC) called on LU to honour its "commitment to Indigenous education and live up to its tri-cultural mandate it so highly touts.
"LUNEC is also calling on Laurentian to honour its commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," the release said.
The University of Sudbury made its announcement to create a French-language only university without consulting with Indigenous communities or with no discussion with LUNEC.
“With Canada tabling legislation that implements the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as the framework for reconciliation, it's disappointing that our voice was not recognized in this debate,” Michelle Kennedy, LUNEC member, said in the release.
This process that the institution is undergoing needs to include Indigenous voices in the conversation, LUNEC said.
"We are calling on Laurentian to step up their game and honour their commitment to Indigenous education by supporting the Indigenous Studies Program and its rich consortium of Indigenous programs that brings the collective Indigenous knowledge through its faculty, staff and support services to build and grow a vibrant Indigenous program that is rooted in Indigenous world views, Indigenous culture and strong relationships with the Indigenous community," the release said.
Influential Indigenous scholars and community members have laid a great foundation for this program but there is a lot of work to be done, the group said.
“Our Indigenous scholars, our elders and our community leaders played an integral role in building the University of Sudbury’s Indigenous Studies Program and as Indigenous People, we need to protect, preserve and grow Indigenous education for future generations,” LUNEC member Roxanne Manitowabi said in the release.
Laurentian University is currently undergoing insolvency proceedings under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. It's expected that programs will be cut and staffing levels will be reduced when the restructuring process is completed at the end of April.
In an update March 26, LU President Robert Haché didn't address the University of Sudbury's plans, but did say the university is committed to its tricultural mandate.
"Laurentian is Canada’s only university with a tricultural mandate, offering a post-secondary experience in English and French with a comprehensive approach to Indigenous education," Haché said. "These principles are a point of pride, they are part of our story, and of what we aspire to be as a community."
"We will earnestly uphold the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and work to heal our relationship with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, honouring our connection to the land and the history of the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek on which Laurentian is situated," he added.
"We will celebrate the grit and determination of Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, further honouring the advocacy of many in the Laurentian community who have led the way for the inclusion and vitality of the Anishinaabemowin language on our campus."
Much ink has flowed over the future of Laurentian’s tricultural mandate, Haché wrote, calling into question whether or not the "sacred character" of our cultural identity will be preserved.
"Yet as I recently wrote in an open letter to the community, a new Laurentian is one that emphasizes and values Indigenous and Francophone programming, learning, and teaching, principles that are very much a part of the fabric of who we are as an academic community," he said.
"A new Laurentian will provide our community with the opportunity to reinvent itself and deepen its commitment to Indigenous and French-language education. To be a university where our students are culturally diverse and culturally aware. Immersed in more than one language. And proud of it."