All Posts Tagged With: "First Nations"
What students are talking about today (January 31st)
1. A pizza-faced Tennessee college student who rapped his order at a local Wendy’s restaurant has seen his video go viral, just as planned. Astonishingly, the fast-food restaurant staff get the entire order right and then give him and his buddies the food for free. It seems suspiciously well-choreographed—could it be a stealth ad? Nope. Blake Mankin, who goes by the name Mister B. told ABC News his intention was to promote his upcoming album “What the Funk.”
2. An acne and birth-control drug may be linked to the death of at least 11 Canadians, eight of them under 30 years old, according to Health Canada records reported on by the Toronto Star. The drug, Diane-35, is being suspended in France after deaths there. Health Canada told The Star that the department is “reviewing the available information to determine the appropriate next steps.” Eleven women and girls who took the drug experienced severe and excessive blood clotting in their legs, sudden blockages in their lungs, bleeding in their brains and chest pain before death, according to the adverse reaction reports reviewed by The Star.
3. Not every First Nation group in Canada is at loggerheads with the government over treaty rights. The Chippewas of The Thames First Nations settled their land claim and are now looking for strategic areas to build an economically sound reserve with the 5,120 acres the Government of Canada owes them, reports Western University’s The Gazette. “If we’re going to become economically self-sufficient, then we have to have an economic base,” chief Joe Miskokomon told the newspaper. He says they want to build near a city like London where they could develop the land quickly.
4. In a nod to pay equity, every female faculty member at the University of British Columbia is getting a two per cent pay raise. The money is due because multiple studies have shown women at UBC are underpaid on campus by that amount even when other factors have been controlled for.
5. The crisis in Mali, where a weak government is fighting off Al-Qaeda-linked extremists with the help of international soldiers, has been getting coverage in student newspapers across the country. “Extremists cannot be allowed to gain the upper hand and impose an oppressive regime upon the innocent people of Mali. While much of the world has been throwing off the chains of tyranny or fighting for freedom as in Syria, Mali risks going in the other direction, backsliding into violence and terror,” writes Spencer Fernando in The Manitoban. Meanwhile, students writing in The Concordian debated how involved Canada should get. Not to be outdone, Maclean’s world correspondent Michael Petrou put together this video that will bring you up to speed.
Jennifer Campeau balances motherhood, school and politics
Running for office isn’t easy. But how many politicians can say they won their seats while parenting and working on their PhDs?
Not many. But Jennifer Campeau, the newest member the Saskatchewan Legistlature can.
Campeau, 38, is pursuing her PhD in Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
The Yellow Quill First Nation members’ election in Saskatoon Fairview on on Nov. 7 marked only the second time a First Nations woman was elected to the Legislative Assembly in Saskatchewan and the first time an Aboriginal Canadian woman snagged a seat for the Saskatchewan Party, which cleaned up with 49 out of 58 ridings this month.
Despite the rigours of campaigning, Campeau chose not to take any time off from her studies.
“You’ve really got to be out there knocking on doors at least 3 hours a night, if not more,” she says. Still, Campeau doesn’t take the opportunity of post-secondary education for granted. A single mother, it took her a long time to earn her first degree. It was simply too difficult to study full-time while working to support her young daughter. ”It was just the two of us so I didn’t have the support that I could have had to do well in school; I had to work to support us both,” she says.
“[But] when I was 30 and she was old enough to be in school all day, I’d had enough of telling her that education was important when I didn’t have a degree myself,” she says. Sometimes she would bring her daughter to class, explaining “it instilled in her the value of post-secondary education.”
Campeau now has a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Saskatchewan.
She’s pursing her doctoral degree in Native Studies to learn more about aboriginal policy. She says the economic challenges facing Yellow Quill First Nation are part of the reason she chose her field of study.
As an MLA, Campeau hopes to provide a voice for both Aboriginal Canadians and newcomers alike. “The Saskatchewan economy and population is growing, so we have a lot of people new to Saskatchewan in Saskatoon Fairview,” she says. “I want to bring their concerns to the table.”
You’re forigiven if it all sounds tiring. ”In the last eight years, I haven’t really had a life of leisure, I’ve always been working and going to school,” jokes Campeau, “so I kind of got used to a fast pace.”
How universities are embracing the Aboriginal baby boom
From the Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now. Story by Ken MacQueen.
It’s one of those small things that’s actually very big. The University of Manitoba has a policy on smudging: the Aboriginal tradition of burning sage, sweetgrass or cedar as a way of setting a positive tone and purifying the mind. Say a love affair goes sideways, or a professor is unimpressed with your political science presentation, or it’s autumn on the reserve and here you are in Winnipeg, lonely and blue; well, retreating to a quiet place to wash yourself in the smoke of a smudge is a way to turn the page, to gain strength and clarity. The policy on smudging and pipe ceremonies is the product of deep bureaucratic thought, legal consultation and many meetings, because, of course, there are no-smoking laws. So, it’s complicated.
Some are moved by the apology. Others ask questions.
The University of Manitoba’s President, David Barnard, has apologized for his institution’s indirect role in the residential schools that negatively impacted as many as 150,000 Aboriginal Canadians.
At a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing in Halifax, Barnard said that the U of M made a “grave mistake” by educating people who perpetuated the assimilation of Aboriginal Canadians.
The apology brought some Aboriginal Canadians in the audience on Thursday to tears. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, welcomed the words.
But some public relations experts and Native leaders questioned the motivations for the apology, because the University of Manitoba had no direct involvement in the residential schools.
Barnard responded on Thursday. “The university and other organizations in Canada stood by while this was happening, and we didn’t speak out against it early enough,” he told the National Post.
But why not apologize to other groups harmed indirectly by the inaction of the University? “It’s clear that this has been a significant, damaging, traumatic experience for people that are served by the University of Manitoba. This is something that has deep meaning to people in Winnipeg and in Manitoba,” he told the National Post, adding that it may help “bring more people to university.”
The University of Manitoba is already one of Canada’s biggest centres for Native Studies and drew more than 1,900 self-declared Aboriginal students to campus this year—more than most other schools.
Of course, the U of M isn’t the only university that’s working to make universities work better for Aboriginal Canadians. Read Ken MacQueen’s feature article Success, one student at at time in the 2011 Maclean’s University Rankings issue to find out what universities from Victoria to Nipissing are doing to help Native Canadians succeed. Pick up your copy on newsstands today.
How to use terms like Native, Indigenous and Aboriginal
After Deborah Young was appointed the Executive Lead, Aboriginal Achievement at the University of Manitoba in April, she quickly changed her title to Executive Lead, Indigenous Achievement.
That’s caused the school to explore in a podcast, “What do I say?” Local experts explain that there are important nuances in the terms we use to describe the decendents of those who lived in Canada first. Here are just a few of their ideas.
Young says that she chose the term Indigenous because it’s more uniting than Aboriginal. Indigenous is a term that crosses borders and recognizes a shared history. Indigenous is the word used by the United Nations. Aboriginal is not wrong. It’s simply an umbrella term used for First Nations, Metis and Inuit people in Canada. But, warns Young: “One of my pet peeves is that people don’t capitalize Aboriginal.”
Professor Pettigrew proposes a commonsense alternative
Having served on many university hiring committees, I have always been mildly troubled by the term “visible minorities,” a term often seen in job ads.
So I was not entirely outraged when I learned that folks down at the UN are upset with how Canadians throw that term around.
Admittedly, it’s frustrating to see an anti-racist policy critiqued for supposedly racist language. Indeed, so many terms are politically charged that it’s hard to know what constitutes appropriate care and what constitutes politically-correct nitpicking. Is “cotton-pickin’” a racist term? Is “pork barrell“? Is “boy“?
Frustrating as it is, we shouldn’t dismiss such concerns. After all, many terms that seemed unobjectionable or even progressive in the past now seem awkward if not offensive. I remember wincing when my grandmother said “coloured” and wondering why she couldn’t say “black” like civilized people. Except that, now, civilized people are increasingly uncomfortable with “black.” I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandchildren find it hard to believe that anyone could ever have used a term so insensitive as “African Canadian.”
The knock against “visible minority” is that it arguably identifies white as the standard, normal way to be, and places non-white people in some lesser, “other” category. But isn’t the whole point of equitable hiring practices to acknowledge that white men really have been seen as the standard and that women and minorities have, for this reason, been unfairly disadvantaged? You can’t make the problem go away by getting rid of terms that identify the problem.
Some prefer a term like “racialized communities” but I’m not convinced it’s any better than what we have now. To my ear, it seems to imply that certain groups have had their ethnic or racial origins imposed upon them and that their identities are merely a mark of their oppression — rather than a heritage of which they can be proud. You’d be fine, if you hadn’t been racialized. It sounds wrong.
Still, “visible minority” leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, what about invisible minorities? Jewish people have suffered through long periods of oppression, and anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past — but while there may be cultural cues that might indicate that a candidate is Jewish, I doubt most Jewish candidates would self-identify as a visible minority. What about gay applicants? They are part of a disadvantaged minority, but, again, not a visible one.
Still further, exactly how visible does one’s minority status have to be to be a member of a visible minority? I have met many Canadians who identify as Aboriginals, but whose physical characteristics are not stereotypically “native.” Are they still members of visible minorities? Is a blond aboriginal person less entitled to affirmative action than a dark-haired aboriginal person?
Perhaps it’s time to simply invite candidates to indicate, if they choose, whether they believe that elements of their identity have disadvantaged them in some way. Then, hiring committees could take those disadvantages into account during the vetting process. It’s not a perfect solution, but at least we could stop trying to come up with a term that includes certain people but not others while implying only positive things.
After all, even if we came up with such a term, it’s going to sound wrong twenty years from now.
Almost 700 Aboriginal students are enrolled at the University of Victoria
Increasingly it seems we must look to the University of Victoria for good ideas. This year’s Times Higher Education Supplement rankings put it sixth among Canadian universities and 130th in the world. UVic does well in our own rankings too, as you’ll see. Rankings were the first thing David Turpin, UVic’s president, wanted to talk about when he visited me in Ottawa last month. But his other story was more focused and may be more important: Victoria’s success in attracting, retaining and rewarding Aboriginal university students.
In 2006, only eight per cent of Canadians with Aboriginal ancestry had university degrees, compared with 23 per cent of non-Aboriginal Canadians. This is not merely too bad. There is a genuine economic and human cost, because the correlation between higher education and various social goods is exhaustively documented. Post-secondary education attainment is associated with better health, increased civic participation, lower crime rates, higher income, correspondingly higher tax payments, reduced dependence on social benefits, and more.
A February 2010 study by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards suggests that if the gap in educational attainment and labour-force participation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians vanished by 2026, total tax revenue would increase by $3.5 billion and government spending could decrease by $14.2 billion. Obviously that won’t happen, but any progress in that direction helps. Never even mind the human benefits.
The best results I’ve seen in promoting access and achievement for Aboriginal students are from the University of Victoria. Some of this is a long-term trend. The university counted fewer than 100 Aboriginal students in 1999; today it’s nearly 700. The number of graduate students has grown from fewer than 10 to nearly 150.
Since 2005, UVic has been working on programs to solidify and extend those trends. With money from the Liberal-created, now-defunct Millennium Scholarship Foundation, the university came up with seven programs under a blanket name, the LE,NONET Project. (LE,NONET is pronounced “le-non-git.” It’s a Straits Salish word referring to success after enduring many hardships.) Most of the programs are for students. There’s a straightforward bursary program, which paid recipients an average of about $3,500 a year. There was also an “emergency relief fund.” Turpin told me some students were going home to their communities, say for a relative’s funeral, and not returning. Simply covering travel costs helped fix that, and at a cost lower than $600 per student per school year.
Finally, there were programs to keep the whole university experience from becoming too weird and foreign, for students who might be the first in their family to pursue higher education: a peer mentor program that matched young Aboriginal students with older Aboriginal students; a 200-hour internship with an Aboriginal community group outside the university gates; and a 200-hour research apprenticeship with a UVic faculty member. The project also included online counselling and workshops for staff and faculty members.
Did all this help Aboriginal students? They sure thought it did. Seventy-eight per cent thought the peer mentor program contributed to their success. Every other element of LE,NONET scored even higher. Almost 99 per cent liked the bursaries. Clear majorities said the program helped them feel connected both to the broader university community and to “who I am as an Aboriginal person.” Sometimes people suggest being a member of the First Nations and being at university are contradictory. Most LE,NONET participants disagree.
Bottom line: does all this fuss keep Aboriginal students in school? Participants in the program were less than one-third as likely to drop out as Aboriginal students who weren’t selected for the pilot program. They were more than twice as likely to continue from one year to the next. Graduation rates were significantly higher. It’s a safe bet that over their lifetimes those graduates will repay the extra investment many times over.
David Turpin says he’ll share details of the LE,NONET program with any university that’s interested. Many will be. Across the country, there’s been a recent and overdue emphasis on promoting access and success—getting students into university, and ensuring they get out with a degree—among under-represented groups. That includes Aboriginals, but also some immigrant populations and even, by some definitions, young men, who are entering university markedly less often than young women.
It should be obvious why this is all a good idea. An aging population needs higher productivity so a smaller workforce can pay for the benefits of ever more retirees. The needed human capital could come from immigrants, and a lot of it will. But it’s dumb to import brains when there are plenty of good minds right here that can succeed if only they’re given a fair chance and, yes, some extra help where appropriate.
Higher educational attainment needn’t make First Nations students feel forced to deny their identities. The skills and knowledge they acquire can go right to work in their home communities, or they can become part of a network that makes it that much easier for the next cohort of students to follow their example. It’s no coincidence that one of the country’s fastest-rising universities is the one that has pushed all these considerations to the top of its agenda.
Wesley Stevenson charged with fraud of more than $5,000
Wesley Stevenson, accused of defrauding First Nations University of Canada of more than $5,000, will get his day in court, after a three-day preliminary hearing held this week, the Regina Leader Post reports. The university’s governance problems stretch back several years, prompting several audits and independent reviews. Troubles continue to this day.
In 2005, Stevenson, a former financial executive, and two other senior officials at the university were suspended and the university’s board of governors ordered a forensic audit of the school’s finances. He and another official were eventually fired, while the third returned to work. In the months that followed, several high-ranking officials were fired or suspended and others resigned. Stevenson was officially charged by the RCMP in June of last year.
Senior staff, including Stevenson, alleged political interference in the operation of the university by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and its vice-chief, Morley Watson.
The concerns over academic freedom and political interference in the autonomous governance of the university prompted the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) to conduct an independent review of the university in 2007 and to place the institution’s membership in AUCC on probationary status. The university’s full member status has since been reinstated.
In late 2008 the Canadian Association of University Teachers voted to censure FNUC over the university’s governance problems. Censure means that most university teachers will be told to refuse appointments at the university, decline invitations to speak or participate in academic conferences hosted by the university, and turn down any distinctions it offers.
And earlier this year both the Saskatchewan and federal governments suspended funding to the school. The province made the move to freeze $200,000 after an internal report raised concerns about how the Regina-based university is run. An audit committee was established to address the governance issues in a serious way
The $2.4-million that is being held back by Ottawa represents one-third of all Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) funding to the university. INAC has said that university officials must meet various deadlines in the coming months and submit a final “action plan” by Jan. 1, 2010 to trigger a release of the funds. This is the first time the federal department has placed these kinds of conditions on an institution.
The university’s governance problems have persisted. Cheif Financial Officer Murray Westerlund was fired just last week. While the school is claiming that Westerlund’s departure was a mutual agreement, advanced education minister Rob Norris is not buying it and says while the government continues to work with the FNUC to complete the internal audit, it is not sure what action will be taken next.
With files from the Canadian Press and Karen Pinchin
Both province and feds are withholding funding from beleaguered university
Officials from the First Nations University of Canada are accusing the federal and provincial governments of being uncooperative and unnecessarily negative in their attempts to address alleged governance problems at the Saskatoon school, according to The StarPhoenix.
“The government should just get off its pot and start doing something more positive,” said faculty member Sharon Acoose in a speech to a gathered crowd of about 100 at Thursday’s open house. “Work with us. We have a beautiful university. Open your eyes and see that.”
In 2005, Morley Watson, chair of the university’s board of governors, suspended several senior administrators and allegedly seized the university’s central computers, copied the hard drive with all faculty and student records, and ordered administrative staff out of their offices.
Since that time, two different studies by both the provincial government and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations have recommended changes to the university’s board structure in an effort to improve transparency and good governance. Enrolment at the school has plunged, and many of the faculty and administrative staff have left.
In November 2008, the Canadian Association of University teachers imposed censure on the university, which meant that most of the Canada’s university teachers have been told to refuse appointments at the university, decline invitations to speak or participate in academic conferences hosted by the university, and turn down any distinctions.
Last March, the province suspended $200,000 of funding to the school, saying that “fundamental changes” needed to be made, and the federal department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is withholding more than $2 million for the same reason.
Those reactions are not sitting well with many of Thursday’s speakers, reports The StarPhoenix.
According to Acoose, the university is being “picked on.” She praised the work of university president Charles Pratt and vice-president of finance Al Ducharme. “Let us do our jobs. Quit holding the purse strings above our heads. We are not puppets.”
The university’s vice-president of academics Herman Michell said he agrees with Acoose.
“Sharon Acoose mentioned the struggles our university has gone through in the past four or five years. She’s right. As far as I’m concerned, we should have 50 of these First Nations universities across Canada. A lot of institutions across Canada are facing the same challenges we are,” he said.
“I call on the federal and provincial government to step up to the plate and help us do our work.”
A spokesman for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada says his department is “not going to address the comments made at the open house.” He said the funding conditions will remain, along with their late-November deadline.
In unprecedented move, GG calls for change in government policy.
Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean is making a rare break from ceremonial circumspection to publicly urge the government to build a university for Canada’s Inuit.
In a vice-regal plunge into policy advocacy, Jean proposes a university in the Arctic so Inuit youth can get a degree close to home and benefit from economic activity expected in their region.
Canada’s claims to sovereignty over the North will be, she says, nothing but an “empty shell” unless the area’s inhabitants participate in northern development.
The Governor General has begun promoting the idea with government officials, and sources say they expect her to raise it with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Jean was inspired by an experiment in Norway and plans to use what could be her final year in office – and her time after leaving Rideau Hall – to champion the idea that Canada can do it too.
Jean says an Arctic university could help produce the engineers that mining companies will need, and inspire young Inuit who might otherwise abandon dreams of a career in other fields such as medicine or law.
She says industry could also be conscripted in the effort – and suggests that mining firms, for instance, could be required to devote a slice of their resource revenues to building a new school.
None of this is government policy, but the Queen’s representative offered a series of arguments for an Arctic university in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“So all of Canada is now looking to the North and saying, ‘It’s important to defend our sovereignty in the North, it’s important to deal with changes from climate change, the Northwest Passage will soon be a maritime highway, it’s important to explore the abundant natural resources – gas, uranium, diamonds, gold,’ ” Jean said at Rideau Hall.
“That’s all very good – but at the same time we absolutely cannot forget that this sovereignty is an empty shell, the development of the North will be an empty shell, if it happens without the participation of northern people . . . .
“We need to build viable, healthy, durable communities there.”