Reconciliation and the Academy

*NEW* Public forum Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future at Congress 2016: event report - agenda with participants' biographies

Principles and Commitment

Building on the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Federation has announced its commitment to contribute to reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. Our focus is on the crucial role that post-secondary education, the humanities and social sciences will play in the process of research, understanding and action towards reconciliation.

The Federation has adopted the Touchstones of Hope Principles and Processes to guide its work on reconciliation. In this framework, reconciliation is recognized as being a movement that must be built and sustained—it is not an event or a short term project.

The five core Touchstone of Hope Principles include:

  • Recognizing Aboriginal peoples’ right to self-determination;
  • The need to take a holistic approach to promoting reconciliation;
  • Respecting Aboriginal cultures and languages and acknowledging the academy is heavily influenced by western cultures;
  • The need for structural interventions  to address systemic disadvantage and historical wrongs, and
  • Non-discrimination: ensuring that the right of Aboriginal peoples to be free of discrimination is respected throughout the academy.

These Principles are situated in a four phase reconciliation process: truth telling, acknowledging, restoring and relating.

Read the Federation’s media release announcing our commitment to reconciliation, issued in response to the opening Big Thinking lecture at Congress 2015 by Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Federation Actions

Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future: A conference to mark the 20th Anniversary of the RCAP Report

The Federation is working in support of efforts to mark the 20th anniversary of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, linking to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015 Summary Report. The Federation is supporting a national forum that will take place November 2-4, 2016 in Winnipegto mark the anniversary. Register here.

Congress 2016

The Big Thinking lineup at Congress 2016 included several speakers who addressed reconciliation in different ways, including Leroy Little Bear, former chair of the Native American Studies Department, University of Lethbridge, and founding Director of Harvard University’s Native American Program.

Public forum Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future at Congress 2016: event report - agenda with participants' biographies

On 1 June 2016 the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences co-sponsored a unique half-day public forum on reconciliation at the University of Calgary in conjunction with Congress 2016. The event was a collaboration between the Federation, several member associations representing humanities and social sciences disciplines, and a coalition that has come together to mark the 20th anniversary of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (also known as RCAP). Over 140 academics, administrators, community members, and others attended the morning’s event, which featured a keynote, panel discussion, and workshops.

Pre-budget submission 2016

The Federation’s pre-budget submission for Budget 2016 includes the following recommendation:

Improve access to post-secondary education for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report presents an opportunity to renew and deepen a national commitment to achieve real and just reconciliation. The postsecondary sector can and must be a leader in the reconciliation movement.  This includes respecting and promoting Indigenous knowledge in academia and research, improving real access for Indigenous students to post-secondary education, creating conditions that support Indigenous staff and faculty and investments to ensure institutional programming that promotes reconciliation across the educational sector.

Read the full pre-budget submission here.

Staff learning on reconciliation 

Federation staff have participated in a learning session to equip themselves with knowledge about reconciliation and the Touchstone Principles to help develop ways to adapt and integrate these principles into the Federation’s work.

2015 Annual Conference – Celebrating Impact: 75 Years 

This year’s Annual Conference (November 16 and 17) included a focus on Reconciliation and the Academy – the Challenge and the Commitment to Action. The event’s Big Thinking keynote was delivered by Wab Kinew, Associate Vice-President for Indigenous Relations, University of Winnipeg. Watch Wab Kinew's Big Thinking lecture here.

Resources for our sector


In The News

Federal documents point to funding problem in aboriginal student fund
The Globe and Mail
August 30, 2016

Canadian universities require indigenous studies: 'It feels good to learn our history'
The Guardian
August 25, 2016

Creating welcoming learning environments for Aboriginal students
News Release
Ministry of Advanced Education, British Columbia
September 8, 2015

U of T joins national effort to decolonize education
Zujajah Islam
The Varsity - University of Toronto's Student Newspaper
September 6, 2015

Reconciliation begins by closing the graduation gap
Stephen Toope, President, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Globe and Mail
August 31, 2015

Universities will help reset relations between indigenous and non-indigenous people
Tim McTiernan, president and vice-chancellor of the University of the Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and a member of the board of directors of Universities Canada
The Globe and Mail
June 29, 2015

David T. Barnard: The role of Canada's universities in reconciliation
David T. Barnard, Chair of Universities Canada and president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manitoba
Ottawa Citizen
June 7, 2015

Education a first step in 'long journey' to aboriginal reconciliation, commission chairman says
Chris Cobb
Ottawa Citizen
May 31, 2015

Universities must address residential school legacy, Justice Sinclair says
Simona Chiose
The Globe and Mail
May 29, 2015



On the Twentieth Anniversary of National Aboriginal Day (June 2016)
We Are Coming Home: Repatriation and the Restoration of Blackfoot Cultural Confidence (August 2015)
On National Aboriginal Day, what does reconciliation mean to you? (June 2015)
Academia responds to the call for action towards truth and reconciliation in Canada (May 2015)


Reconciliation in Post-Secondary: Implementing the TRC Recommendations
Event on October 14, 2015 at the University of Alberta
Follow link:

End The Gap | Fair Funding for First Nations Schools

Big Thinking with Justice Murray Sinclair: What do we do about the legacy of Indian residential schools?

Big Thinking with Jean Leclair: Imagining Canada in a disenchanted world (French)

Big Thinking with Jim Miller: Why Don’t We Get Along?