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.
New Video Resources
At Congress 2017 the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences worked with its member associations to create open, interdisciplinary reconciliation programming. On May 29 the Federation co-hosted “Pedagogies for putting reconciliation into action in the classroom” with the Canadian Critical Pedagogy Association. This event included a panel discussion featuring Kevin Lamoureux, Associate Vice-President, University of Winnipeg; Bonnie Freeman, Assistant Professor, Social Work, McMaster University; and Victoria Freeman, Faculty, Canadian Studies, York University. These three speakers shared their insights, stories, and strategies of using pedagogy for reconciliation. The panel was followed by a pedagogy showcase of over 13 presenters who shared sample activities, resources, and discussion.
June 1 featured “Wise research practices: Reconciliation and HSS research,” a Federation-hosted interdisciplinary discussion of how humanities and social sciences scholars can ensure their research respects and engages with Indigenous perspectives and communities. Moderated by Peter Russel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Toronto, the panel included Associate Professor of Educational Foundations University of Saskatchewan Margaret Kovach, Assistant Professor in the Indigenous Studies Program and Department of Health Aging & Society Chelsea Gabel, and Heather Castleden, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments, and Communities at Queen’s University.
Congress 2017’s Big Thinking lineup included “Present and Powerful Indigenous Women,” a conversation between novelist and academic Tracey Lindberg, Elder Maria Campbell, and President of the National Inuit Youth Council Maatalii Okalik that explored the roles that Indigenous women play in their communities and Canada. Anishinaabe scholar Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair brought his perspectives to “Five hundred years of building diversity: Canadian citizenship at the future’s edge,” which also featured award winning essayist and novelist John Ralston Saul and Ryerson University Distinguished Visiting Professor Olivia Chow.
Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future: A conference to mark the 20th Anniversary of the RCAP Report
The Federation has supported 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 supported a national forum that took place November 2-4, 2016 in Winnipeg to mark the anniversary.
2016 Annual Conference – People, Place and Possibility: Cities and the Humanities and Social Sciences
The 2016 Annual Conference at the University of Toronto featured Indigenous scholar Cyndy Baskin on a response panel with three other scholars discussing how to create inclusive and democratically engaged cities. It also featured a workshop entitled “Reconciliation in the city: The role of the humanities and social sciences” which explored the unique opportunities and challenges in working towards reconciliation in an urban context.
Pre-budget submission 2017
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) calls to action describe the important role the higher education sector must play to support reconciliation in Canada. While universities are currently working to welcome more Indigenous students and scholars, significant barriers remain. To meet the TRC’s calls to actions, Canada should increase both the number of Indigenous post-secondary graduates and the number of Indigenous scholars. This will require increased funding to allow more Indigenous students to attend undergraduate programs and increased financial assistance for Indigenous students at the graduate and post-graduate level.
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.
- Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin, Final Report of the Steering Committee for the University of Toronto, Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Universities Canada Indigenous programs and services directory
- Touchstones of Hope Principles and Processes (Background)
- Findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015)
- Universities Canada principles on Indigenous education (2015)
- Executive summary of Indigenous Presence: Experiencing and Envisioning Indigenous Knowledges within Selected Post-Secondary Sites of Education and Social Work report (2015). Access full report here.
- Statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools (2008)
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)
- Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples (1996)
In The News
Smart Ideas: Q&A Marie-Odile Junker, an Alsatian who loves Algonquian languages
December 7, 2016
The promise of reconciliation: indigenous knowledge waiting in the wings
The Globe and Mail
September 27, 2016
Smart Ideas: Q&A Jo-ann Archibald on Indigenous “story work”
September 7, 2016
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'
August 25, 2016
Reconciliation begins by closing the graduation gap
Stephen Toope, President, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Globe and Mail
August 31, 2015
Library and Archives Canada to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples through a new digitization initiative (November 2016)
Continuing the reconciliation journey (October 2016)
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)
Big Thinking with Cindy Blackstock: Incremental equality
Big Thinking with Kathleen Mahoney: Canada's Origin Story
Big Thinking with Leroy Little Bear: Blackfoot metaphysics 'waiting in the wings'
End The Gap | Fair Funding for First Nations Schools
Reconciliation in Post-Secondary: Implementing the TRC Recommendations
Event on October 14, 2015 at the University of Alberta
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)