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 Indigenous and non-Indigenous 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 Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination;
  • The need to take a holistic approach to promoting reconciliation;
  • Respecting Indigenous 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 Indigenous 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

CANADIAN SCIENCE POLICY CONFERENCE, Nov. 13-15, 2019, Ottawa, Westin Hotel

The Influence of Indigenous Knowledge on Policy and Practice, Nov. 14

Panel Organized by: Genome BC | Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences


Indigenous knowledge can have a large and meaningful impact on society, both through public policy and through the practices promoted by organizations and professionals who work with Indigenous communities. How can this potential be supported and an equal partnership in decision-making advanced? What is the role of Indigenous knowledge in "evidence-based policy" and in scientifically-based questions, technologies, and practice? Join us for a thought-provoking discussion with practitioners, researchers, policy-makers, and community members on their experiences and ways forward when tackling such questions.

Read the full report on the panel.

New Video Resources: Congress 2019

Congress 2019 Land acknowledgment workshop: Land acknowledgements are becoming more and more common both on and off university campuses, but a growing number of commentators are questioning the practice’s sincerity and impact. This workshop will offer participants insights on how to adopt meaningful land acknowledgement practices and offer the opportunity to reflect on how they could apply these at their own institutions.

Congress 2019 Universities and Reconciliation: Conversations from the Building Reconciliation Forum: Four years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, how are universities responding? This session builds on insights from the 2018 Building Reconciliation Forum, an annual gathering to discuss reconciliation at Canada’s universities, held at the University of Victoria. Participants will discuss the opportunities and challenges in how universities work towards reconciliation, including faculty and student recruitment and retention, available financial resources, and building community relationships. Audience members will be encouraged to reflect, converse and participate in this interactive session. 


More Video Resources: Congress 2018

Gathering strategies for action 1: Recruitment and retention of Indigenous faculty
This panel session discussed the practice of recruiting and retaining Indigenous faculty members as part of the reconciliation efforts of the post-secondary sector. With panelists from several Canadian universities, the session explored the opportunities and challenges involved in hiring and retaining First Nations, Métis, and Inuit faculty, with a focus on the social sciences and humanities. The goal is to identify strategies and structural changes that are necessary to ensure that Indigenous perspectives and peoples can thrive in post-secondary education.

The role of scholarly associations in advancing reconciliation: What can be done?
This workshop engages scholarly associations in a conversation among peers on the role that humanities and social science disciplines can play in advancing reconciliation in post-secondary education and in society more broadly. The objectives of the workshop are to help widen the dialogue among member associations on the roles and obligations of scholarly associations in advancing reconciliation, to generate interest and information about the possibilities for developing plans of action and strategies to implement them, and to identify ways to support associations in this endeavour.

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

Invest in Indigenous students and researchers

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.

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

Partnership opportunities with the Federation

The Federation welcomes partnerships in reconciliation-related programming in the area of humanities and social sciences with organizations who wish to contribute to this important area of work. We would like to hear about your initiative(s) and explore how we may be able to work together. For more information contact Kristin Bourassa, Program Officer, at

The special reconciliation icon displayed at right has been designed with colours from the Federation palette, and includes symbols for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, demonstrating the importance of working in partnership with Indigenous communities to achieve reconciliation. Use of this icon must be explicitly granted by the Federation and is subject to usage rules outlined a document entitled: Branding guidelines for partners: Promoting a reconciliation-related event.  


In The News

ii' taa' poh' to' p begins a journey of transformation and renewal
UToday, University of Calgary
November 17, 2017

Smart Ideas: Q&A Marie-Odile Junker, an Alsatian who loves Algonquian languages
University Affairs
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”
University Affairs
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'
The Guardian
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 Katherine Graham and David Newhouse

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)