CAGS (Re)conciliation Task Force Releases Final Report and Calls to Action

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) published its 94 Calls to Action to address the legacy of residential schools and the ongoing nature of systemic racism and colonialism in Canada. These Calls to Action not only delineate changes to be implemented by the government, but also call on Canadian society and its institutions to work toward change. As educational institutions, Canadian universities are in many ways implicated in a history of colonialism and assimilation. Some Canadian universities had developed their own decolonization and Indigenization approaches before the TRC Calls to Action were published, but little is known about reconciliation within graduate schools in Canada.

Graduate schools can play an important role in this reconciliation process and the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) has announced its commitment to “foster the growing community of Canadian Indigenous students” (CAGS Call to Action for an End to Racism in and through Graduate Education). The present study is part of this commitment and, more broadly, it will inform the work of a CAGS Task Force on Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action and Graduate Education (Reconciliation Task Force). This report presents the research conducted for CAGS on the current state of reconciliation in Canadian graduate schools. The general objective of the project was to understand if and how graduate schools across Canada address the TRC concept of reconciliation and its Calls to Action that pertain to graduate education. The term Indigenous graduate education that is used in this study refers to the processes for increasing the knowledge and understandings of all graduate students related to the TRC’s Calls to Action and to addressing the needs of Indigenous graduate students. This study identifies the range of reconciliation policies, programs, and practices in Indigenous graduate education in Canada through an environmental scan, discussion groups, and interviews completed between May 2019 and April 2020.

The three major research questions that guided this study include: (1) What is the meaning of reconciliation? (2) How is reconciliation manifested in graduate programs and services and how are the TRC Calls to Action addressed? (3) What are the major successes and challenges of addressing these TRC Calls to Action and what are gaps and needs? The findings indicate that reconciliation within universities has focussed most on increasing the numbers of Indigenous students, faculty, and staff with varying degrees of systemic change to university structures to facilitate their success. Indigenous graduate education, however, has received scant attention. Emerging issues about Indigenous identity, validating Indigenous knowledge, and commitment to reconciliation within graduate education will need to be addressed. This report concludes with recommendations that focus on strategies to build upon the successes of existing reconciliation approaches and to address systemic challenges that hinder Indigenous graduate education from reaching its full potential, addressed to graduate schools across Canada and to the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies.


Task Force Co-Chairs

Jo-ann Archibald Q’um Q’um Xiiem, Emeritus Professor, University of British Columbia

Mavis Reimer, Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor of English, University of Winnipeg

Task Force Members

Kirk Anderson, Professor, Educational Administration, Memorial University

Adam Gaudry, Vice-Dean and Associate Professor, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta

Riley Kucheran, PhD Candidate and Assistant Professor in Fashion at The Creative School, Toronto Metropolitan University

Jacqueline Ottmann, formerly Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement and Professor, University of Saskatchewan; currently, President, First Nations University

Manon Tremblay, Senior Director, Indigenous Directions, Concordia University

Ian Wereley, Executive Director, Canadian Association for Graduate Studies

Charmaine Williams, formerly Vice-Dean Students and Professor, School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto

Jeremy Botelho, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Manitoba

Charlie Peters, Research Associate, Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures, University of Winnipeg