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…Indigenous programming and…

by ahnationtalk on June 24, 201950 Views

WOLFVILLE, June 20, 2019 – TD Bank Group announced today a $1.2 million CDN donation to three post-secondary institutions in Atlantic Canada to help develop on-campus support services for Indigenous students.

Acadia University, Memorial University, and Mount Saint Vincent University will use the new funding for strategic Indigenous initiatives that will enhance educational experiences for students and encourage inclusion. Acadia will receive $200,000 over three years.

“TD launched The Ready Commitment, our Global Corporate Citizenship platform to help open doors,” said Tuesday Skaine, District Vice-President, Greater Nova Scotia, TD Canada Trust. “There is no better incubator for talent than on the campuses and in the classrooms of Atlantic Canada’s post-secondary schools.”

Acadia’s initiative, Msit No’kmaq, which means “we are all related” or “all my relations,” will enhance and accelerate programming for Indigenous students.

Led by Acadia’s Indigenous Affairs and Student Advisor and supported by the Indigenous Student Society of Acadia, the Msit No’kmaq program will increase the participation of Indigenous youth at Acadia. The program’s goal is to provide opportunities to achieve social and economic engagement, career success, and financial security for Indigenous students. Specifically, the program will offer experiential learning on local reserves, special health initiatives, and student success programs to support Indigenous students.

“We are extremely grateful to TD Bank Group for funding this initiative, which is one more step in a long journey toward decolonization,” said Dr. Peter Ricketts, Acadia’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “It is a partnership that requires all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, governments, institutions and organizations to create the space and support for Indigenous peoples to take their full and rightful place in Canada.”

Since 2011, Acadia has had a memorandum of understanding in place with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, committing the two organizations to work together to improve Indigenous student participation in post-secondary education and open Indigenous communities to academic research.

“In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) sent a clear message to us all with its calls to action, and at Acadia, we are working to determine how best to respond to its recommendations and its vision of a better future,” Ricketts said. “Education plays a vital role in the reconciliation process, and Acadia is committed to doing our part by helping Indigenous students achieve their potential through higher education, and working with Indigenous communities to create new partnerships for reconciliation.”

“Education plays a vital role in the reconciliation process, and Acadia is committed to doing our part by helping Indigenous students achieve their potential through higher education, and working with Indigenous communities to create new partnerships for reconciliation.”

There are more than 100 domestic students at Acadia who have self-identified as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit. Indigenous students from countries other than Canada are currently identified as International students, so the actual number of Indigenous students is likely higher.

In 2017, the President’s Advisory Council on Decolonization released its report, and in 2018 President Ricketts announced Acadia’s response by accepting the recommendations. Actions to date have included the hiring of a full-time Indigenous Coordinator and Student Advisor, the establishment of the Indigenous Education Advisory Council, and increased supports through the Indigenous Student Services Centre.

These funds from TD Bank Group will add further momentum to Acadia’s decolonization agenda, and allow the University to enhance its level of support for Indigenous students at a faster pace.

Third-year Acadia student Makenzie O’Quinn is pursuing a double major in Biology and Sociology. He is also the President of the Indigenous Student Society of Acadia and sits on the newly-formed Indigenous Education Advisory Council. He is pleased to see new funding for Indigenous programming.

“This support will provide for more changes in a shorter timeframe, and I am hopeful that the face of Acadia will change so that we see more of a presence of Indigenous Peoples and culture on campus,” he said.

“This support will provide for more changes in a shorter timeframe, and I am hopeful that the face of Acadia will change so that we see more of a presence of Indigenous Peoples and culture on campus.”

Events like the Grand Council Flag Mi’kmaq Nation being installed permanently on Acadia’s University Hall, celebrating a Mid-Winter Feast, and monthly dinners with an Elder are important to him.

O’Quinn said he sees a connection to the experiential learning he has had in his classes to the work that needs to be done to decolonize Acadia. “I believe no true change in thought occurs until we physically understand things – so experiential learning is essential to empathetic understanding. This is how we can bridge gaps.”

“The reality is that a lot of Indigenous students are away from home and experiencing a very different environment in terms of culture when they arrive at university,” explained Dion Kaszas, Coordinator of Indigenous Affairs and Student Advising at Acadia. “We want them to feel safe – spiritually and emotionally – and feel okay about being who they are.”

The Indigenous Student Resource Centre provides a place to gather, share activities, and get a range of support from the University in partnership with local Indigenous communities and leaders.

“We need funding to make these projects and supports possible and to do the work we need to do,” Kaszas said. “When Indigenous students come to campus, they don’t necessarily see themselves reflected in the system. I hope that we create a mirror so that Indigenous students can see themselves reflected here and become visible to themselves and to others.

Co-Chair of Acadia’s Indigenous Education Advisory Council, Zabrina Whitman, said it is important to consider the history of Indigenous Peoples. She explained that through efforts of the past, and recent work in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process is allowing voices to be heard. Although progress can be slow, she said it is happening.

“Decolonization is knowing about the injustices of the past and present and saying ‘I am not going to do what my ancestors did or what I did yesterday,” she said, adding that people often misunderstand the term ‘reconciliation’ or use it as a token gesture.

“I am proud to say that reconciliation at Acadia University is a genuine desire to implement change. Acadia truly knows what reconciliation means,” Whitman said. “Thank you to TD Bank Group because you are supporting this shift in landscape and in academia.”

Funding for Msit No’kmaq will be counted toward Campaign for Acadia, an ambitious $75-million fundraising initiative. The comprehensive fundraising campaign, announced in October 2018, will strengthen support for students and faculty, enhance investment in research, and improve campus infrastructure.

“I am proud to say that reconciliation at Acadia University is a genuine desire to implement change. Acadia truly knows what reconciliation means,”

Funding for Msit No’kmaq will be counted toward Campaign for Acadia, an ambitious $75-million fundraising initiative. The comprehensive fundraising campaign, announced in October 2018, will strengthen support for students and faculty, enhance investment in research, and improve campus infrastructure.

“Acadia is an outstanding university, and the Campaign for Acadia will make it even better,” said Nancy McCain, Chair of Campaign for Acadia. “Being better also means doing better.

As we all recognize, support for indigenous students at Acadia is critical – not just for them as individuals – but to the University community as we embark on a process of decolonization so that we can create a welcoming campus for all individuals.”

About The Ready Commitment

TD has a long-standing commitment to enriching the lives of its customers, colleagues and communities. As part of its corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment, TD is targeting CDN $1 billion (US $775 million) in total by 2030 towards community giving in four areas critical to opening doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow – Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health. Through The Ready Commitment, TD aspires to link its business, philanthropy and human capital to help people feel more confident – not just about their finances, but also in their ability to achieve their personal goals in a changing world. For further information, visit td.com/TheReadyCommitment.

About Acadia University

Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, has long been recognized as one of Canada’s premier post-secondary institutions. With its nationally and internationally recognized undergraduate and graduate research initiatives, small classes, and technology-rich teaching and learning environment, Acadia offers students an experience that includes academic achievement combined with personal growth and development. Acadia also offers distance learning, certificate programs, language training and other university extension programs through Open Acadia. For more information about Acadia University, visit our website at acadiau.ca

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