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Media release - June 29, 2015

OTTAWA – Canada’s universities have adopted a set of principles outlining their shared commitment to enhancing educational opportunities for Indigenous students and fostering reconciliation across Canada. Closing the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is a long-term core priority for Universities Canada.  Over the past year, the Association’s Board of Directors and member universities developed the 13 principles to guide Canada’s universities as they continue work to enhance access and success for Aboriginal students in higher education.

To achieve this goal, the new Principles on Indigenous Education recognize the importance of greater indigenization of university curricula and of Indigenous education leadership  within the university community, as well as the essential work of creating resources, spaces and approaches that promote dialogue and intercultural engagement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.  The principles also highlight the need to provide greater exposure and knowledge for non-Indigenous students on the realities, histories, cultures and beliefs of Indigenous people in Canada.

In the spirit of the June 2 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, these principles focus on the central role that postsecondary education must play in the reconciliation process.

Their release coincides with today’s meeting of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada in Yellowknife, where an Aboriginal Educators Symposium is being held to focus on improving Aboriginal education outcomes across Canada.

“The principles released today acknowledge the unique needs of Indigenous communities across Canada, and their goals of autonomy and self-determination,” says David Barnard, chair of Universities Canada and president of the University of Manitoba. “As understanding of First Nation, Métis and other Indigenous cultures is integrated across our campuses, real and sustained change will occur in our institutions and in Canadian society.”

In launching the new principles, Universities Canada President Paul Davidson noted the power of education to transform the futures of individuals, their families and communities. “We are pleased to launch these principles on the eve of Canada Day, which is not only a time for celebration but a time for reflecting on who we are as a country and who we want to become through meaningful reconciliation.”

Canada’s universities currently offer 350 programs and resources specifically designed for Indigenous students. These include academic courses, outreach and financial assistance, as well as programs and physical spaces where students can find counselling, support and connection to Indigenous culture.

Read the Universities Canada’s new Principles on Indigenous Education.

Read op-ed “Universities will help reset relations between indigenous and non-indigenous people“, published in the Globe and Mail.

About Universities Canada/Universités Canada

Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities.


 Media Contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
Universities Canada/ Universités Canada
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 306

Backgrounder - June 29, 2015

Universities Canada represents 97 universities across Canada, which educate more than a million students each year. Indigenous students continue to be underrepresented in Canadian higher education institutions and our universities are committed to do their part to close this education gap, recognizing the urgency of this issue for the country. Closing the gap will strengthen Indigenous communities, allow Indigenous peoples to continue to strive for self-realization, enhance the informed citizenship of Canadians, and contribute to Canada’s long-term economic success and social inclusion.

There are many reasons to close the education gap. A university education is a transformative experience, expanding knowledge, nurturing critical thinking and inspiring new ideas, creativity and innovation. Closing the education gap will benefit not only Indigenous graduates, but their communities and Canada as a whole.

Beyond these social and cultural imperatives, there is also a clear benefit to Canada’s economy. Canada needs more university graduates to meet labour market demands.  Indigenous people can help meet this demand. They are a fast-growing segment of the Canadian population, yet only 9.8 percent of Indigenous people in Canada have a university degree, compared to 28 percent of non-Aboriginals. Canada’s universities recognize that tremendous opportunities exist – for Indigenous people and for the country – if we increase access to university education for First Nations, Inuit and Métis. With a university degree, Indigenous people in Canada can earn 60 percent more than their peers with a high school diploma. They experience longer and greater participation in the workforce.

As it continues to advocate for more funding to Indigenous students, Universities Canada and its members are committed to ongoing communication and collaboration with Indigenous communities. Higher education offers great potential for reconciliation and a renewed relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. Universities benefit from the presence of Indigenous students and their cultures, making our campuses more open places with wider sources of discovery and knowledge. Mutual respect for different ways of knowing and recognizing the intellectual contributions of Indigenous people is essential to building trust, understanding, and sharing. The cohabitation of Western science and Indigenous knowledge on campuses has the power of opening a dialogue among cultures and enhancing our shared knowledge.

In the spirit of advancing opportunities for Indigenous students, the leaders of Canada’s universities commit to the following principles, developed in close consultation with Indigenous communities. These principles acknowledge the unique needs of Indigenous communities across Canada and their goals of autonomy and self-determination, as well as differences in jurisdiction among provinces and territories, institutional mission among universities, and the authority of appropriate university governance bodies in academic decision-making.


  1. Ensure institutional commitment at every level to develop opportunities for Indigenous students.
  2. Be student-centered: focus on the learners, learning outcomes and learning abilities, and create opportunities that promote student success.
  3. Recognize the importance of indigenization of curricula through responsive academic programming, support programs, orientations, and pedagogies.
  4. Recognize the importance of Indigenous education leadership through representation at the governance level and within faculty, professional and administrative staff.
  5. Continue to build welcoming and respectful learning environments on campuses through the implementation of academic programs, services, support mechanisms, and spaces dedicated to Indigenous students.
  6. Continue to develop resources, spaces and approaches that promote dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
  7. Continue to develop accessible learning environments off-campus.
  8. Recognize the value of promoting partnerships among educational and local Indigenous communities and continue to maintain a collaborative and consultative process on the specific needs of Indigenous students.
  9. Build on successful experiences and initiatives already in place at universities across the country to share and learn from promising practices, while recognizing the differences in jurisdictional and institutional mission.
  10. Recognize the importance of sharing information within the institution, and beyond, to inform current and prospective Indigenous students of the array of services, programs and supports available to them on campus.
  11. Recognize the importance of providing greater exposure and knowledge for non-Indigenous students on the realities, histories, cultures and beliefs of Indigenous people in Canada.
  12. Recognize the importance of fostering intercultural engagement among Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, faculty and staff.
  13. Recognize the role of institutions in creating an enabling and supportive environment for a successful and high quality K-12 experience for Aboriginal youth.

Recognizing that other stakeholders have a role to play – governments, businesses, Indigenous organizations – university leaders also commit to the following actions to bring these principles to life:

  • Raise awareness within institutions about the importance of facilitating access and success for Indigenous students on campus.
  • Raise awareness among government partners and stakeholders of these commitments and the importance of investing in sustainable initiatives that advance higher education opportunities for Indigenous youth.
  • Raise awareness in public discourse of positive Indigenous students’ experience in university and their contributions to Canadian society.
  • Develop partnerships with the private sector to foster opportunities for Indigenous people.
  • Continue to listen to and collaborate with Indigenous communities.
Commentary - June 29, 2015

by Tim McTiernan
President and vice-chancellor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and a member of the Board of Directors of Universities Canada

This op-ed appeared in The Globe and Mail on Monday, June 29, 2015.

For most of us, Canada Day is time off from work, a red and white cake and fireworks as the sun goes down. Like any birthday celebration, it can be a bit inward-focussed; celebrating “us” with barely a nod to the world Canada entered. This year, with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission fresh in our minds, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the 148-year federation, how we all fit in and who we want to become through reconciliation.

The TRC has given us much to consider. It calls for a reset of the relationship between First Nations and non-Indigenous communities. Canadian universities have a key role to play. The TRC specifically calls on educational institutions to engage with Indigenous communities and be leaders in reconciliation.

Canada’s universities welcome the call. We’re ready to do more.

Universities Canada, the national organization representing 97 universities across the country, will unveil this week new principles on Indigenous education. These principles were developed by university leaders over the past year, to signal our shared commitment to enhancing educational opportunities for Indigenous students – from kindergarten to post-graduate studies – and fostering reconciliation across Canada.

Higher education has much to contribute to a renewed relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. The cohabitation of Western and Indigenous knowledge on campuses has the power to open a dialogue among cultures, enhance our mutual understanding and make change happen.

There is a moral, social and economic imperative to act.

The Aboriginal population in Canada is growing six times faster than the non-Aboriginal population.  Among them are 560,000 youths. Imagine the potential that brings. But fewer than 10 per cent of Indigenous people in Canada have a university degree. That’s about one third of the national rate of 28 per cent. Potential doesn’t go far without opportunity and nurturing.

Canada’s education gap means that far too many Aboriginal people are denied the quality of life that most of us have come to expect. Education has the power to transform lives, sustain cultures and strengthen communities.

Universities are committed to doing their part to close this gap. Among the 13 principles to be announced this week is institutional commitment at every level to develop more opportunities for Indigenous students. That means everything from community partnerships to financial assistance, academic support and mentorship.

The principles also recognize the importance of greater indigenization of the curriculum and enhanced Indigenous education leadership at all levels of the university.

These commitments go beyond individual supports and acknowledge the need for a whole-of-community approach and meaningful interaction and dialogue.  They recognize the importance of providing greater exposure and knowledge for non-Indigenous students on the realities, histories, cultures and beliefs of Indigenous people in Canada. And they underscore the need to foster deeper intercultural engagement among Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, faculty and staff.

The momentum is there. Many of these principles build on efforts already underway.

Throughout the country, there are now more than 350 university programs specifically designed for Aboriginal students’ access and success, with new initiatives coming on board.

Most universities in Canada partner with local Aboriginal communities.  In addition to supports on campus, many have successful outreach programs, providing educational support and mentoring opportunities to students starting as early as the elementary level.

Almost three out of five universities offer tailored counselling to meet the unique needs of Aboriginal students.  For example, the UOIT-Baagwating Indigenous Centre at my institution, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, has counsellors and elders available for supports on and off campus. Criminology student Angela Nagy, Algonquin, Migisi Odenawa tells us, “This resource centre is a symbol to me, as a First Nations person that I am valued and celebrated here at UOIT and furthermore my culture is not forgotten and that is most important to me.”

We need to listen to young people like Angela.

In addition to my experience here at UOIT, I have witnessed the incredible potential of Aboriginal young people through living and working in Northern Ontario, Yukon and British Columbia as a senior civil servant responsible for education policy.  And I share with so many Canadians a newfound understanding of the power of reconciliation following the six years of hearings and the June closing events of Canada’s Truth and Conciliation Commission. From both, I am left optimistic for the future.

Canada’s universities will be the leaders the commission has called on us to be. And as we reflect on the multiple dimensions of what Canada Day really means, university leaders will do our part to help reset the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, through education, dialogue and collective action.  As we move towards Canada’s sesquicentennial year in 2017, it’s time to make things right.

Media release - June 26, 2015

University leaders commit to enhanced Brazil-Canada collaboration

OTTAWA – Canadian and Brazilian universities have laid the groundwork for enhanced bilateral collaboration during a 13-day mission to Canada by 19 Brazilian university leaders.

From June 14-26, Brazilian rectors met with 45 Canadian universities to advance cooperation in higher education, including university-industry partnerships, environmental sustainability, citizenship and democracy, and Aboriginal education.  The Association of Brazilian Rectors of State and Municipal Universities’ delegation travels home to Brazil today, after visits to Montreal, Ottawa, the greater Toronto area, Vancouver, Whistler and Calgary.

During a meeting on June 17 at Rideau Hall, Universities Canada and ABRUEM signed a formal five-year commitment to promote further collaboration in student mobility, research and academic partnerships and internationalization. Other highlights included a roundtable discussion on university-industry partnerships at Ryerson University, co-hosted by the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce, as well as roundtable events with regional university leaders in both Alberta and British Columbia. The delegation also attended the British Columbia Council for International Education’s annual Summer Seminar conference.

“I am immensely proud of the progress that has been made during ABRUEM’s visit to Canada,” says Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada. “Canada and Brazil already enjoy strong connections in research, innovation and higher education.  This high-level mission has strengthened individual partnerships and established new linkages for the future. The impact will be seen on our campuses and those of our Brazilian partner institutions in the years to come.”

The Brazilian rectors’ mission was coordinated in close collaboration with Universities Canada and the Embassy of Brazil in Canada. It was the Brazilians’ first official return visit to Canada following the largest Canadian university presidents’ mission to Brazil in April 2012, coordinated by Universities Canada and led by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

This initiative was supported by the Government of Canada’s Global Opportunities for Associations program.

About Universities Canada

Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities.


Media Contact:

Brenna Baggs
Communications officer
Universities Canada
613 563-3961 ext. 255

Commentary - June 17, 2015

by Dr. Brian Stevenson
President and Vice-Chancellor of Lakehead University

This op-ed appeared in Embassy on June 17, 2015.

This week, 19 university rectors and leaders from Brazil embarked on a cross-Canada tour. They are here to make connections, explore partnerships in student mobility and, above all, learn from Canada’s record of excellence in higher education.

From June 14 to 26, our research infrastructure, strong industry partnerships and diverse and innovative campuses will be on display. Canada has a lot to be proud of, but we also have a lot to learn from Brazil.

As an economic and political leader in Latin America, Brazil is a major priority for Canada’s international engagement, and one of Canada’s most important partners in higher education. This visit is the official return visit to Canada following a Canadian university presidents mission to Brazil in April 2012, co-ordinated by Universities Canada and led by Governor General David Johnston.

Brazil understands that international study is a pathway to prosperity and global competitiveness, both for its students and for the country. The government has invested heavily in a number of impressive initiatives for student mobility, particularly in science, technology and engineering.

In 2011, Brazil launched Science without Borders, an ambitious student mobility program that is funding over 100,000 students to participate in research and study experiences across the globe. The program is active at 63 universities across Canada, where over 7,000 Brazilian students are building friendships, connections and sharing Brazilian culture.

Lakehead’s role

When Brazil came calling, the Lakehead University community answered. Over the past three years, 262 Science without Borders students have come to study at our Thunder Bay campus. When this program began, Lakehead had only one or two Brazilian graduate students and no formal ties to universities in Brazil.

By 2014, Brazilian Science without Borders students comprised 31 per cent of our international student body.

At Lakehead, it can be hard to convince students from warmer climates to brave a Canadian winter. Thunder Bay isn’t the obvious choice for most, but Lakehead has become one of the most successful Science without Borders host institutions in Canada. Our Brazilian students are thriving; they are making friends, connecting with their professors thanks to Lakehead’s small-class environment and even embracing winter sports.

Hosting these students has transformed our university and our preparedness for international students. The effects reach into the broader Thunder Bay community, bringing diversity and international perspectives to the local businesses that take them on as interns. At Lakehead, we have only just begun to experience the impact of our Brazilian students, but I have no doubt that their time here will leave its mark on their lives and careers, and build long-lasting linkages with Canada.

Canadians too

But Canadian students need to study abroad too. Studying and working abroad transforms students into global citizens with improved cross-cultural competencies.

When I look at Brazil, I see a government investing in youth mobility for a future of prosperity. Young people are curious, adventurous and they want to experience the world. Student mobility is an effective tool for building international ties through the diplomacy of knowledge.

It’s exciting to see that Canada and Brazil are solidifying and expanding their relationship over the course of this week and next. We should view the Brazilian delegation’s visit as a testament to the strength of our universities.

This morning, the presidents of Universities Canada and the Association of Brazilian Rectors of State and Municipal Universities met for a roundtable at Rideau Hall, and signed a memorandum of understanding with a commitment to further this relationship. For the next five years, universities in both countries will pursue opportunities for greater student mobility and research collaboration and more dialogue on how they can learn from each other.

This commitment gives me hope. And seeing Science without Borders in action at Lakehead has made me wonder: what if Canada were to invest in a visionary international mobility program for its young people?

When the late Jim Flaherty was finance minister, he commissioned an international education panel that included several of Canada’s university and business leaders. The panel recommended a new program be developed to send 50,000 students abroad each year. We’re not there yet. But wouldn’t that be a terrific goal for 2017, when Canada celebrates its sesquicentennial?

International students become ambassadors for their host countries and help forge and strengthen trade and diplomatic ties between countries. A sesquicentennial commitment to international student mobility for our students would yield benefits for Canada for generations to come.

( Total - 281 )