Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance releases policy paper: “Indigenous Students”

November 9th, 2017

Toronto, ON - A policy paper released by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) this morning, focuses on enhancing the experience of Indigenous students in the province. The paper was written, approved, and published by students with the purpose of providing recommendations for reconciliation in post-secondary education in the areas of: financial and non-financial barriers, decolonizing and Indigenizing institutions, Indigenous support services, and Indigenous employment and community development.

Barriers that impede the participation of Indigenous peoples within Ontario’s universities are outlined, and strategies to combat these obstacles are proposed. The paper rightfully indicates the need to build, strengthen, and maintain meaningful relationships with the Indigenous population.

Concerns presented in the paper include a lack of access to the information and financial support crucial to the success of Indigenous students in university, as well as access to services such as full-time elders-in-residence and culturally relevant health supports. Recommendations presented in this paper encourage investment and the building of partnerships to address these barriers, as well as issues like Indigenous women’s safety and suicide prevention.

“The Indigenous Students Policy Paper captures concerns and desires voiced by Indigenous students with varied upbringings and identities. The provincial government and its respective ministries and councils are called to facilitate the decolonization of our post secondary institutions, creating space for Indigenous peoples to thrive,” said Piers Kreps, Co-President, Cooperative of Indigenous Studies Students and Alumni at McMaster University and author on the paper. “Various recommendations within the policy, which range from early outreach to Indigenous youth, to recognition and incorporation of Indigenous Knowledges in the academy, are strategically aimed at several key government actors. The broad array and complexities of barriers are addressed through multifaceted recommendations, which call for not only recognition and action; but increased funding, representation, and visibility.”

Currently, Indigenous students only represent around 1% of the Ontario university student population and only 11% of Indigenous peoples aged 25 to 64 have a university certificate, diploma or degree at a bachelor level, in comparison to 29% of non-Indigenous people in the same age bracket. OUSA believes these numbers clearly illustrate a need for the provincial government to invest in bolstering Indigenous student access and participation in the university sector.

“On behalf of the authors, along with everyone involved in its development, I’m wholeheartedly excited to present OUSA’s Indigenous Students paper,” said Nadia Bathish, Vice-President External Affairs at the Brock University Students’ Union and author on the paper. “So much was learned throughout the process of this paper and I continue to consider myself lucky to be so closely involved in its development. Through the countless hours of research to the numerous eye-opening consultations, in the end, it has led me to new friends and connections, a greater understanding of Indigenous history and culture, and most importantly, a paper to which we can proudly point to when advocating.”

This paper was written by students from OUSA member associations and presented to the OUSA Fall General Assembly on October 29th for approval. The policy paper reflects recommendations from several sources; including Indigenous students, service providers, and documents such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. To read more about OUSA’s paper writing process and view all 51 recommendations in the paper please click here.

OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations a cross Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario. To achieve this vision we’ve come together to develop solutions to challenges facing higher education, build broad consensus for our policy options, and lobby government to implement them.

Deborah Lam
Operations & Communications Director
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
[email protected]