3. Academic Programs and Curriculum - In Progress

30. Social Work Training (implemented for fiscal year 2018)

The Task Force calls on our University to implement a five-year plan (renewable) to increase the number of Indigenous students at McGill in the School of Social Work and provide them with the tools, training and support to graduate and make a difference in their communities while shaping Indigenous issues that affect Canadian society.

The program should offer dedicated support to prospective students (beginning with initial inquiries, connecting prospective students to other educational institutions for the completion of prerequisites), support in locating housing, one-on-one support for in-stream students (academic and personal advising, mentoring and tutoring) and career development opportunities, including field placements, and guidance in seeking post-graduation employment.

The program should maintain ties with Indigenous Social Work alumni who can play an important role as ambassadors encouraging the next generation of Indigenous students to stay in school and seek post-secondary education.


  • The IDFC 500 Indigenous Field Studies course has been in operation for 10 years with excellent attendance and completion.
  • Indigenous Access McGill had a public premiere of these two films as part of the the 2019 Indigenous Awareness Week programming:
    • RAHSKWAHSERON:NIS Building Bridges by Mohawk filmmaker Courtney Montour (about the IDFC 500 course)
    • Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger by Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin
  • The entrance to Wilson Hall has a banner with Welcome written on the wall in three languages: Kanienkéha, English, and French.
  • As part of the Social Work 100 Celebration, an art installation was created by Mohawk artist Ellen Gabriel illustrating the creation story of the Haudenosaunee.
  • The School of Social Work is working on Indigenous community engagement. Social Work is doing outreach to neighboring Indigenous communities to increase field placement potentials for students.
  • Orientation for the Bachelor of Social Work program for the last seven years has begun with a traditional welcome by an Indigenous elder.
  • All course syllabi in the School of Social Work must have a land acknowledgement of the Indigenous territory on which learning takes place; the land acknowledgement is also expressed in class.
  • In the School of Social Work, orientation for all students for the past two years has consisted of a traditional smudging ceremony to welcome all students to a new school year.
  • Social Work 445: First Peoples and Social Work is now in its second year of being a required course in the Bachelor of Social Work curriculum.
  • Through the School of Social Work, Indigenous Access McGill continues to provide support to Indigenous students via individual and group tutoring, writing workshops, one-to-one support, and active recruitment which includes assistance and support to potential applicants. Additionally, IAM brings cultural activities to campus with other students and other McGill departments, as well as the greater Montreal community.
  • Indigenous Access McGill is planning a retreat for social work faculty to experience a version of the IDFC 500 field course.

Last Update: 11 November 2022

32. Institute of Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement (medium term)

The Task Force calls on our University to create and support a stand-alone academic unit in the emerging discipline of Indigenous Studies, which will be staffed by tenure-track faculty. By establishing the McGill Institute for Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement and building on the success of the Indigenous Studies minor program in the Faculty of Arts, the Institute would house a new Indigenous Studies major and honours program, and would have as a long-term goal the creation of a graduate program in Indigenous Studies.

In terms of outreach activities and partnership-building with communities, the Institute would place emphasis on local Indigenous community engagement by prioritizing Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabeg, and Urban Indigenous populations and organizations.

The Institute would be staffed by tenure-track academics, typically cross-appointed between the Institute and other units in the University, who study Indigenous knowledge systems and pedagogies, who seek to understand Indigenous societies from within, while recognizing and engaging with their constitutive philosophies, histories, epistemologies, identities, practices of political governance, cultures, and languages.


  • A major goal of the May 2020 (cancelled) retreat at Gault Nature Reserve was to begin consultation broadly about needs and goals for the Institute described here, including with current and incoming Indigenous faculty members, Indigenous staff, and student representatives.
  • Fall 2020 Launch event: tying together many of these new initiatives, the Faculty had planned to have a fall launch event which would include a mix of public-facing events and closed-door consultation on the draft proposals for the Institute.

Next Steps

  • The Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative and Indigenous Studies Program developed a proposal for the creation of the Institute for Indigenous Research and Knowledges, which was presented to the Faculty of Arts in Fall, 2021. The proposal successfully secured a 3-million-dollar gift from the Rimer family, supplementing their support for the renovation of the newly-named Rimer Building. The Institute will be provided in a dedicated space within the Rimer Building once renovations are completed.  

Last Update: 11 November 2022

33. Field Courses and Land-Based Pedagogies (immediate term)

In May 2017, McGill and the School of Social Work offered the 8th annual Indigenous Field Studies course. This unique course provides an opportunity for students from Social Work, Law, Medicine and Health Sciences, Anthropology and the Indigenous Studies Minor to learn about Indigenous cultures and worldviews, with a particular emphasis on Haudenosaunee teachings and their connection to the students' areas of practice, all under the instruction of community elders and a multi-disciplinary team of instructors. During this four-week intensive course (including one week in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory), students are introduced to Indigenous customs, values and ways of life through daily activities/workshops led by Elders from Kahnawake and other community members, with support from McGill instructors. Attention is given to the intergenerational effects of colonization and Canadian policies on contemporary Indigenous society. Stressing hands-on learning, the course strives to enhance relationships and bridge cultural misunderstandings between soon-to-be professionals and the communities they may one day serve.

The Task Force calls upon the University to support and enlarge Indigenous field course activities in these ways:

  • A dedicated annual budget;
  • Relying on the success of this field course as a model to build similar kinds of learning opportunities in other Indigenous communities, as McGill seeks to build collaborative and reciprocal relationships with communities; and
  • Identifying University partners across Canada by which our students and theirs could participate in field courses across the country. The Task Force has identified one such potential partner—Dechinta Bush University in the Northwest Territories—with which McGill’s Indigenous Studies Program already has an existing agreement to transfer course credits.


  • The Indigenous Studies Program is expanding its programming through Mt Royal Park, Kahnawake, Kanehsatake, and Akwesasne.
  • The Faculty of Law launched an Indigenous Legal Traditions course, mandatory for all first-year law students at McGill entering after 2020-2021. This is in addition to the intensive offered at the beginning of the Fall term, which focuses on learning about Indigenous legal traditions, Ceremonies, and understanding law from an Indigenous perspective. Other programs that the faculty offers include an Anishinaabe field course offered in Winnipeg, led by Professor Aaron Mills (July and August 2022). 
  • The Office of First Nations & Inuit Education piloted a 6-credit "Place-Based" program. The course aims at having students critically examine land-based education as an important pedagogical approach for Onkwehón:we students. The course is based on Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen (Thanksgiving Address) teachings, placing emphasis on traditional practices to enagage with Haudenosaunee ecological knowledge. Students learn on-site in in Kahnawà:ke, engaging with local knowledge holders. 
  • Teaching and Learning Services has developed a resource list for students taking Indigenous field study courses regarding texts, audio and video resources that may help them to prepare for Indigenous topics of study.
  • The School of Social Work developed an Ambassador Program, enabling undergraduate studnets to complete a final internship in rural and Indigenous communities to broaden their understanding of health care in Indigenous cultural settings. Past students have completed the program in Rapid Lake, Kuujjuaq or in Cree Territory.

Last Update: 11 November 2022

34. Language Revitalization and Documentation (immediate term)

The Task Force has not assumed that Indigenous communities want to see Indigenous languages taught in a university setting for predominately non-Indigenous students while fluency rates in communities themselves are declining or under great pressure. McGill should consider where it can add the most value to language teaching and revitalization in Indigenous communities, while heeding the perspectives and needs of Indigenous communities as voiced by their members.

The Task Force calls on our University to develop a plan and strategy, prepared with educators, administrators and elders in Indigenous communities, by which McGill’s resources and expertise in the fields of linguistics, teaching accreditation, educational psychology, Indigenous Studies and other fields can be marshaled to support language revitalization in local Indigenous communities, particularly in the traditional territory on which McGill’s campuses are located. To this end, we recommend that McGill:

  • Dedicate financial support (‘seed money’) for this plan, as well as identify who at McGill will lead this initiative for the University. The work of the Task Force suggests there is leadership on language revitalization in the Indigenous Studies Program, the Faculty of Education and the Department of Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts; and
  • Move to implement the plan once it is approved by communities and McGill University.


  • The Office of First Nations & Inuit Education and the Linguistics department held a symposium to examine the university's role in supporting Indigenous language maintenance and revitalization in 2018.
  • Mellon funding is available through the Linguistics department and Indigenous Studies & Community Engagement Initiative to support activities in this area. These activities are anticipated to ramp up with the recent hire of James Crippen in the Linguistics department.
  • The School for Continuing Studies and the Indigenous Studies & Community Engagement Initiative have launched discussions on accrediting Kahnawà:ke adult language immersion classes for McGill credit.
  • The Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative continues to support language revitalization initiatives at McGill by building connections with local communities. In Summer 2021, ISCI collaborated with Ionkwahronkha’onhtie’ to develop a workshop series, Owén:na Tewahthá:rahkw (Let’s Talk about Language).

Next Steps

  • Working on potential future collaborations with programs in Kahnawà:ke, although much of it is on hold due to COVID-19.
  • Accreditation is a high priority item for relationships with Kahnawà:ke. 
  • McGill will work on implementing the vision articulated after the Indigenous Language Revitalization and Restoration forum.
  • Noelani Arista was hired as the Director of the Indigenous Studies Program in 2021. The program directed under her leadership, with revisions and expansions expected to follow as part of the proposed Institute for Indigenous Research and Knowledges (presented Fall 2021). Dr. Arista will establish an Indigenous Knowledges and Languages Laboratory as part of the new Institute for Indigenous Research and Knowledges (IIRK) when the Rimer Building renovations are completed. The Lab is in the planning stages with meetings underway with stakeholders.

Last Update: 11 November 2022

35. Online Part-time Degree in Indigenous Business Management and Public Administration (immediate and medium term)

Canadians reporting an Indigenous identity in national household surveys represent about 4.3% of our total population, and Indigenous peoples are the fastest growing population in Canada. The unemployment rate among Indigenous peoples is persistently about 2.5 times higher than Canada’s average rate and the average Indigenous annual income is substantially lower than that of the general Canadian population. The proportion of the non-Indigenous population in Canada who have attained a university degree is as much as three times higher than the proportion among Indigenous people. As all universities, it is incumbent on McGill to provide a variety of educational opportunities to Indigenous peoples that can respond to these multiple barriers.

Following the success of developing and delivering over 25 online credit courses and 4 undergraduate certificate programs for Indigenous peoples, the School of Continuing Studies has proposed the development of a part-time online degree program in Indigenous Business Management and Public Administration.

The Task Force calls on our University to provide financial support for a study aimed at examining the value and feasibility of such a program. The feasibility study will draw on wide consultation with Indigenous communities and organizations, will identify community and individual interest in such a program, will benchmark for models and best practices, will identify the specific niche that McGill can fill, and will evaluate the projected socio-economic impact of the proposed program.


  • The School for Continuing Studies is completing the 10th course this summer (2020) for the certificate.

Last Update: 11 November 2022

36. In-Community Delivery of Education (Teaching) Degrees and Certificates (medium and long term)

The Office of First Nations and Inuit Education (OFNIE) in the Faculty of Education designs, develops and administers programs that are offered in First Nations and Inuit communities for First Nations and Inuit teachers. OFNIE works in partnership with First Nations and Inuit education authorities throughout Quebec to deliver community-based teacher education programs and professional development.

This Office offers specialized Bachelor degree and certificate programs. Its B.Ed. Kindergarten/Elementary First Nations Education degree enables graduates to teach anywhere in the province of Quebec and beyond.

In terms of future collaboration with Indigenous communities, OFNIE envisages McGill satellite campuses with all of its partners.

Its most recent innovative program is a Bachelor of Education degree (kindergarten/elementary) offered through McGill University but totally in-community, in Listuguj. This is a McGill degree, infused with Mi’gmaq values. Its courses are taught by community members with Master’s degrees and doctorates as well as by McGill professors and course lecturers.

The Task Force calls on our University to recognize the innovative work of OFNIE by providing support to this Office and the Faculty of Education as they roll out this new program in the Listuguj community, and as they develop plans for satellite campuses in collaboration with their First Nations and Inuit partners.


  • OFNIE now offers Bachelor of Education degree programs delivered entirely in Listuguj Mi'kmaq Territory and Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory. The budget is supported by the Office of the Provost. 

Last Update: 11 November 2022

38. Exchange Programs for Indigenous Students (immediate to medium term)

The financial costs associated with student exchange programs might impede Indigenous students from participating in them. Moreover, exchanges can be challenging, even somewhat intimidating, experiences for students, perhaps particularly for Indigenous students who are already often dealing with the transition to life at McGill. Yet exchanges can be extraordinarily enriching for undergraduate and graduate students and should be as accessible as possible to all our students.

The Task Force calls on our University to facilitate student exchanges for Indigenous students by:

  • Identifying sister institutions with whom exchange agreements could be struck;
  • offering Indigenous students opportunities to learn from each other, and from their different histories and experiences, by working together on different university campuses; and
  • Developing an academic model in which participating students are connected virtually on different campuses while on exchanges, perhaps even taking shared courses that include online content and interaction.


  • The Indigenous Initiatives unit has launched a partnership with Vancouver Island University.
  • Exchange Programs re-started in Winter 2022, launching the implementation an outbound studnet exchange demographic survey in order to investigate potential barriers to study abroad and reduce strategies to increase accessibility and diversification of students using the program. 
  • OFNIE coordinates the Faculty of Education’s Indigenous Distance FE 4 Program, connecting on-campus Bachelor of Education stduents with OFNIE partnering school boards to complete their final internship in an Indigenous school. In 2021, OFNIE received a three-year grant from the Ministere d’Etudes Supeerieurs to fund all costs associated with delivering these field experiences. During the Winter 2022 semester, OFNIE placed five students at Alaqsite’w Gitpu School in Listuguj and three at Jimmy Sandy Memorial School in Kawawachikamach in Northern Quebec.

Last Update: 11 November 2022

39. Indigenous Curriculum Content (immediate term)

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on universities and colleges to introduce Indigenous content and engage with Indigenous pedagogies, epistemologies, values and worldviews in their academic curriculum and programs.

A review of actions at other institutions across Canada shows that this call has been heeded in various ways, in some cases through mandatory courses, in other cases through integrating Indigenous content into several or many courses, or some hybrid of these two approaches.

At McGill, there are mandatory courses or course modules with Indigenous content in the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Education, the School of Social Work in the Faculty of Arts, and the Schools of Nursing and School of Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The Task Force calls upon Faculties and Schools to heed this call to action from the TRC by presenting plans to the Provost in the academic year 2017-2018 and following, which will set out how Indigenous content will be introduced into their curriculum and programs.


  • The Faculty of Law has adopted Indigenous Legal Traditions as a mandatory first year course as of Fall 2020 term.
  • Beginning in 2020, the Office of First Nations & Inuit Education has developed six courses with revisions and program development ranging from policy, Indigenous heritage, Indigenous education, and Indigenous practices for learning.
  • Teaching and Learning Services developed an Indigenous Education Resources article in the Teaching and Learning Knowledge Base. The article benefited from collaborations with feedback from the Indigenous community at McGill including relevant texts, units, and web resources to offer instructors a guide on Indigenous approaches to education. The resources are shared to provide background information, encourage reflection, inform instructors’ pedagogical decisions where appropriate, and potentially act as conversation-starters, while a list has been developed in regards to sharing Indigenous approaches to education.

Next Steps

  • The Faculty of Law will seek to extend curricular offerings over the coming years, particularly if additional Indigenous professors are hired.

Last Update: 11 November 2022

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