3. Academic Programs and Curriculum - In Progress

29. Health Professions Training (has been implemented for fiscal year 2018)

The Task Force calls on our University to implement a five-year program (renewable) to increase the number of Indigenous students in all health-related professions based on Indigenous needs and priorities.The program should:

  • work closely with Indigenous communities, educators and health professionals;
  • specify a series of concrete steps and strategies including proactive intervention (the ‘Early Exposure Phase’) among Indigenous youth, transition support for Indigenous CEGEP students and mature students, and retention support for students in place;
  • recognize the importance of Indigenous health curricula in health professional programs, and the importance of Indigenous faculty, scholars and support staff who will deliver the program to Indigenous youth and students;
  • encompass a wide range of health professions, including but not limited to the units such as Communication Sciences and Disorders, Nursing, Physical and Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences; the Faculty of Dentistry; and the School of Human Nutrition in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences; and
  • build out over time to include other health-related programs in other parts of the University, notably in the Faculties of Science and Education (particularly, areas of applied psychology), and in the School of Continuing Studies.


  • The Indigenous Initiatives unit is providing centralized, responsive support to Indigenous Health Professions Program colleagues.

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 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.

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.

Next Steps

  • The Indigenous Studies Program (ISP) plans to continue this consultation virtually, and is in the early stages of this planning now with Professor Noelani Arista, incoming director of the Indigenous Studies Program. ISP is planning to use this consultation to create a draft proposal of an institute, with the plan to circulate this draft for further feedback this fall.

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.

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.

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 Kahnawake Mohawk Territory.

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.

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.

Next Steps

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