Ambassadors

 

 

Eleven ambassadors representing each of the eleven First Nations and Inuit nations in Québec have been invited to share their vision of reconciliation in education. Learn more about them!

 

Emmanuelle O'Bomsawin

Nation: Abénakis   |   Community: Odanak

Universities and study programs:

- Université du Québec à Montréal: Language sciences

- Université de Montréal: Nursing (undergraduate and master’s)

- Université Laval: Doctor of Medicine, post-doc residency in psychiatry

 

"My vision of reconciliation in education is about building bridges, about mixing things together. It’s about opening up to others and not each sticking to our positions in our own camp [...] For me, reconciliation requires certain conditions, like that openness to others, but it also means listening to oneself and seeing oneself as a person in the process: what are my challenges, what are my fears as someone working in education, as a decision-maker? What are the images I carry in me? What are my experiences and what are my fears with regard to them? It’s the same thing for the First Nations. As a First Nations person, what are my concerns?

 

Since 2008 I’ve been witness to the reconciliation processes, seen things recognized about the First Nations, seen historic trauma acknowledged. Things have been admitted, there’s been talk about reparations. It’s good to acknowledge things, to say them out loud. It’s a step in the right direction. Now, how are we going to go about living together? I think that process has to start with a reflection. I think we need guidance, sensitivity, and dialogue around that. Maybe it’s the future psychiatrist in me talking, but for me, communication and an acknowledgment of the situation are part of the solution.

 

We Indigenous peoples have been cohabiting for 400 years, and I feel like we’re stronger than ever. There’s good momentum: I don’t see why that would dissipate. We need to let it flourish and to listen to one another. We mustn’t be afraid to take a stance, to raise awareness, and to dare to take our place in the systems that already exist. We need to understand the issues facing each and every one of us and to move forward together. That’s what reconciliation means to me, especially within educational institutions, where different cultures are present. We need to see them and acknowledge them. We need to express our fears and concerns."

 

 

Cyndy Wylde

Nation: Anicinape   |   Community: Pikogan

Universities and study program:

- Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue: Personalized PhD program in Indigenous studies

 

“For me, reconciliation in education means making space for us—for First Nations and Inuit. That’s really what it’s about for me. The day I feel that all the First Nations and Inuit have a place in Québec’s educational institutions is the day I think we will have achieved reconciliation. For now, there’s work being done—a lot in some places and none at all in others. So, we still need to find a balance. In my view it needs to be across the board. We need forums like this one. We’ll have reconciliation only when there is a place for everyone.”

 

 

Gilbert Niquay

Nation: Atikamekw   |   Community: Manawan

Universities and study programs:

- Université du Québec à Montréal: Certificate in psychosocial intervention

- Université de Montréal: Substance abuse

 

“For sure, there’s still a long way to go to achieve reconciliation in education. We need to incorporate indigenization into colleges and universities. We need to educate professors, stakeholders, and human resources people about Indigenous history so they can understand and help make a difference. If people working in education knew more about Indigenous history, I think there would be more sensitivity. There’d be less prejudice, less racism, and all the other negative things Indigenous peoples face. When we talk about true reconciliation, this is the starting point. But it’s not enough just to talk the talk… we need concrete action, too.”

 

 

Jedidat Matoush

Nation: Cree   |   Community: Mistissini

Universities and study program:

- Université Concordia: PhD, Political Science

 

"If non-Indigenous peoples want to work towards reconciliation, then simply start teaching the truth in schools. I think it’s that simple. This is important at every level of education, but what is surprising is the lack of conversation about Indigenous issues at the graduate level in university. Every single class at the graduate level, whether it be economics, geography, history, sociology, or political science, should have at least one week’s readings and one entire class dedicated to the history of colonialism in Canada; the effects of cultural genocide; and the contemporary issues that Indigenous people in Canada face. If you cannot learn about these issues in school – and not even at the graduate level – then where are you expected to learn about it, and how are you supposed to become sensitized to the issue? Every program, at every level, and every class, that is reconciliation.”

 

 

Audrey-Lise Basile

Nation: Innu   |   Community: Ekuanitshit

Universities and study programs:

- Université Laval: Bachelor’s degree in social work

- Université du Québec à Chicoutimi: Master’s degree in social work

 

“Reconciliation is about bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together in the various educational institutions. Now we have more choice, for example, at Kiuna College, there are non-Indigenous students, too. It’s up to us to open our doors to non-Indigenous people who want to learn more about us. I think that’s how we can seek reconciliation. We also need to give more power, more self-determination to schools in the communities so they can offer programs that allow students to reconnect with their culture, because Québec culture is more present than ever among our youth. In my view, schools need to be more focused on our cultures. When we were kids in school, we would go out into the bush at least once a week. We would learn how to skin beaver. They don’t do that anymore. We would learn how to set traps. They don’t do that anymore. It’s important to rediscover our culture before our young people lose touch with it.”

 

 

Andrea Brazeau

Nation: Inuit   |   Community: Kangiqsualujjuaq

Universities and study program:

- Université McGill: Bachelor’s degree in education (kindergarten and elementary education)

 

"Reconciliation in education means integrating Indigenous knowledge within the curriculum, whether it be integrating Indigenous methods such as land-based pedagogy, hands-on learning and cooperative learning. In addition, it is making an effort to hire and include Indigenous people to work for post-secondary institutions."

 

 

 

Shaelyn Watsenniiostha Nelson

Nation: Kanien'kéha:ka   |   Community: Kanehsatà:ke

Universities and study program:

- Université Concordia: Major in First Peoples Studies, Minor in Education

 

"Reconciliation within education comes down to curriculum, it comes down to teaching the proper history about Canada or the United States. Also, having more Indigenous people as spokespeople within education too. Right now, the schools are teaching the guidelines from Québec and it's coming from a perspective that’s not Indigenous. My dream is to change the curriculum within Kanehsatà:ke into our own guidelines and really introduce more of an Indigenous perspective and teach about the proper history between Canada and Indigenous people. I believe by doing so that it will help Indigenous people succeed because they will see themselves within the curriculum. It will also help reconcile the relationship between Canadians and Indigenous people by creating an understanding of how the past continues to have an effect on us today, and in order to move forward we must learn from the past."

 

 

Vincent Jeannotte Medina

Nation: Micmac   |   Community: Gespeg

Universities and study programs:

- Université Laval: Certificate in guidance counselling and certificate in Indigenous studies

 

“The basis for achieving reconciliation is, first, to acknowledge the obstacles, acknowledge the problems, and acknowledge the harm caused to a First Nation or to members of First Nations with regard to education or to the colonial societal system. […] It’s about recognizing the knowledge, the know-how, and the cultures, bringing them to the fore, and leveraging them for First Nations. […] We don’t need just words. The words we’ve got; what’s lacking now is action.”

 

 

 

Glenda Sandy

Nation: Naskapi   |   Community: Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach

Universities and study programs:

- Queen’s University: Bachelor of Nursing Science

- Université Laval: Master’s degree in community health

 

"For me, reconciliation is acknowledging the past for its truth and really making an effort to provide a welcoming safe space for students that are leaving their families and communities to pursue their studies, and striving to provide the support and the accompaniment that students may require. We need to have an open mind about how we can deliver education and make efforts in bringing education to the communities. There is now a lot of opportunities with technology and how we can develop competencies and skills. Being open to thinking about it from our perspective will be the first step and this requires making that effort to see the world through our eyes and what that education means to us.”

 

 

Benoit Gros-Louis

Nation: Wendat   |   Community: Wendake

Universities and study programs:

- Université du Québec à Chicoutimi: Certificate in First Nations youth intervention and substance abuse prevention

- Université Laval: Bachelor’s degree in social work

 

"In order to help First Nations people enjoy school and pursue higher education, it’s important to say who we are and the real history of the Indigenous peoples. Sometimes, what we see in the history books is not entirely true, or only skims the surface. Indigenous people tend to be depicted as the bad guys, whereas in actual fact, we’re the ones who had our land taken away, we’re the ones who lost everything […] and there’s no mention of that in the history books. Telling the real historical facts would go a long way to reconciliation with non-Indigenous people. Another thing is that when we attend university, we need to feel at home there, too […] We need a place where we can gather and express our cultures. We need to make more room for Indigenous students.”

 

 

Édith Bélanger

Nation: Wolastoqey   |   Community: Wahsipekuk

Universities and study programs:

- Université Laval: Bachelor’s degree in philosophy

- Université Concordia: Certificate in marine transportation 

- Université de Montréal: Certificate in law

- École nationale d'administration publique: Master’s in public administration in an Indigenous context

- Université du Maine: Fellowship at Wabanaki Leadership Institute

 

"Reconciliation is a concept I have trouble with. I don’t know who has this need for reconciliation. I sometimes wonder whether it’s the colonial institutions that need it. It’s not us, the Indigenous people, who feel this need for reconciliation. So, as I see it, we’re already at cross purposes. We feel like reconciliation is being imposed on us while, on the other side, the institutions feel we don’t want to cooperate. But setting that aside, reconciliation presupposes an already existing relationship. If there’s never been a relationship between the two parties, then there’s no point asking them to reconcile with one another because there’s no positive element binding them. You have to start by building positive experiences and then go from there. Maybe then you can ask, ‘Is it worth saving this relationship?

 

In education, reconciliation is about admitting that our systems and structures stem from colonialism. They’re based on a hierarchical pyramid model that’s completely at odds with traditional First Nations values and educational models. For example, you have the teacher in front of the class, behind his desk, his finger in the air, and the students all sitting in rows looking up at him. The very image calls to mind the church, with the priest in his pulpit up front. It’s not conducive to dialogue, to sharing, to being oneself. If you try to sell that model to people who’ve had traumatic experiences in institutions like that, there’s no way it will work. If you feel like you’re just a number, that you’re in a learning factory, then it won’t work. As First Nations people, we are much more inclined towards circular learning models. For example, the relationship between elders and children is important for transmitting knowledge, learning through observation, listening, doing (and all three together), sharing, imitating… these are all dynamic concepts that rely on several people, whereas the traditional colonial education model is about the teacher providing an education, providing the truth, without any back and forth.

 

Reconciliation is about reconciling two views, two models, two realities. Each party needs to suggest to the other what could be improved, and each needs to display openness. For example, what could I propose as an institution? There are limits. I have constraints. Where can our two visions meet with regard to your need for dialogue, for flexibility, your need to close the circle in your learning? I have a vision of education. You have a vision of education. Where can the two meet?”