Saskatchewan post-secondary leaders commit to closing the Aboriginal gap

SASKATOON - The presidents and executive heads of all 24 Saskatchewan post-secondary institutions have made a commitment to work together on closing the education gap for Aboriginal people—a gap due in large part to the residential school system and its intergenerational consequences.

The agreement was announced today by University of Saskatchewan (U of S) President Peter Stoicheff at the start of the national "Building Reconciliation" forum of university presidents and Aboriginal leaders taking place Nov. 18 and 19 on the U of S campus and at Wanuskewin Heritage Park.

The forum, the first-of-its-kind in Canada, is examining how universities can respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) calls to action for post-secondary education.

"We, the presidents and executive heads of all Saskatchewan post-secondary institutions, acknowledge the importance of building reconciliation," the agreement states. "While honouring the unique missions and mandates of each of our institutions, we will seek opportunities to collaborate, in consultation with Aboriginal communities, to close the education gap for Aboriginal people."

The accord, believed to be the first province-wide commitment of its kind in Canada, was agreed to by the presidents of U of S, University of Regina, First Nations University of Canada, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, St. Thomas More College, Gabriel Dumont Institute, Luther College, Campion College, the six colleges affiliated with the U of S, the eight regional colleges, NORTEP-NORPAC, and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies.

"As a group, we recognize that the disparity in education outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan remains one of the province's biggest challenges," Stoicheff said.

"At the U of S, we are committed to strengthening our efforts across the institution to ensure the success of our Aboriginal faculty, students and staff, and to working together with other post-secondary partners provincially and nationally to rebuild some of the trust that has been lost in the educational system and advance reconciliation."

He noted that early in 2016, the U of S plans to hold campus events in which faculty, staff and students can engage in planning how the university can move forward in building reconciliation and ensuring that the university is a place where Aboriginal students can feel welcome and can succeed and excel.

The U of S president also told the national gathering of almost 200 forum participants that the university plans to partner with the National Centre on Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) in Winnipeg. The centre, the permanent archive for all statements, documents, and other materials gathered by the TRC, provides opportunities for residential school survivors and their families, researchers, students, and the public to engage with the oral and documented history of residential schools.

"As part of our university's plans to support indigenous education and reconciliation, we are committed to partnering with this unique centre of national and international significance," Stoicheff said.

Details of the U of S contribution to the NCTR partnership of universities, colleges and other organizations are being worked through, and the university anticipates signing a formal agreement with the centre in 2016.

"We are especially keen to identify ways to help our local communities and scholars access the centre's vast archival resources and to assist the centre in bringing their programs to Saskatchewan," Stoicheff said.

The U of S forum brings together 25 Aboriginal leaders and 14 presidents of post-secondary education institutions, as well as senior leaders from several more institutions, First Nations and Métis leaders, Aboriginal scholars and student leaders, and scholars dedicated to research that is meaningful to Aboriginal peoples. Opening speakers included TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett (via video).

More information about the forum is available at

For more information, contact:
James Shewaga
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan


Post-secondary institutions that have signed the accord: 24

Universities/polytechnics: 3
Federated colleges: 4
U of S-affiliated bolleges: 6
Aboriginal and Northern education: 3
Regional colleges: 8
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