This article originally appeared in the Montreal Gazette, October 20, 2022
A year ago, Université Laval received a historic donation from the Mastercard Foundation to help Indigenous Peoples pursue and succeed in their university studies. Many Indigenous students aspire to study in an environment, spirit, and manner that respects their languages, identities, and traditions, and the five-year agreement is already starting to bear fruit.
Taking action with Indigenous Peoples
The Mastercard Foundation EleV Program supports Université Laval in implementing its Indigenous action plan, “En action avec les Premières Peuples.” The plan aims to celebrate Indigenous cultures and traditional knowledge in the classroom and elsewhere on campus, and create an educational experience that is more inclusive and aligned with the needs of students. The University has already seen a 10 per cent increase in enrolment of self-identified Indigenous students for the fall session.
“The more we develop and promote this collaboration with the Indigenous communities, the more young people from those communities will want to come and study here. We sincerely hope that they will feel at home at Université Laval and that we will be able to help them succeed in their studies and personal development,” says Sophie D’Amours, rector of Université Laval.
Amplifying the voices of youth and Indigenous Peoples
These goals are in line with those of the Mastercard Foundation EleV Program, which supports Indigenous youth from coast to coast to coast and works to transform higher education, training, and employment systems based on the needs and direction of young people and their communities. The program promotes collaborative and innovative approaches founded on co-creation, co-development, listening, learning, and engagement with Indigenous youth, educational institutions and other organizations.
“Our partnership with Université Laval includes exciting new initiatives with local Indigenous youth and communities that will help young people succeed in both their studies and their careers,” said Jennifer Brennan, director of Canada Programs at the Mastercard Foundation. “We are very pleased to support Québec’s first guardians program—an approach that combines Indigenous knowledge of the land with Western science. Co-creation has a positive impact on communities and is the foundation of our EleV program.”
Courses in archaeology and land stewardship are being developed by, for, and with Indigenous Peoples to respond to the needs of communities and local realities.
Once a year, students will be invited to a retreat, either in the region or in a remote area, so that they can engage with community members, academics, and keepers of ancestral knowledge in a learning environment tailored to their needs.
“Support from the Mastercard Foundation allows Université Laval to purchase books and school equipment, provide training for staff interacting with First Nations and Inuit students, organize an orientation day specifically for these students, and finance the Circle of First Peoples, a dedicated space and program of activities prepared by Indigenous people,” says Raven Larocque Laliberté, president of Association étudiante autochtone de l’Université Laval and student in the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Supporting responsible entrepreneurship
Strategic partnerships with communities provide solutions to the unique challenges faced by Indigenous businesses. With the help of Entrepreneuriat ULaval, the university is developing a range of specialized training courses and tools to encourage and promote Indigenous entrepreneurship.
Hiring a First Peoples team
Over the past year, Université Laval has hired Indigenous employees to oversee a range of initiatives. These include supporting students throughout their academic careers, developing relationships with communities and partner organizations, and overseeing certain programs and activities.
Training Indigenous leaders
Funding from the Mastercard Foundation will allow Université Laval to move forward with a series of projects aimed at training more Indigenous leaders, with a view to promoting dialogue, building confidence, and fostering collaboration.
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