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Indigenizing the Academy

CAUT Policy Statement

Indigenous Studies Programs and Indigenous faculty have done foundational work toward Indigenizing the academy. Indigenizing the academy continues with acknowledgment that Indigenous rights are inherent rights and responsibilities that originate in holistic Indigenous relationships. These rights are enshrined in Treaties, the Canadian Constitution, and international agreements. Indigenization further entails a recognition of historic wrongs committed against First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities in Canada, and a commitment to undertake proactive measures aimed at restoring, renewing, and regenerating Indigenous practices, languages, and knowledge.

Indigenizing may require employers and academic staff associations to negotiate appropriate amendments to their collective agreements, or terms and conditions of employment, with a view to establishing equitable policies and practices that involve Aboriginal Peoples1 and Indigenous Knowledge in all aspects of campus life. These policies and practices include:

  • Explicit recognition that Aboriginal academic staff2 should, at minimum, enjoy equal rights with regard to association or union membership, academic freedom, decent working conditions, fair compensation, and access to resources for research and teaching.
  • Commitment to an ongoing and permanent expansion of the Aboriginal academic staff complement, including both targeted hires to existing positions and the establishment of new regular positions which contribute to the long-term growth of Aboriginal teaching, research, and community service within the academy.
  • Mechanisms for the fair, transparent, and peer-directed hiring of Aboriginal academic staff.
  • Provision of appropriate career training and support, in order to ensure fairness in the retention and promotion of Aboriginal academic staff.
  • Explicit recognition, in all Aboriginal academic staff hiring, training, and evaluation procedures, of special qualifications and contributions including: development and sharing of Indigenous knowledge and languages; engagement with culturally appropriate research and publication venues; community service; and any other relevant considerations, including lived experiences within Aboriginal communities.
  • Explicit recognition of, and appropriate compensation for, any increased workload that may be taken on by Aboriginal academic staff as a consequence of their community status and/or obligations.3
  • Appropriate opportunities and support for Aboriginal academic staff to ensure the maintenance of significant ongoing relationships with their home communities, lands and waters.
  • Mechanisms for the appropriate incorporation of Aboriginal content and Indigenous knowledge into campus-wide curricula. In order to ensure that such curricular revisions do not result in tokenism, distortion, or cultural appropriation, sufficient library, archival, and other resources should be made available to enable research and development of new approaches relating to the full diversity of Aboriginal histories, languages, cultures, perspectives, pedagogies, and experiences.
  • Respect for collegial governance, transparency, and due process with regard to all decision-making concerning Indigenization initiatives. Aboriginal and other academic staff, students, and community members should be fully consulted on such initiatives.
  • Maintenance of periodic formal consultations and broad, ongoing, informal communicative relationships between the university or college and interested Aboriginal communities.
  • Assurance that all academic programming, including university or college-sponsored programs focusing on Aboriginal topics or communities both on and off campus, should be carried out and evaluated by appropriate academic staff. In cases where ancillary non-academic programming for Aboriginal students (or touching on topics that clearly relate to Aboriginal persons and communities) is formally offered by a university or college, such programming should be developed in full and open consultation with academic staff and interested Aboriginal communities.
  • Academic freedom applies to all aspects of these procedures and policies.

Approved by the CAUT Council, November 2016.
Editorial revision, October 2021.

1 There is an evolving debate about the use of the term “Aboriginal” as opposed to “Indigenous”. The former has meaning in Canadian Constitutional law, while the latter is increasingly preferred as it has broader meaning in international law under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. CAUT’s Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education Working Group has recommended retaining the term “Aboriginal” but continues to review the matter.
2 Including Elders and academic staff who work off campus.
3 See CAUT policy on “Recognition of Increased Workload of Academic Staff Members in Equity-Seeking Groups in a Minority Context”.