Michelle Scott is director of Indigenous Initiatives at St. Mary’s University. Photo by Wil Andruschak © Postmedia Network Inc.
Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.
St. Mary’s University is focused on fighting racism.
It starts with transforming education at the liberal arts university, which, like all post-secondary institutions, faces the challenge of rooting out systematic racism from the legacy of colonialism, says Michelle Scott, director of Indigenous Initiatives at St. Mary’s.
“We’re operating in a system — not just in education, but everywhere in society — based on our settler-colonial history.”
Recognizing how this past still impacts the present, St. Mary’s has embarked on multi-year initiatives to provide anti-racism education and Indigenous learning opportunities, guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous Peoples.
Scott is spearheading these efforts, including an anti-racism for-credit course to be offered next year.
“It’s inspired by the groundbreaking work of international anti-racist scholar, Dr. Verna St. Denis, professor and special advisor, Anti-racism & Anti-Oppressive Policy to the president at the University of Saskatchewan,” says Scott, who studied under the professor.
St. Mary’s efforts do not stop with its students, though, as it recently launched a similar program open to all in the community.
“Our goal is to bring community members together to have these critical conversations and learn from the experience,” Scott says.
Some of those initiatives involve offering more opportunities to learn about Indigenous ways of knowing. These include the ongoing Indigenous Voices series led by Elders and Knowledge Keepers on topics such as Stories from Treaty 7, and Lessons from the Pandemic.
Anti-racism, Indigenous ways of knowing and Truth and Reconciliation initiatives “go hand-in-hand,” Scott notes. “It’s critical to examine how the settler-colonial state came into being and how tools of assimilation — like the Indian Act and residential schools — still affect us today.”
Guided by the expertise of Elders such as Doreen Spence, an Indigenous rights activist and Order of Canada recipient, the ultimate goal at St. Mary’s is to make education more inclusive and transformative than it is today.
“Everything we do is to engage all people in thinking about reconciling our past for a better tomorrow.”
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.