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Scholars, experts gather at the University of Toronto to discuss Aboriginal Knowledge and Education

April 11, 2014

Min Kaur and Brenda WastasecootToronto, ON - Aboriginal education, a major area of study in Canada and around the world, was the focus of a recent public forum featuring several prominent Aboriginal scholars from the U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and from universities across Canada.

The forum, titled Aboriginal Knowledge(s): Colonialism, Decolonization and Education, was hosted by OISE’s Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Justice Education and included OISE Aboriginal scholars Martin Cannon, Jean-Paul Restoule, Suzanne Stewart and Sandra Styres, who led expert panels on some of the most pressing issues facing Aboriginal education today including: violence; memory and responsibility; and Aboriginal education and educators. 

Min Kaur, a fourth-year PhD student at OISE, who studies the experiences of Indigenous women and women of colour in post-secondary education, said some of the work on violence against Aboriginal women presented at the forum is “groundbreaking.”  Kaur herself teaches Aboriginal education to social workers, and indigeneity is at the centre of her teaching practices.  “The work of OISE’s Aboriginal scholars and OISE’s reputation as a world leader on research in Aboriginal education, have raised the profile of the field – their work is revolutionary, Kaur added.”

Among the discussion topics were issues related to the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which concluded its hearings in Edmonton at the end of March 2014.  “This commission, and its published findings, will become part of all contemporary conversations regarding educational policy in Canada.  “This is a Canadian story. But it is not unique or limited to Canada. Similar experiences of the encounter of indigenous peoples with colonial educational projects indicate the international implications, and can similarly inform our understanding of events in Canada,” said Abigail Bakan, department Chair. 

The event concluded with keynotes by scholars Janice C. Hill (Queen’s University) and Verna St.Denis (University of Saskatchewan) who integrated personal narratives with talks on Aboriginal scholarship and activism.

The Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education provides students with critical understandings of the social, historical, cultural, political, economic, and ethical contexts of education, broadly conceived. Based on the diverse intellectual traditions of the humanities and social sciences, the department is committed to multi and interdisciplinary studies in education, with a focus on history, philosophy, sociology, and social justice education.