Three Atlantic Canada universities are getting a big boost of funds for their Indigenous student support services.
On Thursday, the TD Bank Group donated $1.2 million to Mount Saint Vincent, Acadia and Memorial universities – a step toward reconciliation, said Jennifer Auld, vice-president of the TD Canada Trust Atlantic Region.
“Another call for change has come through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where they looked to corporate Canada to lead change through employment, education and the support of economic development,” she explained.
“Reconciliation work is happening, yet there is more we need to do.”
The donation ceremonies took place at the Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) campus in Halifax the day before National Indigenous Peoples Day. MSVU will receive the bulk of the funding, with $500,000 coming in over the next 10 years.
University president Mary Bluechardt said the donation will be used to continue supporting a special advisor for Aboriginal affairs at the school, who supports Indigenous students and develops initiatives, programs and policies that respond to Indigenous needs.
It will also allow for $10,000 per year in renewable scholarships for First Nations learners.
“We’re at 177 self-declared Aboriginal students on campus now,” Bluehardt told Global News. “That’s gone up by about 80 students over the last five years. So we want to continue to increase the number of students and the more students we have, the more supports that we need to surround them with.”
At Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., the cash will go toward a program that increases Indigenous youth participation, and offer experiential learning on local reserves, among other services.
Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador will direct its portion to Indigenous student programming and the development of a new space dedicated to Indigenous students at the St. John’s campus.
Patrick Small Legs-Nagge, who works as the special advisor on Aboriginal affairs to the MSVU president, said the cash will go a long way toward ‘Indigenizing’ university campuses.
“I think at the end of the day that’s what it comes down to, is trying to make the campus more inclusive,” he said. “I think once again, it’s listening to what the community wants.”
Examples at MSVU, he added, include the wigwam on campus, the two-eyes seeing camp coming up in the applied nutrition program, and as many Indigenous perspectives integrated into curriculum as possible.