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University of Lethbridge business school becomes 1st to add Indigenous course requirement to core degree

An Indigenous art piece on the hill below the Dhillon School of Business. Created by Sarah Russell (BA ’19). Courtesy: University of Lethbridge

The University of Lethbridge’s Dhillon School of Business has become the first business school in Canada to include an Indigenous course requirement as part of its students’ core business degree.

Dhillon School of Business assistant professor Don McIntyre said he was thrilled when he heard the news, and was proud to see such a massive step taken.

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“It’s long overdue,” said McIntyre, who is a member of the Wolf Clan from Lake Timiskaming First Nation.

“My work has always been an attempt to sort of build to this place, to find a way to ensure that Aboriginal voices were heard.”

The Dhillon School formally joined the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) in 2018, putting an emphasis on intentionally supporting Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships, particularly in business. As a whole, the U of L has been working towards broader reconciliation efforts, and addressing the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

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“We at the business school have an Aboriginal advisory board that directs us with regards to what is missing within our curriculum, how we can improve our curriculum,” McIntyre said.

“At every sort of space, the university has been attempting to engage Aboriginal voices and ensure that whether it is fine arts, whether it is health, whether it is education — all of these areas — as the truth and reconciliation commission report stated, all of these places – even at the political, governance level – those gaps have to be filled in order for true reconciliation.”

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McIntyre said ultimately the move will benefit business students at the university, who will finish their degrees with a greater breadth of knowledge and be better prepared to become leaders in today’s business world.

“Twenty years ago, there was a belief that you could engage in business in Canada — or even internationally — without having any knowledge or concern about the Indigenous populations around the world,” he said.

“Today, if you want to do business in any capacity — nationally, provincially — there is duties to consult, there is duties for free, prior and informed consent, and without understanding those aspects – without knowing those pieces – you’re going in blindly.”

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The hope is that more universities will follow the Dhillon School and ensure Indigenous voices are heard in the education process.

“Being the first is a very scary step, because you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like,” McIntyre said. “So you just sort of step forward, and the Dhillon School took the approach that someone has to take the first step.”

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According to the university, students will be able to choose from a wide variety of Indigenous courses, including conversational reconciliation, Indigenous languages, Aboriginal health, Indigenous art history, Indigenous governance in Canada and more.

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