Deepening UCC’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

The College has turned to educator Pamela Toulouse, PhD, to assist with professional development, renovating units of study, and relationship building between the school and local Indigenous communities.
Toulouse is retired from the faculty at Laurentian University and is currently a visiting scholar at York University’s Faculty of Education. The author of three books on Indigenous education, Toulouse’s 2022 role as a consultant to the College grew out of her professional connection to Tina Jagdeo, one of UCC’s pluralism coordinators. 

“We are developing a focused plan to embed Truth and Reconciliation into the curriculum and to build community, finding strategies to reconcile relations between our peoples,” says Toulouse. “It requires having openness and being willing to learn. Once you know the truth, you need to decide how you will change your professional practice and think about your own life differently.”

Earlier this month, Toulouse led a professional development session for faculty and staff to dispel myths about Indigenous people and to discuss the ways settlers have benefited from their presence, as a foundation for reflection. As an example, she cites something as simple as Canadian roads, which were built along the trails forged by Indigenous people as they determined efficient routes.

“Most people don’t know they’re benefiting from the intelligence and creativity of Indigenous people,” says Toulouse. “It was eye-opening for members of the UCC community, but what I love about UCC is the openness and willingness to listen and learn.”

Toulouse has worked with the Year 3 teachers to review and discuss their units to see how to honour the Indigenous world view using Indigenous or Indigenous-authenticated resources. She has also worked with math educators to discover how their resources can embrace Indigenous perspectives and examples, integrating them into both teaching strategies and content — especially examples that relate to the Indigenous communities locally. 

“We want to take a holistic approach so students can relate on a deeper level,” Toulouse says. “We have the curriculum, which is the intellectual approach, and the physical aspect, which is the space where learning takes place, so we want to allow for co-operation and kinesthetic activities in an environment that is conducive to learning. There are emotional and spiritual domains to learning, too, and we want to consider how we can create a community of critical thinkers and compassionate learners.

“Spiritually, we believe that everything is living and we’re all related, which is quite a concept for people to grasp. We’re not the top of the food chain; we’re part of the life cycle, so we want to create conscious and conscientious citizens of the Earth.”

Other initiatives underway this year are discussions with Year 7 faculty about treaties and working with Year 5 faculty to critically evaluate how history and geography are taught. She is also making faculty aware of where to obtain relevant resources.

In addition, Toulouse has started linking the College to local Indigenous communities by creating a connection between UCC’s pluralism educators and some of her graduate students who now live in the Toronto area.

“Our relationship is an example for others on how to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people so we put aside our preconceived notions,” Toulouse says.
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