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Students encouraged to share in culrutal diversity.


Last November, a special ceremony to install a permanent tipi was held at Carleton University. The event was meant to showcase the rich heritage and important role that the Aboriginal community plays on campus. At that ceremony, the idea of creating an Aboriginal Vision Committee was unveiled and the Committee was officially launched in September.

"This committee will provide better communication with the university as the Aboriginal community will be making recommendations to the presidential advisory committee," said Irvin Hill, Carleton's Aboriginal Liaison Officer.

When Hill came to Carleton in 2004, the university already had many Aboriginal initiatives in place, but Hill said he is pleased that the university has taken another concrete step forward.

Hill places great importance on continuing to build and improve relations between the Aboriginal community and Carleton University as a whole.

"Students come because they want to be a part of what we are doing," said Hill. "We always welcome students who want to participate with open arms."

Through the Aboriginal Vision Committee, the diversity of Carleton's Aboriginal community will gain exposure as cultural differences are embraced. This keeps both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities informed about events and programs initiated to create a positive environment.

"Carleton's Aboriginal population is as diverse as Europe," said Hill. "From languages to customs, students can go home and share with their home communities this diversity."

In the nation's capital, this diversity stems to the general population where, in a city that houses Parliament, the Aboriginal Vision Committee will help its members to reach out and gain a better understanding of the city.

"We have a connection because national offices including those of Aboriginal interest are located here," said Hill. "Political and grassroots organizations are mostly based in Ottawa and they give the Aboriginal community good exposure to the Nation's capital."

Since 2001, Carleton University has also offered the Aboriginal Enriched Support Program (AESP). This program helps to bridge the transition for Aboriginal students into university lifestyle while maintaining their cultural heritage. Students are offered a seminar class which delivers an Aboriginal perspective in disciplines ranging from philosophy to politics, and support from administration in overcoming any hurdles they may face along the way.

"Our goal is to facilitate students with a form of accommodation where students can identify with their Aboriginal communities and use the university to advance their own agendas as Aboriginal peoples." said Patricia Reynolds, coordinator for AESP and an instructor.

As the age range for AESP students can be from 22-50, the needs not only of students who are of high school leaving age (17-18 in Ontario) but also of mature students can be considerable. Students receive extensive academic support through facilitated workshops for lecture courses, advising, and one-on-one tutoring. Hurdles with children, issues of childcare, schedules, deaths and family issues are all addressed by the support.

"Research has recognized the phenomenon of 'stop out' as some Aboriginal students may have responsibilities related to family obligations that bring them out of their study path," said Reynolds. "Rather than see them 'drop out', we and many others in the field of Aboriginal education recognize that students do continue, but at their own pace."

An understanding of this phenomenon has helped Reynolds and her department to administer the appropriate support with an understanding of Aboriginal needs.

"An Aboriginal studies seminar introduces AESP students immediately to an Aboriginal perspective on western scholarship, and to Aboriginal scholars and their dynamic uses of Aboriginal research and theory in many disciplines," said Reynolds.

With the introduction of the Aboriginal Vision Committee, this support is reinforced. "Carleton is a friendly place for Aboriginals to be and to put their feet forward and do things," said Hill. "(The AVC) is a gateway to the community that will increase and bring services together and create a conducive environment for Aboriginal students to improve relations with the Aboriginal community and the university."


Hill believes the steps being taken will be embraced by the university population as new events such as community leaders coming to the university, potlucks and traditional cultural events as well as Aboriginal Awareness Week in February which will showcase the heritage of the Metis, Inuit and First Nations peoples.

"Mind, head and energy together, we can make these things happen," he said.

On the academic front, Carleton University offers a minor in Aboriginal Studies in which students examine the evolving relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and Canada through such topics as treaties, colonial policy, residential schools, and perspectives on contemporary Aboriginal issues.

To learn more about the services and programs available to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students at Carlton University visit,

By Riaz Sidi

Windspeaker Writer
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Author:Sidi, Riaz
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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