Over the last few months, we have witnessed universities across the country beginning the necessary process of developing procedures to protect Indigenous-specific positions to address false claims to Indigenous identity. Carleton University is among those institutions that are committing to collaboratively developing an Indigenous-specific hiring policy to protect positions intended to bring the richness of Indigenous lived experience and knowledge in to our classrooms.
Carleton’s Kinàmàgawin (Learning Together) Indigenous strategy, released in 2020, recognizes that we will lose amazing students, staff and faculty if we cannot address this issue. Together, we must acknowledge the pain that has been caused and explore a new path forward where institutions, such as Carleton, honour Indigenous self-determination and the Indigenous Peoples who work, study and teach on our campus every day. Relying on Calls to Action from the Kinàmàgawin report, we will reach out to stakeholders and nurture relationships to create a safe, open and engaging learning and teaching environment.
What is clear is that the process of developing such policies must be Indigenous-led and informed by Indigenous communities and legal experts. To this end, Carleton has recently engaged the expertise and guidance of respected Indigenous legal authorities Claudette Commanda, Marilyn Poitras and Elizabeth Zarpa.
Elder Claudette Commanda is Algonquin Anishinabe from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation and has dedicated her career to protecting First Nations rights, history and culture. Elder Commanda is a University of Ottawa alumna, having graduated from the Faculty of Arts (1993) and the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section (1997). She was inducted into the Common Law Honour Society in 2009. Elder Commanda is a respected advisor to many levels of community and national government offices.
Marilyn Poitras is a Michif consultant and advisor and was most recently Director of the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. Graduating from law at the University of Saskatchewan and with a master’s degree from Harvard Law School, she developed an expertise in constitutional law and was also a faculty member in the College of Law. Marilyn has significant experience in self-government and treaty implementation and works with Elders and Knowledge Keepers across Canada learning Indigenous legal traditions as well.
Elizabeth Zarpa is an Inuk lawyer from Nunatsiavut. Throughout her legal career, she has specialized in criminal defense with predominantly Indigenous clients from northern and rural communities. She represented Inuit at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and is currently researching how Inuit legal orders can inform legislation development in the institutions that govern Inuit.
In addition to their support, we will be working with our Indigenous Education Council, and our newly established Algonquin and Inuit Advisory Committees to guide the important work of hearing from Indigenous students, staff and faculty on the topic of protecting Indigenous-specific positions. With support from Indigenous leadership on campus, Carleton will implement a consultation process in January 2022. We will keep you informed as this process takes shape.
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)
Assistant Vice-President (Indigenous Initiatives)
Director, Centre for Indigenous Initiatives