Aboriginal Strategic Plan History

The Formation of the Strategic Plan Development Working Group

In the summer of 2007, President Stephen Toope met with the Advisory Board of the UBC First Nations House of Learning. A set of proposals circulated prior to that meeting called for the formation of an Aboriginal Strategic Plan, and President Toope carried that idea a step further by suggesting that the formation of such a plan would allow for the closer integration of Aboriginal initiatives in the University’s new strategic plan and key budgeting processes. He also noted that for Aboriginal initiatives to have this kind of consideration in the next available budgeting cycle, a plan would need to be formulated by the Fall of 2008. Following this meeting, a preliminary Steering Committee was formed to set terms of reference for the development of the plan.


Some excerpted material is presented below here.

Following the report of that Steering Committee, Aboriginal Strategic Plan Development Working Group was established to conduct extensive consultations and draft the Plan. That committee met throughout 2008 and, following an initial consultation phase, posted a plan draft for comment. The revised text was forwarded to the President in December 2008.

The membership of the Working Group:

  • Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, Provost, UBC Okanagan
  • Dr. Jo-ann Archibald, Associate Dean Indigenous Education, Faculty of Education
  • Mr. Ethan Baptiste, graduate student, UBC Okanagan
  • Dr. Gordon Christie, Director, First Nations Legal Studies, Faculty of Law
  • Dr. Ian Cull, Associate VP Students, UBC Okanagan
  • Dr. Tirso Gonzales, Indigenous Studies, Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, UBC Okanagan
  • Mr. Graeme Joseph, Aboriginal Student Recruiter and Advisor, Enrolment Services
  • Dr. Linc Kesler, Director, First Nations Studies Program, Faculty of Arts
  • Dr. Anna Kindler, Vice Provost and Associate Vice President Academic Affairs
  • Ms. Madeleine MacIvor, Director pro tem, First Nations House of Learning
  • Ms. Leigh-Ann Matthieson, undergraduate student, Faculty of Land and Food Systems
  • Mr. Darrel McLeod, Chief Negotiator, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
  • Mr. Stephen Owen, Vice President External, Legal and Community Relations
  • Dr. Jack Saddler, Dean, Faculty of Forestry
  • Dr. Kay Teschke, Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine and School of Environmental Health, College for Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Dr. Richard Vedan, School of Social Work, Faculty of Arts, former Senior Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Affairs and Director, First Nations House of Learning

The Working Group is co-chaired by Dr. Anna Kindler and Dr. Linc Kesler.

Below is some background information excerpted from the earlier Steering Committee’s report.

from the
Report of the Steering Committee for the Development
of the UBC Aboriginal Strategic Plan


UBC Trek 2010 identifies Aboriginal education as one of its priorities. It recognizes the potential of the University to make an important contribution to the Canadian and global society by creating meaningful educational opportunities for Aboriginal leaners through approaches that substantially address Aboriginal issues, accurately represent Aboriginal cultures and histories, recognize the value of Aboriginal knowledge and the rights of members of Aboriginal communities to have equitable access to post-secondary education. It acknowledges that the university has an obligation to support Aboriginal access and success through appropriate policies, programs, and engagement strategies. In order to make progress on the Trek 2010 vision, the University requires the development of an Aboriginal Strategic Plan that clearly articulates and prioritizes expected outcomes, sets attainment targets, and guides a resource allocation process.


We use the term “Aboriginal” inclusively to refer to members of First Nations, status and non-status Indians, Métis, and Inuit peoples in Canada, recognizing in doing so that many people prefer the terms that are specific and traditional to their communities. Since the term “Aboriginal” is not used in many other countries, we use the term “Indigenous” to refer to similar peoples in international contexts.


The University’s vision statement Trek 2010: A Global Journey articulates nine Aboriginal strategic goals to be pursued within the context of: People, Learning, Research, Community and International. Trek 2010 builds upon the University’s long-term commitment to Aboriginal access and scholarship at all levels and complements the First Nations House of Learning’s mandate: “….to make the university’s vast resources more accessible to First Peoples, and to improve the University’s ability to meet the needs of First Nations.”

Success Milestones at UBC

We acknowledge that the UBC Vancouver campus is located on the traditional territory of the Musqueam First Nation. The UBC Okanagan campus established in July 01, 2005 is located in the traditional territory of the Okanagan First Nation. UBC V and UBC O have Memoranda of Understanding with the Musqueam First Nation and with the Okanagan Nations Alliance, respectively.

In 1948, “Chief William Scow of Kwicksutaineuk Nation officially sanctioned the use of the Thunderbird for varsity teams by presenting the University with the ‘Victory Through Honour’ totem pole…carved by Kwicksutaineuk artist Ellen Neel.” First Aboriginal academic programs established in 1974 and 1975 included, respectively, the Native Indian Teacher Education Program (NITEP and B.Ed degree) in the Faculty of Education and the Native Law Program (now First Nations Legal Studies, LL.B degree) in the Faculty of Law.

In 1987, the First Nations House of Learning (FNHL) was established as a unit within the President’s Office following the findings and recommendations of the Berger/Kirkness (1984) Report of the President’s Ad Hoc Committee on British Columbia Native Indian People and Communities. The FNHL is dedicated to providing a positive environment for students, staff and faculty, founded upon First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures and philosophies. The FNHL facilitates the participation of Aboriginal people in a wide range of study areas by assisting with the development of academic initiatives, providing information on post-secondary opportunities and by offering support services to students on the Vancouver campus.

From its inception, UBC Okanagan has heavily invested in Aboriginal Programming, Services and partnerships with the Aboriginal Community, in particular with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, the En’owkin Centre and the Kelowna Friendship Centre. Additionally UBC Okanagan is supported by a large and engaged Aboriginal Advisory Council. The first Aboriginal initiatives were developed and implemented by the OUC and were subsequently adopted by UBC Okanagan. These included Aboriginal Programs and Services, the Indigenous Studies Program and the Aboriginal Students Centre. The UBC Okanagan Centre, currently under construction, will honour the traditions and cultures of the Okanagan Nation and it will be a resource to Aboriginal communities, students, staff and faculty.

Over a 20 year period, improvements have occurred with more Aboriginal academic programs, new admissions policies and practices, and appointments of more Aboriginal faculty and staff. At present there are 20 Aboriginal Coordinators in Programs and Faculties at UBC Okanagan and Vancouver campuses and centres. Sixteen Aboriginal Faculty members with tenure or tenure track appointments are engaged in teaching, research and community based endeavours locally, nationally and internationally. One faculty member holds a Canada Research Chair.

There are numerous Aboriginal Advisory Councils that include Aboriginal community representatives.

Examples of the wide range and variety of programs and initiatives with specific Aboriginal focus throughout the University include, at UBC V, the Xwi7xwa Library; Institute for Aboriginal Health, First Nations Studies Program and First Nations Languages Program in the Faculty of Arts, Ts`’Kel Graduate Studies program in the Faculty of Education, Aboriginal Residency Program in the Faculty of Medicine, CEDAR Program in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, Squamish FN BSW program in the School of Social Work, Forest Resources Management Program in the Faculty of Forestry, Chinook Program in the Sauder School of Business, and at UBC O the Indigenous Studies major and minor programs, Summer Graduate Studies Institute Program, and the Aboriginal Access Program.

Some of these programs (e.g., Chinook) employ collaborative models of delivery with other post-secondary institutions and all have benefited from input from Aboriginal communities. To make UBC resources more accessible to Aboriginal learners, UBC had an admissions policy creating unique access opportunities for Canadian Aboriginal students. UBC O has also been making a strategic use of the Access Studies to facilitate eligibility for admission to degree programs of Aboriginal students who do not meet at the onset UBC admission requirements.

Challenges and Opportunities

While there have been many gains, especially in the area of academic programs reflecting Aboriginal focus, there is still considerable work to be done in order to substantially increase Aboriginal student enrolment and success. UBC Aboriginal enrolment is estimated to be 0.72% at the Vancouver campus and 7.0% at the Okanagan campus. Barriers reported by Aboriginal students include separation from the communities, sense of isolation within the university structures, high costs of post-secondary education (increased tuition fees; high cost of textbooks), high costs of living on/near campus, and various forms of racism. Federal funding has been capped at 1986 levels in spite of the increased numbers of Aboriginal students eligible for and seeking opportunities in higher learning, and not all Aboriginal learners (e.g., non-status Indians or Métis students) have been eligible for this targeted funding.

Other contextual challenges relate to the low levels of high school graduation for Aboriginal learners leading to low levels of post-secondary participation, especially in universities. The recently released Campus 2020 Report indicates that Aboriginal students’ high school completion rate is half that of the rest of British Columbia peers. Furthermore, a relatively high percentage of Aboriginal learners graduate with credentials insufficient for university admission. In some Aboriginal communities, university education has failed to develop a reputation of a worthwhile endeavour, one that can result in tangible benefits to Aboriginal people and their communities. Urban Aboriginal students’ participation in post-secondary education is one-third that of the rest of the province and rural Aboriginal students participate at one-fifth of the provincial rate. The latter one-fifth participation rate has remained unchanged, despite the significant growth in eligible Aboriginal population since 1990.

Finally, within the university settings, there continues to be a shortage of role models and mentors for Aboriginal students, with still a very small complement of Aboriginal faculty and staff across both UBC campuses. Aboriginal faculty and staff recruitment and retention continue to be a significant challenge, as are provisions to ensure that Aboriginal faculty and staff are appropriately resourced and supported to fulfill their multiple roles as university researchers and teachers in the context of additional, often substantial, responsibilities and expectations related to their involvement within Aboriginal communities.

Campus 2020 has recommended the goal of equitable participation of Aboriginal learners by 2020. UBC will not be in a position to effectively respond to this mandate unless it develops and implements a bold Aboriginal strategic plan that will assert the importance of Aboriginal education within the university; identify and respond to systemic challenges that have created obstacles to Aboriginal access and success; establish tangible goals, priorities, and strategies for the advancement of Aboriginal education at UBC and solidify University commitments necessary for them to be implemented.