Tag Archives: York University

A #YUBlog Guide to Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

This is a re-post of a #YUBlog post published June 21, 2018.

On Thursday, June 21st, celebrations will take place across Canada in the name of National Indigenous Peoples Day. Some may be Powwows, others may be bustling Indigenous pop-up street markets and others may offer the opportunity to adorn First Nations-made beaded earrings. There are many ways to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day — however, many Canadians may not understand what this day is, why it is needed and how to appropriately celebrate the occasion.

For this post, the #YUBlog has partnered with York University’s Centre for Aboriginal Student Services (CASS) and Larissa Crawford, Indigenous Student Transitions Coordinator at CASS, to develop a special-edition guide to National Indigenous Peoples Day! CASS provides York U Indigenous students, staff and faculty with culturally appropriate services and supports and works with the York University community to Indigenize York University spaces. We hope this guide will give you some insight into National Indigenous Peoples Day and help you celebrate!

An image of the CASS entrance.
You can visit the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services in room 246 York Lanes on the Keele Campus!

What is National Indigenous Peoples Day?

June 21 was chosen to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day because it corresponds with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a time that many Indigenous groups have traditionally celebrated culture and heritage. In 1996, the Governor General of Canada proclaimed that the federal government will recognize National Aboriginal Day on this date. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the symbolic renaming of the holiday to “National Indigenous Peoples Day,” coinciding with the preferred term to refer to the original inhabitants of what we now know as Canada.

You’ll often see a generic explanation of National Indigenous Peoples Day as a time for all Canadians to celebrate the cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples and their contributions to Canada. However, this idea only reflects half of its purpose: National Indigenous Peoples Day also recognizes Canada’s colonial history, the contemporary issues and realities of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous futurism.

An image of the interior CASS office.
If you have any questions about CASS, you can contact them at 416-736-5571!

Why is it Important to Have National Indigenous Peoples Day?

It is important to celebrate Indigenous contributions to Canada, and to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of Indigenous Peoples. What many Canadians do not realize is that there are many nations of Indigenous People in Canada: there is no one “Indigenous perspective”, universal Indigenous beliefs or style of art and dance. National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the unique Indigenous People in your community or region!

However, to choose only to celebrate certain aspects and contributions of Indigenous Peoples can actually do more harm than good. If we decide to ignore colonial legacies and only recognize the beautiful artwork or ceremony of Indigenous People, then not only do we erase their harsh historical and contemporary realities, but we fail to recognize the resiliency and strength it took to keep Indigenous cultures and people alive (which only makes everything worth celebrating all that more impressive and inspiring).

A photo of a Thunderbird carved across two doors in the CASS office.
CASS is home to “Strength of Thunderbird”, a beautiful art piece by Jay Bell Redbird.

We can’t change the past; however, we can be honest and educate ourselves so that history does not repeat itself . . . Through a sense of hope, we can develop a path forward together, as our ancestors intended.” – Georgina Jolibois, 2017

What Resources Can I Use to Learn about Indigenous Peoples?

National Indigenous Peoples Day offers everyone an opportunity to deepen their understanding and awareness of the adversities Indigenous People face and have overcome. With the efforts to Indigenize and improve relations with Indigenous People following the Calls to Action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), culturally appropriate resources and information are readily accessible (and comprehensive) for all Canadians.

With this increased access, the excuse of ignorance is becoming less and less acceptable. However, we at CASS recognize that it can be daunting: not all resources are created equally or appropriately, and with so much information, where do you even begin? Recognizing this, here are a few resources to enhance your understanding of Indigenous history and lived realities:

  • Approved TRC resources
  • “Solving the ‘Indian Problem’: Assimilation Laws, Practices and Indian Residential Schools” (PDF): A brief history of institutionalized genocide and assimilation.
  • Groundwork for Change: An information source geared toward non-Indigenous people that serves as a one stop shop for reliable information. This can help people learn about historical and contemporary issues related to Indigenous peoples and relationships with non-Indigenous governments and peoples in the Canadian state.
  • Indigenous Canada Online Course (University of Alberta): A 12-lesson online course facilitated out of the University of Alberta that, from an Indigenous perspective, explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective, highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations.
  • Canadian Roots Exchange: A youth-led non-profit organization that seeks to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth through exchanges, the Youth Reconciliation Initiative and a national conference.
  • Mapping Indigenous Languages in Canada: An eye-opening article mapping “[Canada’s] Indigenous linguistic landscape” and the regions in which these languages are spoken today.
A photo of a floral beaded painting by Christi Belcourt.
You can’t miss this stunning piece of artwork created by Métis (Otipemisiwak) artist Christi Belcourt in the CASS office!

How do You Know You’re Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day Appropriately?

So you’ve committed to broadening your understanding of National Indigenous Peoples Day, Indigenous history, contemporary realities and Indigenous culture. You may have explored a few of the resources above and had a conversation or two with some Indigenous friends and colleagues. Now, how do you spend National Indigenous Peoples Day, and how do you know you’re doing it in a way that is respectful?

Here are some considerations to ask yourself and some steps to take before and while celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day:

  • Learn some language! Just as a responsible and courteous traveller learns some basic language skills before immersing themself in a culture and place that is not familiar, so should Canadians learn Indigenous languages. There is a nation-wide push for Indigenous language revitalization and for some to even be recognized as an official language. If this became the case, more than just Indigenous people would have to speak it, right? In the short term, you could take the time and respectfully learn a few greeting and parting words. To learn more about Indigenous language revitalization and languages of Ontario, visit Ontario Investing in Indigenous Language Revitalization.
  • Know whose land you’re on. If you are non-Indigenous, you are occupying land that is being colonized. To have a greater understanding of the original caregivers and history of the land, visit Whose Land. Whose Land is an educational tool and interactive map that is useful for understanding Indigenous treaties and communities across Canada and includes videos of appropriate land acknowledgments.
  • Understand what allyship can look like to Indigenous people. You can find an outline of allyship and an ally’s responsibilities in the Ally Bill of Responsibilities (PDF) by Dr. Lynn Gehl, an Anishinaabe-kwe scholar. This is important to review if you’re concerned about practicing allyship appropriately.
  • Understand that it is not the job of Indigenous People to teach you. Métis/Irish author, Melanie Lefebrve, wrote, “If you don’t have time to educate yourself, then I can’t help you”, in the article, “It’s Not My Job to Teach You about Indigenous People. You should not expect that all Indigenous People are experts on all things Indigenous or that they have the time and energy to teach you.
  • Support Indigenous businesses and services. There are many Indigenous businesses and services across Toronto and the GTA that would benefit from your business and shopping with them can be a great way to support Indigenous people. Visit the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Businesses’ Membership Directory to find an array of Indigenous businesses from across Canada (search by province, name or sector).
  • Know the protocol. Take the time before going to Powwows or Indigenous ceremonies to understand the protocol, whether that be by researching or kindly asking a volunteer or worker once you’ve arrived. Read the CBC’s article, “A Guide to Taking Your Family to a Powwow for the First Time” for some Powwow protocol.
A photo of a quilt on a wall with a large Medicine Wheel on it.
When you walk into CASS, you’ll see this beautiful Medicine Wheel quilt on the wall!

Are There Any Other National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebrations I Can Attend?

If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area and are interested in attending National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations throughout the week, take a look at a few of these events:

  • If you’re in Brampton, the National Indigenous Peoples Day at Garden Square will be taking place on Thursday, June 21 from 12:30pm to 1:30pm and 6pm to 8:30pm.
  • The Toronto Zoo’s National Indigenous Peoples Day event will take place on Thursday, June 21 and will feature Indigenous music, art, vendors and speakers. Free admission will be provided to Aboriginal peoples with the presentation of a status card, Métis card or an Inuit Health Branch Client Identification Number (N-Number).
  • Visit the Indigenous Arts Festival taking place between Thursday, June 21 and Sunday, June 24 at Fort York. The event includes education days and public festivals!
  • Attend the Na-Me-Res Annual Powwow on Saturday, June 23 at Fort York starting at noon EST.
  • Go to APTN Indigenous Day Live on Saturday, June 23 at Fort York starting at 5pm EST and catch some of the most recognized entertainers in Indigenous music and television!
  • The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto is having an Indigenous History Month Celebration taking place on Wednesday, June 27, from noon to 8pm EST in Dundas Square. The event is free.

Searching keywords such as “National Indigenous Peoples Day [place of interest] 2018” on Google will provide you with a great selection of events taking place across Toronto and the GTA!

How will you honour National Indigenous Peoples Day? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @YorkUStudents!

This #YUBlog post was written by Larissa Crawford. Larissa is a graduating undergraduate student from the International Development Studies and Communication Studies programs and the Indigenous Student Transitions Coordinator at CASS. She identifies as Métis-Jamaican and contributes actively to her communities through her Indigenous and anti-racism policy work and research. Larissa regularly delivers speeches and workshops to youth and professionals across Canada on a variety of topics and is most often accompanied by her 1-year-old daughter, Zyra.

Please note that the banner image for this blog post features the artwork of Métis (Otipemisiwak) artist Christi Belcourt.

Connecting with students who might benefit from Student Accessibility Services

Today’s blog post features a guest contribution from Teaching Commons @ York by Raymond Peart, ASD Coordinator at York University. 

York University is committed to providing the student community with an accessible learning environment and offers innovative programs and services to help all students achieve their academic goals. York University is proud to support the new Strengthening Transitions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders initiative that supports students with ASD (including Asperger’s) in their transition from high school into a postsecondary program. If you are a York Faculty member, it is important to be familiar with the learning support resources available to you and your students at York University.

Integrated support services are provided through the Strengthening Transitions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders program for the full calendar year, starting in high school, as early as grade 10. Services range from individual, group and community resources. These services include, but are not limited to, mentorship programs, workshops and support groups as well as one-to-one coaching, parent information hubs, sensory spaces, therapy dogs and paid Work/Study opportunities. Programming is open to future and current students, as well as their families and communities.

This collaborative initiative is supported by York University, Seneca College, the Toronto District School Board, the York Catholic District School Board and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

Image by York University
Reach out to Student Accessibility Services if you have concerns about the best way to support a student.

As Faculty at York University, you observe significant differences in development, ability, presentation of skills, social interaction, communication and behaviour among students within your classroom.  Your experience has enabled you to develop a clear perspective on characteristics within the classroom that can be considered typical. Additionally, with the experience you have gained, you may observe that a student may present with variations from the rest of the class that are significant.  Some of these variations may cause:

  • you to consider and stop to think about what you are seeing;
  • persisting disruptions and problems.

While some situations might be easy to determine, other situations may be subtler and/or difficult to explain.  Consequently, there may be times when you don’t know what to do. When you have concerns about a student in this situation, it may be helpful to reach out to Student Accessibility Services (SAS) with your query.

Image by York University
Review these guidelines to determine how to best assist students.

For more information about the Strengthening Transitions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, please visit: http://asd-initiative.yorku.ca/ or contact Raymond Peart at  rpeart@yorku.ca, 416-736-5383.

Happy Holidays from the Division of Students

On behalf of the Division of Students at York University, happy holidays to our community of students, staff and faculty! We wish you all a restful, wonderful winter break and a happy new year.

Please note that the University will be closed from December 24 to January 2. Administrative offices re-open January 3 and classes resume January 4.

Fall Reading Week Returns to York University

Between the new subway station, the construction of a new student centre and the expansion of the Schulich School of Business on campus, York University has some significant changes on the horizon. One such change directly benefits students: York’s Senate has passed a student-led proposal to reinstate a full Fall Reading Week beginning October 2018.

The final proposal to amend the Senate Policy on Sessional Dates and the Scheduling of Final Examinations was brought before Senate in October 2017, where it was passed with full support. The decision to schedule two full-length Reading Weeks is in response to the needs of students and is intended to support academic success and student wellness by providing a more effective study/revision period.

Image by York University
York University will reinstate a full Fall Reading Week in October 2018.

Supporting Student Initiatives

There are many benefits to having a full Fall Reading Week. Students will have more time to prepare for midterms, complete important assignments and prepare for the remaining assignments in the term. The driving force behind the longer break, however, was to help students balance their academic progress with awareness of health and wellness. With a few extra days to revise during the Fall term, students will have more opportunities to access key academic support services and decompress, easing academic strain. York University places a high emphasis on supporting student health and wellness, which is integral to their academic success.

Carol Altilia, Registrar of York University, spoke about the significance of the move towards a full Fall Reading Week: “Supporting this student-led initiative underscores the importance that the Division of Students places on partnering with students to advance their matters of concern and emphasizes the University’s commitment to supporting student wellbeing and mental health.”

Image by York University
The full-length Fall Reading Week will provide students with additional opportunities to study, access key academic support services and achieve work-life balance by focusing on their wellbeing.

The impact of the change includes a number of adjustments to Orientation scheduling and modifying the means by which the study day between the end of classes and the first day of exams will be provided to all students. For more information regarding York University important dates, visit the Registrar’s Office website.

Student Accessibility Services: Announcing organization changes to better support the learning, mental health & wellness needs of our students

York University provides students with a range of health and wellness resources to create a healthy, inclusive and supportive environment that fosters well-being among members of the York community and contributes to students’ academic success. Lucy Fromowitz, Vice-Provost Students, and Dr. Marc Wilchesky, Executive Director, Counselling & Disability Services, are pleased to announce the following organization changes to better serve the needs of York U students.

Image by York University
Personal Counselling Services will be renamed Student Counselling & Development (SCD).

Effective immediately, Learning Disability Services (LDS), Mental Health Disability Services (MHDS) and Physical, Sensory & Medical Disability Services (PSMDS) will be collectively renamed “Student Accessibility Services” (SAS) and Personal Counselling Services will now be called “Student Counselling & Development” (SCD). These changes will help students and the University community easily identify the appropriate support provider for students’ specific needs. Note that the Glendon campus will continue to provide health, wellness and accessibility services on that campus under the current name of The Accessibility, Well-Being & Counselling (AWC) Centre.

Maureen Barnes, current manager of Learning Disability Services, will assume the role of Director, Student Accessibility Services to ensure an efficient and effective transition of York’s three separate accessibility service units into one department that will deliver consistent and transparent services to students. Karen Swartz and Mark Mingail will continue in their current leadership roles in SAS. Polly MacFarlane, current director of Personal Counselling Services, will assume the role of Director, Student Counselling & Development.

Image by York University
York provides a range of health, wellness and academic resources to support student success.

The realignment of SAS includes developing a new communications plan to help all members of the York community differentiate between accessibility services (learning; mental health; and physical, sensory and medical) and counselling services. Although SAS will no longer use the various unit names (Learning Disability Services, Mental Health Disability Services and Physical, Sensory & Medical Disability Services), each of those teams will remain intact and will continue to support students as they do currently.

York’s decision to position the two support pillars – Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and Student Counselling & Development (SCD) – is in keeping with an ongoing transition throughout the postsecondary education sector in both Canada and the United States. Current scholarship and industry practice points to a shift away from the use of the term “disability” when describing services and resources toward the more inclusive term “accessibility.” The name change to Student Accessibility Services emphasizes the significant role of the accessibility unit in helping to make the campus more accessible for learning. The name change to Student Counselling & Development better reflects their mandate to help York students realize, develop and fulfill their personal potential in order to maximally benefit from their university experience and manage the challenges of university life.

These organization changes, in turn, support and align with the Division of Students’ vision – to be Partners in Student Success.

Changes will roll out gradually in digital and print communications over the next month and be complete by the New Year.

For more information about Student Accessibility Services visit: yorku.ca/accessibility-services

For more information about Student Counselling & Development visit: yorku.ca/student-counselling

“All Together Now” — York hosts the 2017 Ontario Academic Advising Professionals (OAAP) Conference

Today marks the first day of the 2017 Ontario Academic Advising Professionals (OAAP) Conference at York University’s Keele Campus! Hosted over the next day and a half – October 26 to October 27 – the conference welcomes delegates from colleges and universities across Ontario to discuss developments in academic advising. Notable keynote speaker and York alumnus, Tim Cork, will jumpstart the discussion with an inspiring welcome, followed by 27 workshop sessions developed and led by advising and student services practitioners from across the province.

The conference theme “All Together Now” represents the OAAP’s focus on collaborative, inter-institutional learning and the development of integrated and holistic advising practices that will benefit students. Conference attendees will learn about developments in academic advising that will enhance the student experience, including innovations in mental health and wellness, integrating theory into advising practice, models of advising service delivery, communities of practice and advising techniques and approaches.

Image by York U
York academic advisors prepare for the 2017 OAAP Conference.

The 2017 OAAP Conference was conceptualized and planned by York’s very own academic advising community. Over the past few years, York’s advisors have been coming together as a community to discuss issues, leading practice and to share in advising professional development. Some notable outcomes of working together have been the establishment of a University-wide advising professional development competency framework, the launch of a series of professional development opportunities tailored to advisor needs and an annual internal advising conference.

Academic advisors: We warmly welcome you to York University and hope you are ready to delve into insightful presentations and engage in discussions around how together we can strengthen advising practice in Ontario!

image by york u
A York academic advisor helps plan the 2017 OAAP conference.

The OAAP is dedicated to positively impacting the educational experience of postsecondary students in Ontario and provides academic advisors with professional development opportunities to learn about new strategies to improve and enrich the student experience.

Welcoming Lucy Fromowitz and Celebrating Sizzlin’ Success at the Division of Students Barbecue

Here at YorkU, we have a lot to celebrate this summer: we can reflect proudly on our accomplished graduates as they go out into the world, the foundation of a brand-new Markham campus, and the advent of what promises to be a wonderful 2017-2018 academic year with the appointment of our new Vice-Provost Students, Lucy Fromowitz!

To welcome our new leader and celebrate our staff’s commitment to student success, the Division of Students gathered on Friday, July 21 at The Underground for a Sizzlin’ Success Barbecue. During the event, staff members from the Division of Students shared classic barbecue fare including burgers (with alternate options for various dietary restrictions), salad and popsicles, and settled in to learn a little more about our new Vice-Provost Students and the upcoming year at YorkU.

The Sizzlin’ Summer Celebration

Immediately upon walking into the Sizzlin’ Summer Barbecue, Division of Students staff were treated to a display of YorkU pride. The event committee had transformed the Underground with red and white decorations, balloons and lights to reflect the YorkU colours. After some lively conversation between colleagues, our student MCs took the stage to start the afternoon’s events. Angelica Lyn Grospe and Sebastien Lalonde are dynamic student leaders in the YorkU community and they kept the event rolling with humour and style!

Introducing: Lucy Fromowitz

After welcoming the crowd and inviting Randy Pitawanakwat, Coordinator, Aboriginal Student Services, to acknowledge the Indigenous land upon which YorkU stands, Angelica and Sebastien introduced Lucy Fromowitz.

As a previous YorkU student and employee, Lucy has a unique understanding of the University’s history and identity. In each of her professional roles, Lucy has provided leadership in enhancing student engagement, learning and success. In her new role at YorkU, Lucy will lead the campus in the coordination of advising and student services, promote communications with students, and support strategic enrolment planning and recruitment— all while helping to create a safe, healthy campus environment for students at YorkU.

Lucy took to the stage to discuss the unique role of The Division of Students. She notes that the Division works to create opportunities for student success by supporting student services, daily administrative requirements, marketing and outreach operations. We also work closely with YorkU’s student population to form a community of ideas and engagement. Students inspire everything we do, and the significance of that was central to Lucy’s address. For Lucy, thinking like and with students is the key to our mandate.

“We have to approach things the way our students do: with curiosity,” she said. “We create with our students.”

Lucy honoured the commitment of the Division of Students staff to supporting student success and service excellence. To demonstrate the dedication of everyone in the department, she asked staff members who had been with YorkU for 25, 10 and five years and then one year to stand up. As people rose with their peers, the room cheered and clapped in recognition.

Lucy continued by saying that, as YorkU moves into the future, engaging with our students and listening to their diverse perspectives will be a cornerstone of creating positive change. Our values – Respect, Accountability, Excellence, Care, Innovation, Inclusion and Collaboration — will guide us as we move into the 2017-2018 academic year, yielding new opportunities. Together, students and staff will continue the collaborative dialogues that make the YorkU campus a progressive, distinct, student-centric place.

After a lighthearted selfie with Lucy, Angelica and Sebastien breezed through the long list of YorkU acronyms, listing terms such as ACE, CDS, SCS, VPF&A, OSCR, CSBO, LSE, SCLD and YU to “help” Lucy reorient herself to York. “York has its own language,” they said, leading to nodding heads and smiles as staff called out the acronyms as they were spoken.

Celebrating the Division of Students Staff

Angelica and Sebastien then introduced Brendan Schulz, Executive Director, Student Success, Carol Altilia, University Registrar, and Sheila Forshaw, Executive Director, Resources.

To illustrate how everyone in the room had a role in supporting our students across the student lifecycle, each audience member stood up as Brendan, Carol and Sheila called out key milestones — recruitment, admission, document processing, registrarial and financial services, health and wellness, student development, care and support, leadership development, career planning. All 200+ staff stood, often more than once, as their collaboration and cooperation was highlighted. The University Registrar next drew attention to the updated “Building on Successes” handout capturing the unit-specific achievements of the past year (2016-17) and encouraged everyone to pick up a copy on their way out.

After recognizing the Division of Students staff, a lively game of “Tips for Lucy” commenced where each table filled out a questionnaire with insider information about the best places to eat, find a quality coffee, mingle with students or unwind, along with the best campus view and the fastest route from Bennett to Tait McKenzie. The interactive game – a brainchild of the Student Success Centre (SSC – another acronym!) team — was an excellent way for staff members to share their experienced perspectives on YorkU with Lucy and with each other.

All staff then gathered outside in the sunny square for popsicles – the perfect close to a summer BBQ.

To experience the event in pictures, click through the Sizzlin’ Success Celebration Flickr feed: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yorkuniversity/albums/72157684025278664.

A special “thank you” to the Event Committee for planning the Sizzlin’ Summer Celebration: Rheza Evangelista, Julie Rahmer, Donna Cope, Saba Rafiq, Catherine Salole, Shanthini Jeyakumar, Dianne Twombley and Mary Dytyniak!