What does it mean to decolonize Concordia’s pedagogy?

As Concordia seeks to Indigenize its pedagogy, some loud voices push back on Concordia’s innovation.

On Sept. 8, 2023, Concordia announced the launch of a five-year plan to decolonize and Indigenize the university’s curriculum and pedagogy. This comes three years after the Indigenous Action Plan was first published in 2019. Since then, the action plan continues to evolve and reshape Concordia’s approach to the Indigenous community. 

The five-year plan, however, has faced criticisms from an opinion piece written on Feb.12 by a known associate of Jeffery Epstein, speculating that with this plan Concordia is “a place to avoid if you’re hoping for a serious education.” Some Concordia tenured professors also bashed the plan on Twitter/X, while controversial figures such as Jordan Peterson ranted about their opinions on their social media platforms. 

Donna Kahérakwas Goodleaf, director of decolonizing curriculum and pedagogy at Concordia’s Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) hopes that this five-year plan will make a strong impact on the next generation of students and be an example for other higher education institutions.

“I don’t want my nieces or nephews to go into higher education and still not see themselves being validated in the curriculum at a university level,” Goodleaf said. 

“So we have a collective responsibility together as educators to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes that have occurred in past history with regards to the history of residential schools, for example.”

For Goodleaf, Indigenizing pedagogy means “incorporating our diverse theoretical perspectives in a respectful and meaningful way.” It also means to have faculty attempt to include the diverse Indigenous knowledge in their course outlines. Programs at the university are encouraged to come to the CTL and work with Goodleaf to reevaluate their pedagogy in order to find ways to incorporate Indigenous knowledge in it. 

Some programs that are currently undergoing such revisions are engineering and communications. Both have started working with Goodleaf on the decolonization process in their respective programs.

Monika Gagnon, a full-time professor of 25 years and former chair of the communications department, said that the process has been ongoing since her time as chair in 2020. Gagnon worked with Goodleaf and the communications department to see in which courses they can incorporate indigenous views, voices, and histories in their outlines. Decolonizing the curriculum will also expose students to the truth about Canada’s history. 

“I feel like we’re hearing something very different from our upcoming generations of students that are wanting to learn the truth of our own histories and relationship to indigenous colonial histories that we have,” she said.

The department took aspects from Concordia’s Action Plan as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commision of Canada: Calls to Action, the latter’s focus being Call to Action #86, which calls upon journalism and media schools to educate students on the history of Indigenous peoples.  

Sandra Gabriele, vice-provost of Innovation in Teaching & Learning, agrees with Goodleaf that disciplines should not be static in the way that they address world events. With this belief in mind, Gabriele believes that changes to the curriculum and new approaches to world views are crucial. 

“What the university experience should be offering its students is this exposure to a variety of different kinds of ideas and different world views and different ways of understanding a particular problem,” she said. 

With Concordia wanting to be the next-generation university, Gabriele feels that by continuing to use traditional Western views in the curriculum, students and the university as a whole won’t grow. The Indigenous Action Plan and the five-year plan continue to make consistent efforts in promoting the university’s educational growth and celebrate the Indigenous community within the university. However, there’s still work that needs to be done to ensure Concordia commits to their mission. Goodleaf and Gabriele will not allow any critics’s opinions and views to hinder their work, instead they’re focussing on the positive effects they’re bringing to the university.

“Whenever something is good, of course you’re going to experience resistance no matter what that is. The key here is to not let that keep you stuck in that, but to move above it and to move forward and be better than what’s out there,” Goodleaf said.

“Because for me this work is so important, it’s about creating a society where we can peacefully coexist with each other as humans and with the natural world. That’s the philosophy of this work. That’s the vision of why I do this work here at Concordia.”

In addition to the help and guidance offered by Goodleaf and the CTL, there are also other in-depth resources for students and faculty. Check out the links below to familiarize yourself with the Indigenous community!


Get to the Indigenous staff:

Indigenous Directions:

Ostenhàka Student Centre:

Kaié:ri Nikawerà:ke Indigenous Bridging Program:

Indigenous Directions Leadership Council (IDLC):

Pîkiskwêtân Learning Series:


Montrealers March for Every Child Matters

Demonstrators at the Every Child Matters rally. MELISSA MIGUEIS/The Concordian

A wave of orange shirts flooded the streets of Downtown Montreal for the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The Every Child Matters march took place on Friday, Sept. 30 in Montreal to commemorate the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Montrealers wearing orange shirts gathered at the base of Mount Royal to listen to powerful speeches by Indigenous leaders before beginning the march through Downtown Montreal.

Demonstrators playing traditional songs during the rally. MELISSA MIGUEIS/The Concordian

The event, organized by Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and Resilience Montreal, was meant to honour the children who died in Canada’s residential school system, celebrate the strength of survivors and Indigenous communities, and demand government accountability. 

“When I listen to the prime minister say ‘Truth and Reconciliation,’ this is a nice, it’s a beginning, but without really being aware of the truth, how can you really reconcile,” said Steve McComber, a Mohawk elder from Kahnawá:ke during his speech.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — also known as Orange Shirt Day — was declared a recognized federal holiday in 2021. The use of the orange shirt was inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor who was forced to remove her orange shirt on her first day of residential school. 

Residential schools in Canada operated from the 1870s to 1996, impacting an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children. To date, thousands of unmarked graves have been found across Canada at former residential schools.

In May 2021, buried bodies of 215 children were found at Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. As of May 2022, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s Memorial Register confirmed the names of 4,130 children who passed away while attending residential schools.

Child holding a sign during the rally. MELISSA MIGUEIS/The Concordian

Grand chief, Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, expressed in their speech that Canadians have a role and responsibility to honour “all of those lost children.”  

“It’s just unbelievable what this country has put Indigenous people through,” Sky-Deer said.

Autumn Godwin, a member of the Generational Warriors group, shared that her own mother and great-grandmother went to residential school.

She said that a lot of the impacts are still felt today from the residential schools, such as recovering language and ceremonies. “I think that we’re just still in the very very beginning of understanding what that means and why it’s so important for the rest of Canada to catch up to what we’ve been saying for a very long time.”

Sky-Deer expressed that there are a lot of messages that need to be sent to the provincial and federal government about the history of the last 500 years against Indigenous people. 

“Let’s honour the children of today by remembering those children that were lost as a result of residential schools and the genocidal acts of Canada,” said Sky-Deer.

That’s exactly what Montrealers did at 1 p.m. on Sept. 30 as they marched the streets of Downtown Montreal, chanting “when I say land, you say back” and “no pride in genocide” in their orange shirts.

Demonstrator chanting while marching. MELISSA MIGUEIS/The Concordian

A brief history of medical racism in Canada

How the healthcare sector has repeatedly failed Indigenous people

Content warning: This story contains some elements of racism and abuse, which some readers may find disturbing

Though the topic of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada has regained some public attention since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, nothing has served as a more vivid reminder of this reality than the recent death of Joyce Echaquan and Georges-Hervé Awashish.

Hospitalized for stomach pains, Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman livestreamed the abuse she experienced by the medical staff whose care she was under, as she screamed for help and pleaded that she was being given too much morphine. She passed later that evening, after spending two days in the hospital, leaving her husband with the care of their seven children. Awashish, an Atikamekw man from Obedjiwan, did not receive the same spotlight from the public, but his treatment was just as poor. The circumstances of his passing are still being investigated.

As protesters decried the deeply entrenched problem of racism in the medical industry, specifically when it comes to the care of First Nations peoples, Premier François Legault’s reaction and apology sparked controversy when he didn’t directly address the systemic nature of racism in our province, with many recalling his denial of it over the summer.

We know this is false. And the fact that Legault used to be our province’s Minister of Health makes this belief all the more alarming.

Articles revealing the absurd statistics about racial bias in our medical system are not scarce. A 2017 report confirmed a five-to-seven year gap between the life expectancies of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, as well as an infant mortality rate 1.5 times higher for Indigenous populations. These numbers barely touch the surface of the issue; among these communities, studies have recorded higher rates of HIV/AIDS, diabetes, tuberculosis, depression and anxiety, substance abuse, and deaths from accidental or preventable conditions.

Studies about the disenfranchisement of Indigenous people in the medical industry point to disproportionately inaccessible and underfunded services, deficient education and data collection systems, and failure to consider cultural barriers as the main culprits.

But the government isn’t the only authoritative body to have failed Indigenous people; so have medical practitioners themselves. Other than the victims of doctors and nurses’ individual discrimination, who have turned into statistics and archived stories in the public’s eyes, genetics-based medical research has also often proven to uphold or be rooted in racial biases.

In 1962, geneticist James V. Neel formulated what he called the “thrifty gene hypothesis” — a supposed genetic explanation for Indigenous people’s higher tendency to be affected by diabetes and obesity.

In 2020, this hypothesis still has yet to be confirmed, and many experts have flagged it as a lazy excuse to shrug off responsibility for the type II diabetes epidemic currently plaguing First Nations communities.

The emphasis on genetics has repeatedly served this purpose. During the H1N1 pandemic, researchers were quick to suspect a correlation between the exponential rates at which the virus spread in Indigenous communities as a genetic predisposition. This meant relieving some of society’s accountability for the long-standing socio-economic circumstances that have led to higher chances of transmission and greater risk for medical complications — circumstances which have re-emerged in the age of COVID-19.

And let’s not forget the healthcare workers who took the practice of eugenics into their own hands for decades and performed forced, irreversible sterilization procedures on over a thousand Indigenous women. Shielded from legal repercussions by proclaiming these women were “mentally defective,” overly promiscuous, or alcoholics, practitioners were allowed to continue these operations until 2018, as far as we know.

The indictments of these practices as a form of genocide can hardly be called controversial. And those who choose to fool themselves into thinking that we aren’t a racist province are those who will continue to vote for a leadership whose agenda purposely excludes Indigenous rights and issues. I wonder how Premier Legault has managed to convince himself that these blatant acts of racism aren’t systemic. Crying ignorance to these issues is unacceptable; in 2020, it’s become irresponsible not to know.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab


Concordia celebrates five years of First Voices Week

First Voices Week Concordia celebrated its fifth year last week, from Feb. 3 to 7.

The week-long series of events was led by Indigenous students, faculty and staff at Concordia University, in collaboration with several faculty departments and organizations.

The organizing committee offered workshops, documentary screenings, a solidarity gathering for the Wet’suwet’en Nation in their land defense, an art exhibit and lectures, among other events.

Cathy Richardson, director of First Peoples Studies, said that this event series sends a clear message.

“We’re here,” she said. “You didn’t kill us all off, I know the government tried. We still face issues of structural violence,  but we’re here. We’re trying to thrive and have influence.”

Richardson said that First Voices Week is crucial.

It affirms the Indigenous presence on campus, allows Indigenous students to see themselves reflected in the institution as well as taking a leadership role in the programming,” she explained.

For example, the week-long art exhibit, located at the EV junction, featured art from current Indigenous students at Concordia. Alyssa Isaac, a Mi’gmaq artist from the community of Litsugu, Quebec, studies electroacoustics; and Morning Star Fayard, a Metis, Cree First Nation from the Cree community of Mistissini, studies economics.

Isaac’s art piece was an auditory experience that used the sound of beads running over each other, which were altered and layered to give off a “dream-like vibe.” Fayard displayed traditional winter clothing made from moosehide, like gloves and mocassins, all decorated with beadings or sewn illustrations. The clothing was coupled with a poem titled “Thankful~,” which gave her thanks to the moose who was used to make the clothing, and whose body was used without a spare.

On Wednesday, the same day as the Solidarity Gathering for the Wet’suwet’en Nation, First Voices Week Concordia published a letter on Facebook, reiterating their solidarity. As stated in their press release, the Coastal GasLink (CGL) never obtained consent to operate within unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. In the release, First Voices Week Concordia condemns the use of violence against Indigenous nations by the RCMP and calls for their immediate withdrawal from Wet’suwet’en territory.

First Voices Week also gave their “solidarity to the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who represent all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and who unanimously reject the CGL pipeline on their territory.” First Voices Week calls on everyone to pay attention to the violence and intimidation directed toward the Wet’suwet’en nation at this time and infers that these acts are a clear indication of persisting Canadian colonialism.

At the Loyola Campus, in collaboration with the Hive Free Lunch Program, there was a special lunch made from traditional Three Sisters recipes using corn, squash, and red beans, coupled with a virtual reality short film experience. According to the presentation, the three plants were historically the base of the Huron-Wendat and Mohawk diet. It was explained that the practice of growing these plants together is still done today, as the leaves of the corn plant protect the squash from the elements, like wind, while the squash leaves prevent weeds from growing. The beans, in turn, release nitrogen into the soil and climb up the corn stalks as they grow.

“Centering Indigenous achievements and issues raises awareness of the possibilities of Indigenous rights taking more space in Canada and having others accommodate these changes towards a just and equitable society, where Indigenous treaties and lands are respected,” said Richardson.


Photos by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil


Regards Croisés: Discussing climate crisis through Indigenous art

The House of Sustainable Development presented Regards Croisés sur la Crise Climatique et les Droits Humains to discuss the climate crisis and human rights through arts and science, alongside Équiterre and Amnesty International Canada Francophone on Nov. 28.

The event was meant to highlight the current climate crisis and its effects on basic human rights, according to Courtney Mullins, Équiterre’s senior communications officer. It focused on Indigenous communities, with the goal of exploring how to work together to cope with climate change.

Mullins explained that vulnerable populations, who are the least responsible for the climate crisis, are usually the most affected. She stressed the importance of creating links between the climate crisis and human rights, as they have the same root problem.

“We really wanted to bring forward that the climate crisis is not just from a scientific perspective but from a cultural perspective as well,” said Mullins.

The event began with a performance by Émilie Monnet, Dayna Danger and Nahka Bertrand, three members of Odaya, a music group composed of Indigenous women formed in 2007. They opened with the song “Seven Grandfathers,” which is performed using vocables, words composed of various sounds or letters without referential meaning, accompanied by traditional drums.

The song describes how many Indigenous people think seven generations ahead and three generations behind, Bertrand explained. “So we situate ourselves in the middle. It’s the thinking forward tool for future generations, to the faces that are coming and their wellbeing.”

Bertrand, who joined Odaya in 2011, talked about the importance of using science to start a dialogue, but also the value of using arts and Indigenous culture to create emotional connections to environmental issues.

The event also presented Hivunikhavut – Notre Futur, a short film by Marianne Falardeau-Côté about her work in Nunavut that bridges local and scientific knowledge in the Kitikmeot Region. The film told the story of a two-day workshop that took place in Nunavut in March of 2018. The workshop combined art, science and storytelling as a means of discussing possible future changes to the region. Participants from Kitikmeot were asked to contribute to scenario building, or creating “plausible stories about the future” on marine development, governance and climate change.

Art has actually been shown as a great way to bring together knowledge systems and bridge different ways of knowing,” said Falardeau-Côté in an interview with The Concordian. “When art is involved it gets more to the emotions and we put away our boundaries and just go into it.”

She explained that it’s important to bring art into these conversations and that, in her experience, people react more to art. “There was something about the paintings that words would never be able to describe,” she said Falardeau-Côté.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

A guide to the sacred traditions of Montréal’s trees

Unearth the historic roots running throughout the island of Tiohtiá:ke

Scientific historians speculate that it was Aristotle who first decided all living things could be divided into two domains: plants and animals. While biological taxonomy is a touch more complicated these days, the conceptual divide between flora and fauna remains central to western scientific thinking about nature.

But here’s the thing: a key assumption of that conceptual divide is that animals are apperceptive, while plants are not. Plants don’t feel pain, while animals do. Yet, over the past few decades, there have been a number of startling studies—such as one led by Antonio Scialdone at the U.K.’s John Innes Centre, which found that Arabidopsis thaliana were “capable of doing some complex arithmetic to prevent starvation at night.” These findings, as well as others, suggest this divide may not be as clear cut as it seems.

Trees, in particular, are known to have strangely sentient qualities about them. The belief that trees have some kind of innate intelligent life has been with us for millennia, as Cambridge professor Stanley Arthur Cook wrote in the 1911 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. So, it is not surprising that trees are cited as having spiritual properties in many sacred traditions.

The Concordian teamed up with the Concordia Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre to create this guide to the sacred traditions associated with the trees found on the island of Tiohtiá:ke/Montréal, unceded Indigenous territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation.

You can use the provided map to find locations where these trees grow, and the leaf graphics to help identify specific species. For each one, we mention which aspect of life it is supposed to help with, from prosperity to fertility. If you’re struggling with something, why not try meditating on it under one of the trees associated with your problem?

1. Rapides du Cheval Blanc Park: Ash tree

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, the Ash tree was very important to the ancient druids of Briton, and had a prominent place in Celtic culture. It was considered the female partner of the Father Tree, the Oak. The Celts valued Ash for its healing and enchantment properties. The Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region have also had a long connection to the Ash tree, according to Nicholas J. Reo from Michigan State University. Within these communities, though, it is valued less for it’s spiritual properties and more as a construction resource, particularly for baskets and snowshoes. However, there is a tradition within the Wabanaki Confederacy that maintains that humans were first created from Black Ash trees, according to Native Languages of the Americas, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Indigenous languages of the western hemisphere.

2. Corner of St. Sulpice and Picket Roads: Birch tree

According to Trees for Life, Scotland’s leading conservation volunteering charity, in parts of Europe the Birch tree is linked to fertility, healing magic, new beginnings and purification. This is likely because its seeds can thrive in extremely inhospitable environments, so they’re usually the first trees to grow again on land that has been razed. Through their resiliency, they set up the new ecosystem for the slow-growers like Oak and Beech. In some Ojibwe and Chippewa communities, Birch bark is thought of as a sacred gift, and was sometimes used in ceremonial wrapping of the deceased for burial, according to Dr. Kelly S. Meier, the Senior Director of Institutional Diversity at Minnesota State University. In fact, Birch bark does have medicinal properties for pain relief, and birch leaves can be used for treating arthritis, according to WebMD.

3. Corner of Guy Street and Argyle Avenue: Cedar tree

According to the Indigenous Studies department at the University of British Columbia, in Ojibwe traditions, the Cedar tree is associated with cleansing, protection and prosperity. It is thought of as the most sacred tree among some Indigenous communities. The west coast Indigenous peoples consider the Red Cedar to be the “tree of life” and believe that it plays a key role in nurturing the mind, body and soul. A prayer of respect is recited prior to any part of the tree being harvested. This is because of Cedar’s ubiquitous use in all parts of northwest Indigenous peoples’ lives, including canoes, clothing, cooking utensils, medicines, ceremonial masks and more, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.

4. Raymond Park: Oak tree

For many Indigenous tribes of east and mid-eastern North America, Oak is a medicine tree, connected with strength and protection, according to Native Languages of the Americas. Individual Oaks are known for their tremendous size and longevity. According to Indigenous tradition, the location of Oak trees often serve as spiritual and civic centres for important gatherings. In Celtic lore, the Oak is regarded as the holiest of holy trees, according to the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. The ancient Greeks and Romans also associated the Oak with their highest gods—Zeus and Jupiter respectively. Even the Norse associated it with Thor, their god of thunder. The Oak tree is the ultimate spiritual symbol of strength and endurance.

5. Wilfrid Laurier Park: Maple tree

Maple syrup was known and valued by Indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia, long before the arrival of European settlers. This tree is so central to some Indigenous cultures that the explanation of the origin of maple syrup production figures into their story about when the Creator made earth world itself. In many North American Indigenous legends, maple syrup originally comes out of the maple tree already edible.
However, at some point, an intervening trickster god—whose name differs from community to community—forces people to process the sap if they want the sweet reward. According to Indian Country Wisconsin, in Anishinaabe legend the god’s name is Wenebojo, but in Abenaki legend he’s named Gluskabe. The maple tree is also seen as a tree of tolerance and gentleness in many Indigenous traditions. It is also the preferred source of ‘talking sticks’, a tool used during council meetings to indicate whose turn it is to speak.

The Concordia Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre runs a series of field-trips every school year to various sacred sites. For more information about this year’s outings contact the centre:

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda.

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