In post-secondary education, aboriginality is considered the single greatest predictor for individuals to not attend university. As a result of the extreme cultural, economic, and political oppression of Aboriginal people in Canada historically and in the present day, students attempting to both enter and succeed in the post-secondary sector face extreme challenges. On McMaster’s campus these challenges continue to be very real. Thus, the MSU will develop a strong strategy to address the issues faced by Aboriginal students on our campus. This strategy will have several components:
1) Research-based Approach
Currently, McMaster University has over 600 self-identified Indigenous students on our campuses. However, because of the barriers that Indigenous students face in many facets of academic and student life, it is often difficult to acquire extensive research on the issues Aboriginal students face. Thus, the first step to this strategy is to commission research into Indigenous services to see how students are being supported at McMaster and what Indigenous students find to be the biggest barriers to their success. Running focus groups will be an extremely important aspect of this research, and will allow the MSU to learn about the issues being faced by a substantial portion of our student population.
2) Improving Student Support
After research has been conducted, it is imperative that the MSU follows up with improving the supports for Indigenous students. Mental health support, Indigenous services, and providing events and initiatives to affirm the identity of Aboriginal students on campus is an extremely important way for the MSU to ensure that Indigenous students feel supported throughout their studies. In addition, based on the findings of the MSU’s research, it will be very important for the MSU to work towards fostering an inclusive community for Indigenous students at McMaster. Finally, because of the MSU’s recent separation from CASA, it is extremely important for us to take a leadership role in supporting these students. Since the federal government provides all education-related funding for Indigenous students, the MSU must engage in federal advocacy to ensure students are supported with on-campus support systems. Thus, it is important to look at this issue in terms of what the MSU specifically can do to support Indigenous students on campus, and to work with the University when necessary to support the creation of a supportive system through which Indigenous students can thrive.