On Tuesday, July 7, the Office of Indigenous Relations invited Waterloo President and Vice-Chancellor Vivek Goel and other campus community members for an event to celebrate the official launch of the Indigenous Strategic Plan 2023-2028. The purpose of this plan is “to assist in guiding the University of Waterloo towards its goal of indigenizing and decolonizing the institution,” according to Jean Becker, associate vice-president of the Office of Indigenous Relations.  

The strategic plan offers a clear outline for implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action and Indigenous human rights, as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in all areas of the University.  

“It is our hope that this plan will help us move beyond words and take meaningful, direct actions on this journey towards reconciliation,” says Becker, within the opening remarks of the document. 

The Indigenous Strategic Plan highlights five key themes: reconciliation, research, services and supports, lands and waters, and building community — all of which outline specific goals. The intention is to advance advocacy, commitments and actionable areas that will enable the University to strengthen Indigenous inclusion and leadership. This work is meant to reflect connection and to promote the shared journey of strengthening relationships and embodying reconciliation. The plan was created by Indigenous voices and allies from Waterloo and the wider community.  

“Waterloo is committed to building long-term relationships with Indigenous Peoples and communities based on respect and reciprocity,” Goel says. “As an institution of higher learning, the University of Waterloo has a unique and important role to play in working towards Truth and Reconciliation.” 

Although the work on an Indigenization Strategy formally began in 2017, the work leading to the creation of the Office of Indigenous Relations began in the 1980s and 90s. Elaine Garner, an Anishinaabe Kwe and former senior manager of Graduate Studies Financial Aid Programs, carried out much of the earliest known indigenization work on campus.

During her 34-year career at Waterloo, she helped establish the first Aboriginal Student Association in the mid 1990s, advocating for Native Studies courses, gatherings and celebrations on campus and she helped establish the Shatitsirótha Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre (WISC) in 2003. Garner was and remains a strong support for First Nations, Inuit and Métis staff and students at Waterloo.  

Future opportunities to learn about the plan will be presented this fall, including a virtual lunch and learn event, where campus faculty, staff and executives can hear more about the plan’s objectives and how to implement them at Waterloo.  

Learn more about the Indigenous Strategic Plan 2023-2028 online on the Office of Indigenous Relations website.   

While the Indigenous initiatives, goals and objectives of the Indigenous Strategic Plan will be reviewed annually by the Office of Indigenous Relations, this plan is meant to guide everybody who is connected to the University and is for all to use.