If you’ve ever been to an event at the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre (WAEC), you might have a pretty good idea of why the University’s Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC) awarded the Centre with the 2017 Equity and Inclusivity Award.
While the Centre is first and foremost a supportive and safe space for Indigenous students, it also manages to engage non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty in the sharing of Indigenous knowledge, and has been especially successful in forming collaborative partnerships with other community organizations.
WAEC activities include everything from outreach educational programs with Indigenous communities, lectures and events, an annual Pow Wow, and – to those on campus – Soup and Bannock lunches every week during the Fall and Winter.
"The Equity and Inclusivity Award is a celebration of members of our community whose actions have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to improving equity, inclusivity, and/or diversity at the University of Waterloo,” said Kate Rybczynski, Chair of SWEC. “It takes a community to bring about change, and the WAEC exemplifies this community by bringing people together.”
WAEC Director Lori Campbell said, “It is truly an honour for WAEC staff and students to be recognized for sharing their cultures, lived experiences, and knowledges with the greater University of Waterloo campus and surrounding community. This is not always an easy task as the Indigenous contemporary reality is born of our collective intergenerational histories.
She added, “We look forward to even larger scale engagement as we collectively navigate towards addressing the Calls to Action as set for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
At the presentation ceremony held April 18, Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur stressed, “We cannot talk about excellence at the University without also talking about excellence for everybody.”
One of the Centre’s students, Emma Smith, who accepted the award with fellow students Amy Smoke and Shelby Keedwell, noted that, “To students, the Centre is more than just a space – it’s a home.”
There are 135 self-identified Indigenous students at the University of Waterloo.