New office elevates Indigenous presence across campus

Frank Neufeld // Western News

Western's new Office of Indigenous Initiatives marks a campuswide approach in raising Indigenous voices across all levels of work, study and research. Foreground beadwork by MPH student Natalie Hill, BA’18, BA’19.

Western efforts to bring Indigenous voices to the leadership table and an Indigenous presence to all levels of work, study and research across campus will have a permanent advocate in the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.

The recently launched portfolio is the next step in the university’s commitment to stronger Indigenous considerations in all aspects of its operations.

“Establishing the Office of Indigenous Initiatives marks an exciting step toward elevating Indigenous voices and agency in the advancement of Indigenous education and research,” said Andrew Hrymak, Provost and Vice-President (Academic). “These are important institutional priorities for Western, and I am excited to see them move forward through this new office and its ongoing engagement with our campus and community partners.”

Driven by the recommendations of Western’s first Indigenous Strategic Plan, the office will work with campus and community partners to help shape governance and decision-making; policy and practice; teaching, learning and curriculum; research and scholarship; physical space planning; workforce planning; and student affairs.

The office sits within the Office of the Provost because of its strong links with the university’s teaching and research mission. In addition, the office houses the Indigenous Student Centre, formerly Indigenous Services.

“This marks a big milestone for our institution,” said Candace Brunette-Debassige, Acting Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (Indigenous Initiatives). “There’s now a team of people waking up every day thinking about how to do this work at all levels, across campus.”

Hrymak sees the office’s day-to-day presence as key to its success.

“The office will have visibility and voice. I want it to be a place where people inside and outside the university can turn to for advice, insight, and support,” he said.

Its launch, however, should not be considered the end of the journey. Instead, this should be seen as simply the next step toward a larger goal.

“This is a continuation of our university’s desire to look at how we can better serve Indigenous people studying, working and doing research at Western, as well as how we work with Indigenous communities around us,” Hrymak continued. “We are trying to take a holistic approach to supporting our Indigenous community members. The work is ongoing.”

A search for a Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (Indigenous Initiatives) is currently underway.