Letter to the editor: I support a mandatory half-credit in Indigenous Studies

I wholeheartedly support the Trent University Native Association’s (TUNA) initiative to introduce a mandatory half-credit in Indigenous Studies at Trent University. I want to be honest as to why.

As a “White” Canadian, I have always been conscious of the fact that I grew up on lands that aren’t “mine.” As a French-Canadian, I am conscious that my “homeland” is an ocean away in Northern France, still inhabited largely by ethnic French people – a luxury not enjoyed by the Indigenous peoples of Canada. As an advocate for the Zionist community in Canada, I have always been conscious of the hypocrisy of fighting for the homeland of the Jewish people – while living on the colonized homeland of the Indigenous peoples of ‘Turtle Island’.

As a conservative political activist, I am conscious of the double-standard I exercise when arguing in favour of immigration reform – in a nation that can never really be called totally my own.

Additionally, I have a deep respect for our Indigenous peoples and culture instilled in me from a young age. Perhaps it was my frequent childhood trips to Roseneath (Alderville) with my late grandfather for Fish and Chips (real fish – trout, pickerel, etc.) prepared fresh out of the lake and provided by Indigenous fishermen from the area.

Perhaps it was my annual trips to the Alderville Pow-Wow as a child with my late grandmother, and our cherished meals of corn soup and bannock afterwards. Or perhaps it is the fact that much of the older members of the LeBlanc side of my family are status-Metis from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (I, however, am not, just to be clear).

Or it could be the simple fact that I think that an Indigenous perspective is an asset for any student in post-secondary. I had the pleasure of taking an Indigenous economics class in my second year at Trent (I am an Economics student), and I could not have had a better experience.

In fact, that class, and my final project in it, could be one of the best memories I have from my time at Trent University. I had the honour of working with several Indigenous students on our project, and gained a respect for their love of our Indigenous program that I will never forget. I believe all students should have the same opportunity I had to gain a fresh perspective as they move forward with their studies.

I believe that this opportunity should be mandatory, as they may miss out on it otherwise. I am certainly glad I didn’t (I almost did – my choice to take that course, if my memory serves me well, was “last minute”).

I also believe that this opportunity should be mandatory so that the Indigenous Studies program may be afforded the resources necessary from both the government and the university to provide these experiences to ever more students.

As the President of the Trent Conservatives, it is my hope that this process will move forward, and that many future generations of Trent students may have the privilege of enjoying these same experiences.