National Indigenous Peoples’ Day—June 21, 2020

In a recent press interview, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau spoke about an “unconscious bias” impacting all Canadians.  Now, more than ever, our cultural perspectives and unique identities are being called into question, especially in political and corporate sectors.

Our increasingly globalized economy demands sameness, which is in direct opposition to natural human culture.  In our daily lives we embrace our cultural heritages, our family histories, and our preferences for our living arrangements.  The corporate world, however, demands we leave these parts of our identities at the door.  How can we embrace our cultural identities while trying to further our careers and professional standing?

AU Press recently shared a new (and free) book by Kyle Conway, titled The Art of Communication in a Polarized World.  In his book Conway “confronts the communication challenges of our modern world” by trying to open the conversation about diversity in both the public and private spheres.  Not only can embracing diversity allow us to express our identities in all facets of our lives, but Conway suggests that it can be used as a tool to influence new and more efficient ways of doing business.

Athabasca University’s online educational environment provides the perfect platform for connecting students from all cultural backgrounds and engaging in the conversation about diversity.  Students have opportunities to broaden and consider multiple perspectives with discussion forums and courses designed to prompt critical thinking about diversity.  Educational institutions are an ideal setting to initiate dialogue about diversity and foster empathetic, more understanding citizens for Canada’s future.  AU’s online learning creates safe space for asking hard questions and listening to the opinions of others.

One of my favourite philosophers, Paulo Freire, encourages students to use words to transform the world around them (2012).  He believes communication is a means of liberating the oppressed and how beginning the conversation in the educational sphere is the first step to breaking down social and cultural boundaries (Freire 2012).  Without first understanding and having empathy for one another, even the most honest actions can be misplaced and ineffective.

In Alberta, the Teaching Quality Standards ensure teachers provide an educational atmosphere that promotes diversity and respect for all students.  National Indigenous Peoples day on June 21, 2020, provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate diversity and cultural expression in Canada.  As undergraduate and graduate students at AU, our respect and appreciation for cultural diversity will continue with us in our careers.  By communicating to employers the need for eliminating bias as well as the value of embracing inclusion, we are leading the way for innovation and more positive work environments.

AU’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies offers a variety of undergraduate areas of study which challenge students to think critically about social and ethical concerns impacting Canadians.  This June 21, I challenge AU students to consider what their role is in showing solidarity and respect for the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.  Together we can change the way Canadians embrace diversity, eliminate discrimination, and respect cultural expression.

More information about Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day can be found on the Government of Canada web site.  If you want to explore Indigenous related literature, CBC offers a list of books written by First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors.

35 books to read for National Indigenous History Month.  (2020, June 1).  CBC Radio-Canada
Conway, K.  (2020, March).  The Art of Communication in a Polarized World.  Athabasca University Press.
Freire, P.  (2012).  Paulo Freire.  In T.W.  Johnson & R.  Reed (Eds.), Philosophical Documents in Education (pp.193-206).  Pearson Education, Inc.
Government of Alberta.  (n.d.) Teaching Quality Standard.
Government of Canada.  (2020, May 21).  National Indigenous Peoples Day.

[Sometimes the best pieces are those that just give some background information on important but little known things, such as this one about National Indigenous People’s Day.  With the larger amount of attention that’s being paid to indigenous people’s history and their struggles, this student nominated piece from our June 19 issue is emblematic of some of the education I like to hope The Voice Magazine can provide.]

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