01 Mar Iniskim Centre at MRU
Last year, through my work on the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention, I had the opportunity to meet John Fischer, Director of the Iniskim Centre at Mount Royal University. In January my office toured the centre with John and learned more about what they do there.
The Iniskim Centre, which has served the students of MRU for nearly 11 years, offers programs and services designed to increase engagement and success of Indigenous students while raising awareness of distinct Indigenous cultures, history and protocols across the University. The centre recognizes and respects all Indigenous peoples of Canada and welcomes a diverse group of students who identify as First Nations, Metis, non-status Indians, and Inuit.
The centre is a home away from home for students who come from across Canada to attend MRU. There’s a main room where students socialize and do homework; space where students can share a meal, and private spaces available for counselling, and quiet space for smudging ceremonies.
At MRU, which is located on the traditional lands of the Blackfoot people, the Niitsitapi, just over 5% of students identify as Indigenous, and this number continues to grow primarily because of the many programs offered at the Iniskim Centre.
One of the centre’s most successful and important projects is the Indigenous Family Housing Program. There are many barriers to enrolling in post-secondary education particularly with high rents in Calgary. The housing program at Iniskim Centre is the first in Canada to provide on-campus family accommodations for Indigenous students. “It’s about building a community”, says John, “students need to see themselves as able to succeed here – economically, culturally and in every other way. We are here to support that success.”
Other programs offered at the Centre include:
- Aboriginal Education Program: a University/College preparation program for students of Aboriginal ancestry designed to meet the needs of Indigenous students who are preparing to pursue a post-secondary education.
- Aboriginal Science and Technology Education Program: developed in response to the ever-increasing need for better representation of Aboriginal peoples in the fields of science and technology. ASTEP fosters a supportive learning model for Aboriginal students preparing for, and studying in, the Bachelor of Science (BSc) or the Bachelor of Computer Information Systems (BCIS) degree programs at Mount Royal.
- Medicine Trail Program: provides cultural support to staff and students of the Iniskim Centre and throughout Mount Royal University Campus. The Iniskim Centre offers students a place and the resources to smudge each morning and hosts various ceremonies throughout the year.
The centre regularly offers programs and workshops for the public to help mend the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Calgary. If you would like to find out more about the events visit the Iniskim Centre website.