McGill announces new Indigenous Tuition Initiative

Initiative addresses key call outlined in the Provost's Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education

Beginning in the Fall of 2024, McGill University will cover tuition and mandatory fees for Indigenous students who are members of local/proximate First Nation communities as well as Indigenous students learning within programs delivered through Indigenous partnership agreements within the School of Social Work, the School of Continuing Studies and the Office of First Nations and Inuit Education.

Celeste Pedri-Spade announced the launch of McGill’s Indigenous Tuition Initiative as part of today’s Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag raising ceremonyNeale McDevitt

“It’s widely known that financial barriers prevent many Indigenous people from attaining post-secondary education because community funding is often limited,” said Celeste Pedri-Spade, Associate Provost for Indigenous Initiatives. “Our goal with this initiative is to alleviate some of those pressures and support Indigenous students’ educational choices.”

The new Indigenous Tuition Initiative stems from the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education. While it specifically addresses Call #13 (Financial Aid), the initiative  ties in with nearly one third of its 52 Calls to Action.

Pedri-Spade said the new initiative represents an important milestone in McGill’s efforts to foster relationships, partnerships and collaboration with Indigenous communities.

“To effectuate meaningful change, it’s important to think about the students in a relational way,” said Pedri-Spade. “Though supporting individual students is a primary goal, we can’t and shouldn’t view Indigenous students disconnected from their respective communities, nations and homelands. We can’t forget that we are reconciling with the legacy of Indian education in Canada, which means we are reconciling with the forced removal of Indigenous Peoples from their families and communities; therefore, it makes sense that a pathway towards reconciliation would acknowledge and honour Indigenous students’ relationships with community and place.”

Christopher Manfredi, McGill’s Provost and Executive Vice-President (Academic), said that “increasing Indigenous students’ access to education is a key part of reconciliation.

“[That’s] why we are so excited to announce this new tuition initiative,” he said.

“This commitment marks another milestone in our responses to our Calls to Action. McGill University will continue the essential work to ensure Indigenous voices, ideas, histories and discoveries enrich the future of our University in meaningful ways.”

In the spirit of fostering reconciliation

The tuition initiative will be rolled out in stages. The initial group of eligible students will be from communities closely connected to the University. This includes the Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) communities of Kahnawà:ke, Kanesatake and Akwesasne (including Saint Regis).

Because of the tuition initiative’s focus on community and nation, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke, offered the following remarks:

“Education is the cornerstone of personal growth, societal progress and global innovation, illuminating pathways to a brighter and more equitable future for all. That’s why post-secondary education is so crucial to First Nations people, in order to shape a future where our voices resonate with strength and wisdom. We’re happy to be part of today’s announcement and we hope to see the number of First Nations students soar.”

The initial phase will also include Indigenous students from the Six Nations of the Grand River. While located in Ontario, the inclusion of Six Nations of the Grand River signals McGill’s recognition of how, in the 19th century, the institution benefitted from a federal government loan linked to funds allocated to the Six Nations of the Grand River. In the spirit of redress and reconciliation, students from Six Nations of the Grand River will be included in the first phase of this new Indigenous Tuition Initiative.

Another group that will be eligible as part of the first cohort are prospective and current diploma Indigenous students in the School of Social Work, the School of Continuing Studies or the Office of First Nations and Indigenous Education who are learning through an educational partnership with one of the following groups:

  • Cree Nation of Mistissini
  • Cree Nation of Eastmain
  • Cree Nation Government
  • Cree Nation of Chisasibi
  • Cree Eeyou Resource and Research Institute
  • Oujé-Bougoumou Cree Nation
  • Makivvik
  • Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services
  • Kativik Ilisarniliriniq
  • Cree School Board
  • Naskapi Education Committee
  • Listuguj Education Directorate
  • Micmacs of Gesgapegiag
  • Nunavik
  • Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu Education

“McGill has had educational partnerships for decades with some First Nations communities in Quebec that are not in the geographic proximity,” said Pedri-Spade of the latter group. “It is important to honour the long-standing commitments to these communities by including them in the first phase of this initiative.”

Community partnerships 

“Key elements to this partnership approach are respecting the way in which communities wish to exercise the option of the tuition initiative and respecting the way in which they determine eligibility,” said Thomasina PhillipsNeale McDevitt

Thomasina Phillips, Associate Director, Indigenous Student Success, and Pedri-Spade worked closely with Indigenous leaders, educators and advisors to develop guidelines that benefit students and aims to support Indigenous community strategy through offsetting tuition costs.

“Our guidelines are based on collaboration, with both internal and external partners supporting the implementation process,” said Phillips. “Key elements to this partnership approach are respecting the way in which communities wish to exercise the option of the tuition initiative and respecting the way in which they determine eligibility.”

“One aim of this initiative is to increase the number of Indigenous students, by supporting them in where they choose to study, on-campus or in-community. Students in community support each other in cohorts. With on-campus learners, they are more likely to succeed when they have peers, they can identify one another and build community,” added Phillips.

Pedri-Spade noted that the idea of a tuition waiver for Indigenous students was a topic of conversation during a visit by McGill senior academic leaders to the Kanien’kehaka (Mowhawk) community of Kahnawà:ke last fall.

Held in the Mohawk Trail Longhouse, the exchange gave McGill leadership an opportunity to learn more about Kanien’kehaka knowledge, history and culture during a day of work and consultation.

“An elder who has been instrumental to the development of Kahnawà:ke’s education system, asked what was being done to improve access to McGill for students from Kahnawà:ke. There was a good discussion about student support,” said Pedri-Spade. “We went there to listen and learn and today we see the fruits of that partnership.”

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Linda Sutherland
24 days ago

This is incredible news. I am so proud of McGill for taking this initiative!