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SFU passes key milestone to improve Indigenous staff representation

September 12, 2023

SFU is taking its next steps on its path to uphold truth and reconciliation by strengthening Indigenous staff recruitment and retention.

The B.C. Human Rights Commissioner (BCHRC) recently approved SFU’s Special Program application, allowing the university to conduct a limited and preferential hiring of at least 15  Indigenous staff. This follows the BCHRC’s approval this summer of another Special Program approval at SFU for hiring Black staff and tenure-track faculty. SFU’s application process for an additional targeted hiring of Indigenous faculty is underway.

“We know the conversations have been ongoing, for decades, to meaningfully include Indigenous voices in decision-making around Indigenous policies, programs and initiatives at the university,” says Chris (Syeta’xtn) Lewis, SFU’s director, Indigenous initiatives and Reconciliation. "I am pleased by this outcome from the BCHRC, to help meaningfully weave Indigeneity into the fabric of SFU.”

The two proposed Indigenous Special Programs support recommendations from the 2017 Walk this Path With Us report created by the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (ARC). The Council and their final report operated with a vision of Indigenous students, faculty and staff flourishing at Simon Fraser University. To achieve this vision, the report identifies 34 calls to action to Indigenize curricula, and to Indigenize the university.

SFU’s Special Programs approval(s) will aid in progress towards:

  • Call to Action 16: Continue the Faculty Bridge Program along the current model, with three years of support from the Office of the Vice President, Academic and Provost, followed by an assumption of financial responsibility at the faculty level after the third year. The goal is for each academic unit to have at least one Indigenous scholar by 2020. Since this goal was set, the university continues to work towards this goal, with Indigenous scholars providing their expertise in seven of the eight SFU faculties. Although we are past the original target date, the spirit of the call to action remains.
  • Call to Action 20: Develop ways in which Aboriginal participation and decision-making may be increased at all levels of the University, including staff, faculty, and senior administrative and leadership levels.

“Although we continue to welcome new Indigenous staff and faculty members at SFU, we still face ongoing challenges in recruitment and retention,” says Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, SFU’s vice-president, people, equity and inclusion. “The special programs approval supports the university’s strategic priority to strengthen Indigenous faculty and staff recruitment and retention, for qualified candidates from equity-deserving groups who are historically and currently underrepresented as per our commitments in SFU's Equity Compass. We are now working on hiring guidelines and tools for recruiting under the Special Program which will be made available this semester and will simultaneously start working on onboarding and retention programming.”

The Special Programs approval is also helpful to supporting new and current Indigenous-led initiatives, under development at SFU. In consultation with internal and external Indigenous community members, the Indigenous initiatives will receive the additional capacities that they require to get accomplished. The intended goal is to ensure Indigenous initiatives at SFU are visible, given adequate administrative capacity, and that work does not get siloed.

“Adaption is happening towards making culturally responsive change, strengthening Indigenous knowledge systems and, most importantly, strengthening the Indigenous community at SFU,” says Chris (Syeta’xtn) Lewis. “We will continue, as a family, to do the work towards creating a strong and safe sense of belonging for all Indigenous peoples to discover and unlock their gifts at SFU.”


Learn more about the special program designation, click here.