Protect ABS360 at UofT
A decision was recently made by the Aboriginal Studies Program committee to discontinue and cut funding for the course ABS 360: Politics and Process of Reconciliation at the University of Toronto for the 2012/2013 academic year. As students and colleagues, we wish to express in the strongest terms our collective support for both ABS 360 and its instructors, Victoria Freeman and Lee Maracle.
Lee Maracle (Sto:Loh nation) and Victoria Freeman are nationally recognized for their published works and history of activism in reconciliation, Aboriginal rights, and other social justice movements. They are perhaps, however, less well-known for the ABS 360 class they have been co-teaching in the Aboriginal Studies program for the last 2 years.
Victoria and Lee model and powerfully embody the possibility of insightful, egalitarian relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, both in their pedagogical approach and their interactions with students and each other. The course is innovative and highly interactive, composed of lectures, a selection of diverse and relevant readings, and sharing circles modelled after traditional Anishnaabe teaching methods. Active participation in reconciliation initiatives is a graded course requirement for students. Under Lee and Victoria's insightful and compassionate instruction, students are taught the history of colonialism and anti-colonialist resistance in Canada and guided to explore their own place within that history, an experience that has generated profound, critical insights for students of the course. Few courses on campus match ABS 360 in generating this level of personal reflection on the history of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada, or mobilize the same level of student interest and active involvement in contributing toward more just relations. We therefore believe it has a special and essential place both in the Aboriginal Studies program and on the University of Toronto campus more broadly.
For these reasons, we ask you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision to discontinue ABS 360. We recommend that ABS 360 be made a required core course in the Aboriginal Studies curriculum to protect its status and to ensure that many more students will enjoy the learning opportunity with Victoria and Lee that has benefited students in profound and irreplaceable ways.