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Part of Advocacy and Support Services, the Centre for Native Education (CNE) is home to Native support services at Concordia. While Director Manon Tremblay says the primary users of CNE are the university’s 150 or so First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, she underlines that the centre is intended for the entire community.
“We want to support all students and staff in increasing their understanding and knowledge about aboriginal peoples,” she said.
To this end, one of the projects they have been pursuing over the last few years is the development of a comprehensive documentation centre.
“We started with a few dozen books and now, thanks to grants from the CCSL (Concordia Council on Student Life) and the Ministère de l’éducation, des Loisirs et des Sports du Québec, we have about 1,500, many of which cannot be found in Concordia’s main library.”
Books are available for on-site reference, but are currently packed away in boxes, because CNE is moving from the nooks and crannies of the V annex to newly renovated quarters on the sixth floor of the Hall Building.
According to Tremblay, the new space is “much more visible, much more accessible,” and will allow for the expansion of existing services.
“Where we previously had three or four computers available to students, we will now have seven,” she said. The new space is also a lot friendlier, “culturally speaking, which is important for our students.”
While a good number of Concordia’s cohort of Native students come from nearby communities like Kahnawake and Kanesetake, many are from significantly further afield.
“Most of our students are single mothers in their thirties,” said Tremblay. “When they leave remote communities to come to Concordia, they need to adjust to Montreal, and get a support network in place for their families.”
CNE will do just about whatever it takes to help students as they settle into their new environment because “their success at implanting their lives here is directly related to their success at Concordia.”
Tremblay pointed out that CNE works closely with other units within Advocacy and Support services and other student services in order to help students succeed. Once the required support is in place, she said, completion rates for aboriginal students are “fairly comparable to the rest of the Concordia cohort.”
Aboriginal students do have a preference for certain programs, she said. “Our students tend to follow studies which allow them to understand and invest in their communities.”
As a result, programs in Applied Human Sciences, Political Science, and Anthropology/Sociology are big draws. So are many Fine Arts programs, and there are a few students at the JMSB. “But we still need a breakthrough in the sciences and engineering.” The planned major in First Peoples studies (see ClassAction on page 8) may help change that.
To attract more students into that program and others at Concordia, CNE has taken on larger role in recruitment, attending career fairs and events like the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation’s Blueprint for the Future (Montreal, Oct. 30).
“Communities are happy to see us there. People say, ‘Oh, Concordia came.’ They notice. It makes a difference. We’re going to keep it up.”
The CNE will be holding an Open House in its new facilities before the end of the term. Stay tuned for more information.