KPU Announces Indigenous Community Justice Minor

The program will provide deeper insight on “this colonial concept called Canada”
Joseph Keller, Web Editor

KPU criminology professor Lisa Monchalin designed KPU’s new Indigenous Community Justice minor program after teaching a course on Indigenous people and the justice system for several years.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has announced the introduction of an interdisciplinary minor program that will focus on issues related to justice and Indigenous people in Canada. Designed by KPU Criminology Professor Lisa Monchalin, the Indigenous Community Justice program is set to begin in the fall semester.

“[Students will] learn to critically engage with realities of Canada that maybe they haven’t experienced before,” says Monchalin. “They’re going to examine imperial capitalist expansionism. They’re going to get a lot out of it.”

The program focuses on sociology and criminology but also includes anthropology and history courses and a language component. Monchalin says that students who enrol will “explore issues of justice in the broad sense,” which entails looking critically at past and current forms of colonialism. Students will also examine “state responses to the criminalisation of Indigenous people.”

The program will also look at aspects of Indigenous society such as community structures, justice systems, governance, activist mobilization, and the regeneration of culture.

Monchalin says that the program is about “giving people insight into additional perspectives on this colonial concept called Canada.” The idea for an Indigenous Justice minor came about shortly after she was brought on at KPU to teach criminology. Monchalin designed and taught a special topic criminology course titled “Aboriginal People and the Criminal justice System,” which, after the course was consistently popular with students, later became a regular course titled “Indigenous Peoples and Justice.”

“Even when I first started teaching [the special topics course,] I had students who would take it and say ‘we want to know more about this’…and so I was like, ‘yeah, you’re right we need to have another option here,” says Monchalin.

“We should be doing as much as we possible can to have Indigenous curriculum, to have opportunities to bring in people from the community,” she says. “This has to happen. We have to have these types of programs that are raising awareness about realities and truths for Indigenous people.”

Students’ positive reactions to learning about Indigenous justice are what led Monchalin to approach the dean’s office about creating the minor program in 2013. Monchalin pitched the idea, siting students who wanted to learn about the topic without waiting to take the single fourth year course. After gaining approval, she approached various institutions in the province to learn about how they were teaching Indigenous issues and to consult with representatives of First Nations communities.

While Monchalin says that the program could be useful to students who are going into a wide range of professional fields, its aim is to enhance students’ perspectives on Indigenous issues beyond their professional and university careers.

“This is going to help students as human beings,” she says. “And can that be applied to whatever they chose to do in life? Will that enhance that? Yes.”

As a member of the Kwantlen First Nation, KPU graduate Brandon Gabriel is happy to see the program come to fruition. He says that members of the KFN have hoped to see a focus on Indigenous issues in the classroom since the institution named after them first opened. Furthermore, he says that the topics covered in the minor’s curriculum are critical to addressing issues at the forefront of Canadian society.

“From our perspective, we are quite hopeful that this is going to be an important step forward with the relationship between the Kwantlen people and the university itself,” he says.

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