Opinion Editorial for CSPC, November 2018
Inclusivity, “going beyond the slogans” is action, not empty promises. Inclusivity means increasing access, which means increased spending in the case of Canada’s Indigenous youth. In order to see genuine inclusivity, there needs to be a shift toward a culture of diversity, where everyone has equal access to careers in STEM. I think that making STEM accessible to everyone across Canada is a priority. In order to do this, there needs to be a solution to the systematic barriers facing Indigenous people who desire better education. I say this bluntly, but I will not believe that the Canadian government is actually ready to reconcile with Indigenous people until the spending on Indigenous education is equal to every other child in Canada. It saddens me to think that so many future leaders, scientists, creators, and thinkers might not ever have the chance to become those people, just because “inclusivity” simply does not extend far enough to include them. Consequently, I believe inclusion starts with changing the system of and putting effort into inspiring the next generation of Indigenous kids, who can grow up to be leaders in STEM. As an Indigenous teenager, I am forever grateful for the educational opportunities my family has given me. Other Indigenous students my age, specifically those living in remote communities, are not as fortunate. The education of Indigenous kids has been historically underfunded and it continues to be today. Many schools on reserves are not equipped with gyms, libraries or labs that are normal in other schools. Students from remote communities travel hundreds of miles away to cities where they can attend high school. Economic pressures prevent many Indigenous students from enrichment opportunities that make academics more engaging. They do not have the opportunities to do SAT prep courses, attend conferences, competitions and study abroad trips, in which many teenagers participate. What students deserve is equal access to summer science camps and programs that can inspire interest and love for STEM. They deserve these enrichment and learning opportunities, as opposed to the bare minimum of high school education. I recently had the chance to attend SHAD this summer, which was one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had. I spent my July on a university campus, learning leadership and teamwork skills, in the setting of STEAM learning. It was inspiring to meet other motivated teenagers who each were so passionate, to grow and learn alongside them. There weren’t many Indigenous students at SHAD this year, but hopefully this will start to change soon. Canadian programs like SHAD that offer bursaries and others that offer financial support to Indigenous kids are extremely important. There are also organizations who are working hard to bring education to these remote communities and to engage with Indigenous youth. Examples of these are InSTEM, which does community-based approach to engaging Indigenous youth in culturally relevant STEM education programs, and the University of Waterloo, which recently launched a STEM summer camp called Impact, especially for Indigenous girls. When I see these programs, I am overjoyed to see that there are people and organizations out there who are supporting the education of my community in STEM in such a positive way. The bottom line is that Canada needs more scholarships, more outreach programs, and more funding for Indigenous education. Offering chances and encouragement is the beginning to deeper and more meaningful inclusion. I cannot wait to see opportunities that arise in the future for kids just like me.