First Indigenous policy think tank launches at Ryerson

Institute to foster wider dialogue within the university, among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people

Ryerson University is proud to announce the launch of Yellowhead Institute, a national think tank rooted in Indigenous community networks and committed to Indigenous self-determination.

"Yellowhead Institute will be the first Indigenous-led national think tank,” said Hayden King, the institute’s executive director. “There is no organization in the country doing policy and legislative analysis, and sharing it with First Nations communities to support their work. And with the speed and scope at which policy changes are happening, there is an urgent need."

Housed in the Faculty of Arts, the institute will gather Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers to conduct accessible analysis on policy and law affecting First Nations communities. The mandate of the institute is to support First Nations in their pursuit of self-determination in Canada by taking a critical approach to government policy, and advocating for models of change that protect the rights of First Nations peoples.

For Shiri Pasternak, the institute’s research director, “reconciliation is not just about a change of heart—it’s about political and economic change in Canada. The Yellowhead Institute is committed to creating a space of real transformation to shape what justice in Canada might look like for Indigenous peoples.”

In conjunction with the launch, the institute has released its first report, which takes a critical look at the Liberal government’s Indigenous Rights, Recognition and Implementation Framework. The report finds that the framework is guiding First Nations towards a narrow model of “self-government,” which fails to engage First Nation inherent and treaty rights.

In addition to publishing bi-monthly public policy briefs and bi-annual special research reports, the institute will host workshops and conferences to encourage education and open dialogue between Indigenous communities and Canadians.

“The Faculty of Arts is committed to promoting an informed understanding of Indigenous perspectives and awareness of Indigenous issues, within the university and beyond,” said Dean Pamela Sugiman, Faculty of Arts. “Yellowhead Institute will be a crucial resource for all Canadians as we work together to establish a nation-to-nation relationship.”

This story was was first published on June 5, 2018, on the Ryerson Today website. Dr. King and Dr. Pasternak are recipients of SSHRC funding.