The University of Waterloo is waiving tuition fees for students from two First Nations whose traditional territory the institution is located on.
The university said the new waiver will apply to current and incoming full-time undergraduate or graduate students who are members of the Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations, starting in September.
The school said it will also offer Ontario domestic tuition fee rates for Indigenous students from elsewhere in Canada and the United States, and it will continue to waive application fees for First Nations, Métis and Inuit applicants.
University president Vivek Goel said the new initiative is part of the school’s efforts on reconciliation.
Waiving tuition fees will reduce barriers First Nations students face and allow them to pursue post-secondary studies at the university, he said.
“This announcement is part of Waterloo’s efforts toward indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation, which are at the heart of the values guiding us as an institution of higher learning,” Goel wrote in a statement.
“We hope that by reducing financial barriers for these students we will encourage them to participate in our innovative academic, entrepreneurship and co-op programs.”
The school held a ceremony last fall to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples continue to suffer losses and cultural disconnects in Canada as a result of colonialism.
The university said it’s committed to working toward a better understanding of Indigenous history and the intergenerational trauma caused by colonialism and the systems it created, including the residential school system.
“This landmark decision to increase access to education is in direct response to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its calls to action,” Jean Becker, associate vice-president, Indigenous Relations at Waterloo, wrote in a statement.
“I hope this demonstrated leadership will inspire other post-secondary institutions to take similar action.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2023.