After months of planning, the Atlantic Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education Conference that UNB’s Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre was slated to host on Oct. 19-21 was cancelled.
The Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre organized a planning committee for the conference last year and did most of the work in terms of organization. The conference was set to be co-hosted by the Association of Atlantic Universities and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, a Nova Scotian organization.
Low enrollment was cited as the reason for the cancellation. Perley said he checked the numbers a week prior because Conference Services needed to finalize details around catering and program publication; at that time, only 19 people had registered.
“When you look at those numbers you get discouraged and disappointed—and when you have a regional conference like this, you need to have at least 60 to move ahead with the conference.” said Perley.
Perley said the lack of attendees had to do with the event’s timing, as did possible scheduling conflicts with other Indigenous-related conferences—including UNB’s recent Peace and Treaty Friendship Days.
“We have three different conferences happening at the same time and that didn’t help us; I wish we had of known this back in May, when things were being planned,” Perley said.
The conference was meant to provide opportunity for students and educators alike to gather and discuss responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action—in particular, the ones relating to post-secondary education.
“We had a line-up: keynote speakers, panelists…We would have had a student panel
and they would have shared with us what they would like to see in terms of TRC Calls to Action really implemented within their universities,” said Perley.
Peter Halpin, the Association of Atlantic Universities’ executive director, said that while the AAU was “very much on the periphery” in terms of planning this particular conference, they have established a regional working group on Indigenous education.
Halpin says this working group “has been very focused on the response to the recommendations for post-secondary education put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
One of the projects Halpin said they’re working on is developing an inventory of what all the different post-secondary institutions are doing in response to the TRC calls to action—something Perley feels is important to share.
“It would be nice to hear from other universities, what they’re doing as well. I can give you a summary of what we’re doing here, but I’m not sure what the other universities are doing,” said Perley.
Halpin says they’ll be discussing the unfortunate scheduling of various related conferences at their upcoming committee meeting, to ensure this type of incident isn’t repeated.
“It’s not a competition—but you know, people have to pick and choose what they attend and I think that’s one of the things that we’ll be discussing at our upcoming committee meeting…you know, a little better coordination so we don’t have conflicting dates.”