The Aboriginal Community Development Centre’s untold end

In 2006 the Aboriginal Community Development Centre was shut down. The ACDC worked on the Mount Allison campus to support First Nations students and surrounding First Nations communities from 2003 to 2006.

The ACDC’s purpose was to respond to the priorities of First Nations communities in the Atlantic Region and operated as a platform for these communities to partner with Mt. A. The ACDC also aimed to increase the amount of First Nations students at Mt. A and improve academic programs to include First Nations community values.

Dr. Wayne MacKay, the president of Mt. A when the ACDC was initially established, said his ultimate hope was “that it might eventually make Mount Allison a more attractive spot for students of Aboriginal origin who might want to come and do research and work with the students as well.”

In its three years of operation, the ACDC was directed by Dr. Ausra Burns, who also acted as the advisor to the president on Aboriginal issues at the time. The Centre also involved various professors from the geography department and Canadian studies department, including Dr. Andrew Nurse , Dr. Mike Fox and MacKay.

“[The ACDC] was more at the professor level at this stage because it was more focused on the research side,”  said MacKay. “There were a number of faculty members from many different departments who had research that at least touched on aspects of issues related to aboriginals, some in areas like sociology.”

Students were not extensively involved and, although some did have roles assisting with the research and other work of the centre, their participation and general consciousness of the centre was fairly minimal. 

Outreach to First Nations communities was a key component of the ACDC, although the centre did not work with the wider community of Sackville. It focused on First Nations communities in the surrounding areas more extensively. The ACDC had reached out to and was in the process of working with the regional office of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), located in Amherst. However, “the funds were fairly limited and [those who worked with the centre] weren’t able to do as much as they would have liked,” said MacKay.

Nurse, who visited a reserve in New Brunswick through his involvement with the ACDC, said “The goal…was not that we do research and tell First Nations what to do. The goal was to build a different type of research project in which First Nations and scholars were equal participants.”

The ACDC worked on multiple different projects and collaborations. The centre collaborated with the Aboriginal Community Resource Centre and Repository (ACRCR) in an online digitization  project that involved members of the Mt. A Community and community members from the Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River, Newfoundland. The project involved conducting interviews with the Conne River community and in Ottawa with federal representatives, which were then contextualized into documents by Mt. A and Miawpukek partners. The online digital repository aimed to make information accessible to a larger community.

None of these endeavours would come to fruition, however, because of the ACDC’s abrupt closure. It remains unclear as to why the centre was officially disbanded, seeing as there is no information currently available on this matter. However, Nurse said “My sense of the matter was that this was not a direction that had strategic support at Mount Allison at that time. I think there was interest, but I don’t think that that interest necessarily translated into active support.”

MacKay echoed similar sentiments, and said “there was a view that dealing with these kinds of issues was not really part of Mount Allison’s core mission.” MacKay also said that he and Fox faced resistence when they attempted to move forward with the work and message of the centre.

In 2010 the New Brunswick government created an initiative called “The New Brunswick Post-Secondary Education (PSE) Advisory Forum” which mandated that the government would be “investing more than $1 million to recruit Aboriginal New Brunswickers to pursue post-secondary education and to provide services for Aboriginal students attending post-secondary education to help ensure their success.”

The PSE advisory forum provided financial support for the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal students at the University of New Brunswick; St. Thomas University; NBCC campuses in Fredericton/Woodstock, Moncton and Miramichi; Université de Moncton; and the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design that hat year. Mount Allison was absent from the list of schools receiving funding. At a senate meeting Vice-president International and Student Affairs at the time, Ron Byrne said  “The university was emphasizing historical strengths such [as] accessibility for students with learning disabilities and challenges, and for students from rural areas.”

In 2016, Mount Allison university has since implemented Doreen Richard as the Indigenous Affairs Officer. Richard sites some of her main goals as indigenizing Mt.A’s curriculum, and providng an increase of support and access for Aboriginal students.

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