School’s out, but still moving forward

Ayaangwaamizin University at Couchiching is set to start its second year of operation next month, with many changes ahead.
“It’s starting next month rather than September because we are offering condensed courses,” said Dennis McPherson, one of the school’s founders.
“We’ll be making specific decision on courses and decide on a starting date and recruit some students soon.”
McPherson also has discussed introducing a private member’s bill for accreditation with Ontario NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton.
“We’re going to talk to various education counsellors,” he noted. “There’s the question of accreditation. It’s kind of fearsome for some until we get that settled.
“We have requests through Howard Hampton for a private member’s bill to be recognized as a degree-granting institution,” he added. “If that happens, we’ll settle [the issue] in a lot of people’s minds.
“I appreciate people’s concerns. We have to play within the playgrounds everyone else is playing in and by the rules.”
Perhaps more effective than a private member’s bill would be going through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Hampton said.
“The problem with private member’s bills is very few get passed and they take a long time [to get passed],” he explained. “I didn’t get private member debate time last year.”
With the lottery system for bills and the fact MPPs only sat for 17 weeks, Hampton estimated that—at most—just 34 members got to discuss their bills.
A better alternative would be to discuss it with the ministry, Hampton said.
“The . . . process takes some time but the outcome is you actually get some institutional support and approval behind you,” he remarked.
But McPherson doesn’t believe Ayaangwaamizin University will gain accreditation through this process.
“The problem is the evaluation system and we wouldn’t pass,” he noted, adding the minister passes the application off to an evaluation committee.
“They review it and make recommendations. The problem we have is when you’re talking about native philosophy, native philosophy doesn’t exist in the mainstream.
“They would rely on philosophers and they would say it doesn’t exist.
“It has major implications if you’re talking about an add-on to [Confederation] College or Lakehead [University] but if you’re talking about something separate, then they’re afraid of it,” he said.
McPherson also has met with Fort Frances town council to discuss the university.
“I’m not looking towards them for a facility per se, I’m looking towards them for political and infrastructure support,” he ex-plained. “If we get an influx of students, Couchiching by itself won’t be able to accommodate them.
“I wanted them to know we’d be coming to the door, and at the same time it’s profitable for them,” he added.
Ayaangwaamizin University, which loosely translates as “Go carefully” in Ojibway, first opened its doors last September. It’s the only school in Canada that teaches native philosophy.

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