Aim is a greater understanding between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Peoples

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On the path of Truth and Reconciliation it is important that we continue to learn more about one other. Indigenous Awareness Canada (IAC) has designed programs to create greater understanding and enhance communications between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Peoples. 

Robert Laboucane and Sean Hannah, both Métis, are the founders and course authors of IAC, which started in 1992, when Laboucane was working as the executive director for the newly-formed Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) in Alberta. Hanna, who is the director of training and leads the development of the training curriculum and online programs for IAC, joined Laboucane in 1998.

“We identified the need for Canadians to learn more about Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” said Hannah. 

Hannah has a degree from the University of Calgary in english literature and psychology, and a background in adult learning theory and courseware creation. He began translating the workshop material into other more widely accessible formats – initially in the form of books, workbooks, and student guides, and then later into digital versions like PowerPoint presentations and CD-ROM-based courses. Hannah said IAC offers the opportunity for ongoing learning about Canadian Indigenous Peoples in an engaging and safe environment.

“We currently offer online training,” said Hannah. “These online skills-based training courses will provide you or your organization, with the information needed to build effective and positive relationships with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.  Our online courses are designed for everyone – you do not need a degree. They are broken up into useful sections and you can start and stop as often as you like.”

There is an online Indigenous Awareness Introduction course; it is not a pre-requisite for their certification courses, but a stand-alone and an abridged primer course. 

“Students can take 101 and 201 independently,” said Hannah. “You do not need to take both courses although some students choose to. You must complete the 201 Certification before taking any 300-level course.”

All workshops through IAC aim to provide individuals and organizations with the information needed to build effective and positive relationships with Indigenous Peoples. The training that IAC provides directly answers eight of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls-to-Action with training that includes education on history, legacy of residential schools, treaties and Indigenous rights, Indigenous law, Aboriginal-Crown relations, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

“The Indigenous Awareness certification course is the most popular starting point,” said Hannah. “This comprehensive and information-rich course offers important foundational knowledge, background, and context.  It takes about four to eight hours to complete.”

On completion of the online Indigenous Awareness certification course students can print out their own certificate through IAC or order a framed print online. Training offered… is accepted widely for academic, government, and corporate training purposes. Hannah added it is recognized towards college credits at some institutions and highly respected by many professional associations and Chambers of Commerce, and the Canadian Military to name a few. 

“Our training is recognized and recommended by Indigenous groups and leaders, which is fundamental to meeting corporate obligations and training requirements in support of programs like the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) initiative or the Government of Canada’s directives to all Canadians on adopting the Recommendations of the TRC,” said Hannah.

IAC has over 34 years of teaching experience to more than 70,000 satisfied workshop attendees and has provided over 54,000 online certifications since starting. When the Pioneer asked Hannah what he hopes non-Indigenous people take away from this training he said, “A sense of empathy, desire to continue their learning, and comfort interacting with Indigenous Peoples.”