Case Study: North Island College


The Aboriginal Education Council (AEC) at North Island College (NIC) was formed in 2005 as the President’s Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Education; 35 First Nations communities and 12 urban Aboriginal organizations were invited to meet to discuss the college’s strategic plans and priorities for the ensuing 3-5 year period. Several meetings were held, and telephone follow-up calls were made to those who were unable to attend meetings in person.

In 2007-08, responding to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training’s new Aboriginal Service Plan initiative, the AEC’s role was further clarified in its new Terms of Reference (enclosed), which now specified responsibility for overseeing, providing input to, and ensuring final approval of NIC’s annual Aboriginal Service Plan submission.

The AEC’s Terms of Reference is considered a living document, which is reviewed annually by the AEC as a whole. In October 2016, the Terms of Reference were reviewed and some minor changes were made to clarify the role and function of the AEC in contrast with the role and function of Regional Advisory Committees. The assurance of respectful dialogue is managed by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the AEC, who ensure all meetings are facilitated in a consistent manner, and allow sufficient time for all members to provide input to each agenda item and all discussions.

Three Regional Advisory Committees ensure the voices and priorities of their respective regions are brought forward. This ensures opportunities for an equal voice and an opportunity for the cultural philosophies and values of each region to be reflected in discussions, planning and implementation. The Director of Aboriginal Education at NIC participates in all meetings of the Regional Advisory Committees and the AEC to ensure decisions are inclusive of all regional priorities and considerations.

Purpose & Goals

The purposes and goals of the AEC are outlined in NIC’s Terms of Reference from 2016.

Challenges & Future Plans

The challenges experienced by the AEC have been relatively minor. Since committee members are working professionals – usually serving as Post-Secondary Education Managers or Coordinators for their respective communities – scheduling meetings can sometimes be challenging, particularly when member availability and NIC’s internal timelines and processes do not readily align. This has been resolved through the use of NIC’s Interactive Television System, and occasionally through telephone conference calls versus the much-preferred in-person meetings.

As the work of the AEC continues, it appears that there is a strong desire to engage in a series of discussions around AEC policies, as the current AEC anticipates many more successful initiatives and program options for Aboriginal students in the near future. Currently, the AEC operates under a consensus model, which involves critical discussions and debates on the prioritization of new program ideas, decisions around priority sequence, and addressing changes to priorities where needed. Should the development of programs increase (i.e., if Regional Advisory Committees and the AEC determine that more programs and/or Indigenized curriculum are required, but there are insufficient resources to implement all, policies and procedures/processes may help the AEC in making its final decisions.)

Contact Information

Kelly Shopland
Director, Aboriginal Education

Terms of Reference

Aboriginal Education Council to North Island College

Revised October 14, 2016


The Aboriginal Education Advisory Council (AEAC) to North Island College (NIC) gives voice to the educational goals of Aboriginal people in the College region and provides advice and direction to the North Island College community in all matters relating to the College’s vision, mission, and strategic directions.

Definitions of Aboriginal

The term Aboriginal is inclusive of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples served by North Island College and as defined in the Constitution Act, 1982.

NIC has developed a Strategic Plan 2020 that outlines the College’s commitment to continuing to build partnerships with First Nations and to expand educational opportunities for Aboriginal students. Strategic Direction #4 outlines NIC’s commitment to Aboriginal Education and Indigenization.

North Island College Vision and Mission:

The vision for the future is for North Island College to be a premier community and destination college, in a spectacular west-coast environment that inspires and prepares students for success in a rapidly changing world.

The mission is a commitment to meeting the education and training needs of adults within the College region by providing high quality, affordable higher education and skills training, collaborating with our partners to create pathways to learning, and empowering individuals to achieve their full potential.

Inherent in both vision and mission of the College is a commitment to meeting the educational needs of Aboriginal learners and ensuring that students are successful.


The purpose of the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee is to:

  • Advocate for Aboriginal People and provide guidance to the College to ensure the provision of comprehensive education and support services relevant to the needs of Aboriginal People and to ensure the College works with Aboriginal People in culturally appropriate ways.
  • Give voice to the educational goals of Aboriginal People in the College region and provide advice and direction to the North Island College community in all matters relating to the College’s vision, mission, and strategic directions namely:
    • guidance in the development and implementation of the Aboriginal Service Plan; approval of the finalized plan and priorities.
    • responsive curriculum;
    • student access, retention, and success;
    • involvement in community programming transition support;
    • being an active Community Partner;
    • developing, strengthening, and expanding strategic partnerships;
    • raising awareness about post-secondary education throughout the region; and
    • strengthening and developing NIC staff/faculty skills to support the Colleges and Institutes Canada Indigenous Education Protocol.


The Advisory Committee’s goals are to:

  1. Provide guidance on how services designed to promote the success of aboriginal students are achieving outcomes and can be expanded and monitored.
  2. Advise the North Island College community on strategic issues related to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of NIC Aboriginal students in programs or courses offered on campus or in community.
  3. Provide advice on culturally-appropriate training for NIC students, instructors, and staff.
  4. Assist NIC in increasing connections at the program level to support curriculum, program, and services development.
  5. Increase NIC’s connection to Aboriginal communities by expanding use of service learning, internship, employment resource centers, and practicum training.
  6. Provide advocacy and guidance through partnership with Aboriginal communities to address local education and training needs through programming that recognizes local First Nations’ history and culture.
  7. Promote pathways from secondary school to college, further education, training, and employment.

Structure of Committee:

Membership is open to the following:

  • First Nations representatives from each of the Nations in the College region as appointed or designated by an official annual letter from the First Nation.
  • Aboriginal organizations in the College region such as family life societies, friendship centres, Métis organizations, and Aboriginal-specific training societies as designated by the organization through an annual letter.
  • Other interested Aboriginal representatives from community agencies have the opportunity to submit a letter of interest to the AEAC for consideration. New members will be agreed upon by consensus.
  • One Elder from each of the three regions appointed by the Regional Committees.

NIC staff are ex-officio and will consist of the President of North Island College; Vice President, Access and Regions; and the Director, Aboriginal Education, and, when necessary or appropriate, department deans and/or representatives, Aboriginal Advisors, and Elders in Residence.


Quorum consists of a minimum of two (2) First Nations representatives from each of the three regions (West Coast, Central, and Northern).

Decision Making:

Decision making will be achieved by consensus: this means that each committee member agrees in principle and is willing to support a decision. If for any reason consensus cannot be reached, decisions will be made by a majority vote of members in attendance: one vote per Nation or organization.

Roles and Responsibilities:

The Committee includes the following positions:

Chair – The Chair is responsible for calling meetings and will serve a two-year term. The Chair is selected by Council.

Co-Chair – The Co-Chair will serve as Chair in the Chair’s absence and will serve a two-year term. The Co-Chair is selected by Council.

Administrative Support is provided by North Island College.

The Terms of Reference will be reviewed at the first AEAC meeting of the academic year and amended as needed.

Summary of Leading Practices for Indigenous Advisory Councils

In 2012, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training (“the Ministry”) launched the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Policy Framework and Action Plan, which commits to improving outcomes for Indigenous learners. A key objective of the Policy Framework is that public post-secondary institutions will implement policies, programs and services based on leading practices.

In collaboration with public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, the Ministry has since developed materials on leading practices—including on advisory councils, gathering places, Indigenous student housing, partnerships, transitions, mentoring, Indigenous knowledge, and assessment and benchmarking—that have been reviewed by the B.C. Aboriginal Post-Secondary Coordinators in public post-secondary institutions, Indigenous Leadership of Post-Secondary Education institutions, Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Partners, First Nations Education Steering Committee and Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association.

The following summary is intended to assist faculty, administrators and staff at post-secondary institutions to implement leading practices in their Indigenous Advisory Councils – whether that be in making improvements to an existing advisory council or in establishing a new such body.

  • Develop Terms of Reference[1] with Indigenous communities.
  • Work with local communities and ensure broad representation – urban and Métis organizations, and Indigenous institutes, learners and Elders.
  • Ensure advisory council has a direct link to the president and/or board and that Indigenous community leadership is informed.
  • Ensure advisory council actions respect local formal protocols.
  • Ensure regular meetings based on the needs of the community. Meetings should encourage strong relationships, accountability and reporting.
  • Adopt consensus-based or joint decision-making where member voices have equal weight.
  • Use methods that ensure respectful dialogue. Use dispute resolution techniques, when required.

[1]Definition: Background, objectives, purpose, membership, roles and responsibilities, and scope of responsibility/authority of the committee.