Founder of UVic’s Indigenous governance program resigns

Gerald Taiaiake Alfred, a professor and founding director of the University of Victoria’s Indigenous governance program, has resigned, saying he “embodied toxic masculinity” and is committed to doing better.

“I am now a full-time consultant on Indigenous governance and politics strategy working directly with First Nations,” Alfred said in an email Saturday.

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“I have also accepted a new position and organizational affiliation as well, and I believe this will be announced by them in the coming weeks. I’ll remain based out of Victoria.”

Alfred said he left UVic on “mutually agreeable terms.”

UVic spokeswoman Denise Helm confirmed Alfred’s resignation and said he is no longer affiliated with the university.

In a statement about leaving academia posted on his website on March 7, Alfred said: “I have listened carefully to those who have criticized me and my work, and I have taken their messages to heart.”

Others have “helped me understand the ways I embodied toxic masculinity and how I did wrong and harmed people because of it. I know that even as an Indigenous man who has battled against racism and colonialism, I carry old and harmful ways of thinking,” he said.

“I am committed to doing better and recommitted to making positive contributions to the decolonization movement and the resurgence of Indigenous nations.

“I left academia because this work needs to be done in the context of my family and community, where it matters most.”

Alfred, from Kahnawá:ke in the Mohawk Nation, earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Concordia University in Montreal and a master’s and PhD in comparative politics and political theory from Cornell University in New York state. He is the author of three scholarly books and was awarded a Canada Research Chair.

In 2017, UVic hired external experts to review the Indigenous governance program after concerns were raised about its learning environment.

Admissions to the program were put on hold last April, Helm said, so it could be reviewed and redesigned.

“While the university can’t release the internal report due to privacy provisions, it did accept all of its recommendations to redesign the program’s content and instruction,” she said.

The Indigenous governance program was launched at UVic in September 1999 with 12 students.

It combines instruction in elements of First Nations history, traditions, philosophy, modern political realities and administration.

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