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The impact of Canadian laws, policies and practices on Indigenous Peoples and communities in Canada is a critically important part of our history and current culture. The lives of Indigenous Peoples continue to be affected by challenges in areas such as healthcare, social services, employment, and education. How do we bring about meaningful change?

Our compact, fully online four-course certificate is designed to expand your awareness of diverse Indigenous experiences and worldviews. Gain a foundational understanding of Indigenous knowledges and practices through thought-provoking, culturally centred courses developed and taught from various Indigenous perspectives. You’ll have the opportunity to learn with students from all backgrounds and put your community-building skills to use through a project-based capstone course.

For Indigenous-identifying learners and community members, this certificate will encourage you to centre your experiences and expand your knowledge base to help you develop effective strategies for engaging and working in Indigenous environments.

For non-Indigenous learners and professionals preparing to or already working with Indigenous Peoples, communities, organizations, and programs, you’ll develop a strong understanding of the value of collaborating with Indigenous Peoples and communities and incorporating various knowledges into organizations in respectful ways. 

Build real-world experience through this unique, award-winning* program that will help you be part of the way forward.

* Winner of the 2017 CAUCE Award for Credit Programming over 48 Hours

Effective Fall 2021, The Certificate in Aboriginal Knowledges and Experiences has been revised. Students who were formally registered in the certificate prior to July 2, 2021, must complete the curriculum requirements that were in effect at the time of their registration. For curriculum details, refer to the archived calendar for your year of registration. Please contact our Client Services team at ce@ryerson.ca if you have any questions.

What Will You Learn?

Gain new knowledge and insights by exploring Indigenous lived experiences and perspectives. Learn how to:

  • Build and apply your critical awareness of yourself in relation to Indigenous Peoples, experiences, and worldviews.
  • Assess and understand the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian government.
  • Synthesize and communicate how Indigenous Peoples have been impacted by laws, policies, and practices in the health, social services, human resources, and other sectors.
  • Execute projects within community agencies and organizations.

Career Pathways

This certificate can help you pursue job opportunities or advance your career in the following areas:

  • Community workplaces and professional disciplines that engage with Indigenous communities, agencies, and people
  • Public or private sector roles in fields including social work, health sciences, education, policy, law, geography, human resources, community leadership, and more

Who Should Take This Certificate?

If you want to gain knowledge about key issues such as Indigenous health and well-being, governance, literature, community relations, and land use in Canada, as well as the skills to work in or advance your career in these areas, this certificate is designed for you. It’s intended for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners.

It’s also ideal if you:

  • Work in or want to advance your career in fields and professional disciplines that engage with Indigenous communities and agencies, including social work, health sciences, education, policy, law, geography, human resources, or community leadership
  • Want to work in occupations that address, or should address, Indigenous concerns in public, private, and not-for-profit sector organizations

Don’t have post-secondary education? You can pursue this university-level certificate with a secondary school diploma. Visit Admission Criteria for more details.

Who Teaches the Courses?

Your instructors will include representatives from the Indigenous community at Ryerson University and experienced external community teachers, who bring their depth of expertise in the fields of social work, social justice, oppression and diversity studies, research, and community work to the classroom.

Meet a few of the instructors who are teaching courses in this certificate.

Bonnie Johnson identifies as a woman, mother, Nokomis, educator, advocate, helper, member of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation, and a registered Social Worker (OCSWSSW). A 2006 Master of Social Work graduate from the University of Toronto with specialized practice in social justice and diversity, Bonnie is currently employed as a Community Liaison at the Toronto District School Board’s Urban Indigenous Education Centre. She is also a part-time lecturer with the School of Social Work at Ryerson University and the School of Justice and Emergency Services at Durham College. For more than 20 years, Bonnie has dedicated her work and volunteer experiences to helping people and communities. Her areas of knowledge and experience include Indigenous holistic healing practices; community development; child welfare; mental health; addictions; family violence; bereavement; human trafficking; and Indigenous justice strategies. She is passionate about and committed to maintaining balanced health and wellness through critical self-reflective practice and lifelong learning.

The values and principles inherent in Leigh Simpson’s Anishnaabe traditional teachings of the Seven Grandfathers are the foundations of their worldview perspective, both personally and as an educator. The principles of wisdom, courage, love, humility, respect, honesty, and truth guide their teaching practices as they aim to foster and develop critical thinking and inquiry in a creative and reflective approach using all experiences that will enrich students’ academic learning. In the past six years, Leigh has had many opportunities to practice and develop these principles in a variety of settings that include their role as an instructor, counselor, clinical coordinator, and LGBT student program coordinator.

Shane Young, Academic Coordinator for the Certificate of Indigenous Knowledges and Experiences, is of Mi'kmaw and Newfoundland settler descent whose family originates from the territory of the Qalipu First Nation on the southwestern coast of Newfoundland. He is also an Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Community Services’ School of Social Work at Ryerson University. Shane’s professional social work practice is in educational and community-based settings; it includes a strong background in building relationships with service groups and organizations in the broader community with the aim of providing services to diverse populations. His work has included populations that experience systematic marginalization and oppression in areas such as Deaf culture, homelessness, mental health and addictions, child welfare, and Indigenous communities.

Our Partners

Ryerson University’s Aboriginal Education Council (AEC) helps ensure this certificate continually represents Indigenous worldviews and responds to societal needs. The AEC has an active advisory role in contributing to and monitoring guidelines for the selection of instructors in this certificate. This is consistent with a major role of the AEC, which is to give input into Indigenous programming and education at Ryerson.

Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services provides specialized services for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students on campus.

Certificate Requirements

  • 2 required courses*
  • 2 electives
  • Cumulative grade point average (GPA) 1.67+

*If you are an undergraduate student who has completed SWP 435, you may apply for a course substitution towards CINT 922. However, if you complete INT 922/CINT 922, you may not apply for a course substitution towards SWP 435.


Admission Criteria    


  • Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or equivalent
    • With 6 Grade 12 U or M credits (including English)
    • With a minimum average of 70 percent


  • Mature student status

Note: If you do not meet the above stated admission criteria, you may seek advice and assistance from Spanning the Gaps – Access to Post-Secondary Education or from Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning offers a valuable opportunity to apply the concepts and knowledge gained through your studies in a professional workplace environment. The experiential elective course included in this certificate – CVSW 932 - Indigenous Knowledges in Practice – provides a project-based experiential learning opportunity through which you will gain professional contacts, practical skills, and hands-on experience.


“The Chang School experience has helped with my professional goals by allowing me to take courses at my pace. With the certificate and prior education, I am now able to work in Indigenous organizations. All I ever really wanted to do is empower my fellow Indigenous people across Turtle Island. The Chang School has also strengthened my writing abilities and given me the opportunity to work in my community as a course credit and work on any project that I wanted. I am a published author who contributed to someone else’s book. I was able to start to work on my own book project that will help my community and beyond.”

Phyllis Mckenna

Melissa Compton“Understanding Aboriginal identities can be complex, shaped by historical factors, social and political contexts, individual characteristics, and family dynamics. Learning these dynamics through the certificate will enhance academic success and foster positive environments and relationships.”

Melissa Compton

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be Indigenous to register in this certificate?

No. The certificate is designed for learners from all backgrounds to expand their awareness of themselves in relation to Indigenous Peoples, experiences, and worldviews, as well as their understanding of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian government. Participants in this certificate include both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and professionals.

I am Indigenous. What new information will I learn in this certificate?

This multidisciplinary certificate covers a variety of areas including art, literature, social work, midwifery, governance, and more.

Can I transfer courses from other schools and have them count toward this certificate?

Yes. You can apply for transfer credits for courses taken at another university that are very similar to the courses in the Certificate in Indigenous Knowledges and Experiences. You will be required to submit your course syllabus and transcript. If your application is successful, one or more transfer credits will be credited as electives.

How long does it take to complete the certificate?

Complete the courses in this certificate at a pace that suits your schedule – you can take more than one course each term. However you decide to pursue the courses, once you have registered in the certificate, you must complete it within three years from the time you were first admitted into the certificate program.

How much time will I have to spend on course work each week?

It is common to spend between six and eight hours per week for each course.

Is the Academic Coordinator for the certificate an Indigenous academic? What does this role involve?

Yes, the Academic Coordinator for the Certificate in Aboriginal Knowledges and Experiences is Shane Young.

Shane Young is a professor in Ryerson University’s School of Social Work and is of Mi'kmaq, Irish, and English ancestry. Originally from the southwestern coast of Newfoundland, he has spent the past 13 years working within Indigenous communities in Toronto. Shane’s research focuses on the exploration of the colonial interference imposed onto Indigenous identity through forced removal and assimilation and on unearthing ways in which healing can create personal and cultural sovereignty. Shane is a doctoral candidate in the Indigenous Studies PhD program at Trent University. 

The role of the Academic Coordinator is to assist you in determining if this certificate will meet your learning needs and linking you to the resources needed to support you success. You can contact Shane at shane.young@ryerson.ca.

I have not been enrolled in an academic program in several years. Will I be able to handle the workload?

Many of our learners have not been in an academic program in the past five years, or even longer. Our instructors recognize that different students need varying levels of assistance to make the transition back to university-level study. If you have not been in university before or are returning after a long absence, consider taking preparation courses that can help you get ready to take the courses in this certificate. Contact the Academic Coordinator for further information.

Can I receive assistance with my writing skills to get them up to a university level?

Like most university-level programs, this certificate assumes that you have the written and verbal communication skills necessary to complete term papers and other assignments. If you need assistance in this area, contact Ryerson University's Writing and Language Support. If you are an Indigenous learner, you can also contact Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS).

I have a disability. Will I be accommodated in this certificate?

Yes. However, accommodations are often highly individualized. You are encouraged to contact Ryerson University’s Academic Accommodation Support as soon as possible to arrange the specific accommodations you may require. If you are an Indigenous learner, you may also contact RASS to assist you with contacting the Access Centre.

Awards and Financial Aid


Contact Us

Questions? Contact Shane Young, Academic Coordinator.
Email:  shane.young@ryerson.ca

Additional Details