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Multi-disciplinary Curriculum: The First Nations Water Crisis

Apathy to Empathy is an interdisciplinary curriculum that provides basic education about Indigenous communities in Canada and the challenges they face to attaining safe drinking water.  The course highlights stories and traditional knowledge from Indigenous community members and students listen, learn, and incorporate their learnings into final team projects.

In the Fall 2021 semester, the curriculum was delivered for the first time as a pilot project in four undergraduate courses in civil engineering, chemistry, social sciences, and geography. Students were educated about the lived experience of Indigenous people in Canada and the challenges associated with Indigenous access to safe drinking water, and how to apply solutions that surpass what is taught in colonial structures.

The course culminated in a plenary seminar with team presentations that were cross-disciplinary and eye opening for student participants. Course feedback was positive with students citing the course as among the most fulfilling in their undergraduate programs.

The curriculum was developed under the guidance of Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) Joanne Dallaire (Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, TMU) and Indigenous leaders (including Gary Pritchard, Gary is Founder of 4 Directions of Conservation Consulting, and a conservation ecologist from Curve Lake First Nation).

Course instructors were integral to the curriculum development and included Indigenous professors Anne Spice, Department of Geography and Ewa Jewel, Department of Sociology, as well as Darko Joksimovic, Department of Civil Engineering and Roxana Suehring, Department of Chemistry and Biology.

The course was coordinated by Urban Water TMU, the Office of Social Innovation, and the Centre for Excellence in Learning & Teaching

This course is one of the enduring legacies of Nicholas Reid. Nick had great compassion and a belief that Urban Water TMU could be a vehicle for change. Nick believed that the Centre had a role and responsibility to educate and engender understanding in Indigenous water challenges.


See the student projects here:


Listen to interviews with Elder Joanne Dallaire, students who completed the curriculum, and their instructors here: (external link)