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Indigienous applications Canada, any experience?


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Hello, I'm applying to med schools this year and debating whether or not to go through the indigenous application process (I'm Métis). Does anyone have any experience with it? I feel a bit odd asking for the reference letter for it and I personally haven't experienced a lot of discrimination (it's not super obvious I'm Métis from looking at me), but my parents certainly have. I have mixed feeling about the whole thing and was wondering if anyone has any experience with it.  

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So I actually do have experience with it. I will split this post into three parts, ethical, logistical, and unpleasant realities. Also, and I say this because I know discussions even referring to Indigenous people on here tend to get nasty, I recognise that this take on things may not be shared by every Indigenous applicant and that there is quite a bit of diversity on how Métis people and people who don’t experience racism are viewed in Indigenous spaces. With that being said here are my thoughts on the matter.

Ethical

Being white passing, not personally experiencing racism, or having family with higher education are not disqualifiers for being Indigenous, nor is a family history of disenfranchisement or cultural disconnection. Residential schools; the foster care system; giving benefits like voting rights, university attendance, or post WWII housing benefits only to those who assimilated; and a host of other examples make it a reality for many Indigenous people that they don't feel Indigenous enough and are disconnected from culture or community. The act of meaningfully connecting to your Indigineity despite outside forces which have pushed you or your family away from culture, language, and community is one way to fight back against a state which has tried its best to erase Indigenous cultures and Indigenous peoples.

That being said, I think there are people who are Indigenous, but not well suited for the particular goals of Indigenous entry programs. The question I would ask yourself is are you meaningfully engaged in your Indigenous community in a way which will make you a better health advocate for that community than a non-Indigenous person? Some examples of what I mean by meaningful engagement include: having grown up embedded in an Indigenous community, having put effort into connecting to and giving back to a community your parents or grandparents disengaged from, or doing ongoing work or volunteering to help other Indigenous people even though you can't connect back to your home community due to barriers like missing records, distance, or familial issues. If the above does not already describe you, are you intending to use your time in medical school to become meaningfully engaged in your Indigenous community? If you aren't engaged, and don't have an interest in becoming engaged, I think the ethics of applying as an Indigenous student are somewhat questionable, though I am sure some would disagree.

Also, if you are feeling like you are too culturally disconnected or like you aren’t Indigenous enough, I would recommend talking to your parents and grandparents. I have found personally that this really helped me to contextualize my own connection to being Indigenous and gave me a space to talk about feeling not Indigenous enough and why I felt that way.

Logistical

First, you will need Métis citizenship to apply as a Métis person. This is difficult and time consuming to get. If you do not have it already, I would recommend starting the process of getting it right now, because if you don’t have any documents it can take years to find them all. You will need long form birth and marriage certificates for everyone who connects you to one or more ancestors who received scrip or are/were Métis Nation citizens under Powley.  The site http://www.redriverancestry.ca/ may be helpful depending on how much of your family tree you know. Also feel free to contact me if you need more specific guidance.

Next, many programs also have a secondary Indigenous interview or essay. I will not go into specifics on its content, but I will say that not everyone passes the interview or does well with the essay. If you are feeling questionable about the ethics of applying, realize that schools already work to screen out people who shouldn't be entering through Indigenous entry programs. If you will feel uncomfortable getting let in without the secondary interview as a backup to your own ethical judgment look for school that have the secondary interview and apply there. They will screen for if you are the type of Indigenous candidate they want to take.

Finally, grades, volunteering, and being well rounded still matter. As stated above not every Indigenous student who applies gets in, despite what you will hear from people who didn't actually apply through the Indigenous program. I have met people at Indigenous applicant events who were on their third and fourth applications. I did not get interviews at every school I applied to. Indigenous entry streams are not a get into med school free card. Even for school where it guarantees you an interview it does not guarantee you will have the skills to do well on that interview. Work as hard as you can in your undergrad; consider taking some time off after school to work, volunteer, and get a more well-rounded application; and dedicate time to interview practice starting ASAP.

Unpleasant Realities

First, some people will look down on you getting in by an Indigenous entry program. They will assume your grades are worse regardless of if they were and they will say ignorant things straight to your face, especially if they have labeled you ‘not Indigenous enough’. From what I have heard from current Indigenous med students I spoke to during interviews the amount of this varies a lot depending on the school. However, you only have to look at the discourse on nearly every question an Indigenous person asks on this forum to get an idea of the subtle and not so subtle racism that permeates at least some pre-med and medical circles. This shouldn’t deter you from using the Indigenous entry program, and most schools work hard to combat it, but it is something to be aware of.

Second, not every program has the same rules for Indigenous entry and not all rules are posted in an easy to find place. I would recommend making a list of every school you intend to apply to and sending clarifying emails to check exactly what they want. I did not do this last year and it made the application process unnecessarily stressful come September.

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1 hour ago, MétisPremed said:

<<<everything>>>

Thank you, @MétisPremed for making the above account and detailed, thoughtful post.

I am not of Indigenous ancestry, although (flatteringly) I am often mistaken for being Indigenous. I wanted to respond to @YesIcan55's post but I think you did so much more eloquently and with the culturally-informed understanding necessary to do so. I hope that future Indigenous applicants find your post and that it helps them on their journey.

Sincerely,

LL

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Thank you all very much, those replies were extremely helpful. My family is one that disconnected largely due to the negative experiences that my parents had growing up and the effects they saw in my grandparents. Its never been something I've engaged with partially because I feel they sacrificed to try and raise my siblings and I away from the poverty and hardships that they experienced and I think I partially feel. Those posts gave me lot me alot to think about, thank you. 

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  • 10 months later...

Recent Métis med grad here. I realize I'm jumping into this thread a bit late.

I would say apply through the stream. Although from my experience a lot of programs will assess you based on connection to Indigenous community, and although I think this is important in many situations, programs (and all of us) need to recognize that there are many social, historical, political factors that impact how connected Métis, First Nations and Inuit people can be to their communities and culture. Some of us were raised in situations where we were encouraged not to engage with community and culture or were in situations where we didn't have access to our communities, culture, Elders, lands, etc. And if you haven't felt discrimination personally, think of others around you who have and think about systemic barriers that have prevented Indigenous students from getting into medicine before or may have impacted your family. Although you may not feel impacted by these, it is the context that your ancestors have lived in. Indigenous application streams are there to support Indigenous applicants and to address equity in admissions. We need more Indigenous doctors. 

And yes, as MétisPremed mentioned in Unpleasant Realities, unfortunately there are classmates who don't recognize equity and believe that getting into medical school should be based on their perception of a meritocracy, ie. grades and accomplishments that are recognized in western culture. There are many exceptional applicants and med school grads who have complex backgrounds and huge achievements outside of these areas and who have required an equity lens and approach to even allow them to get into med. 

As for Métis citizenship - yes, it seems like most schools want applicants to pass the Powley test. Still, having done that myself, there are some schools that still won't recognize you (I'm looking at Mac for my particular situation). Others are more holistic in recognizing Métis (I can't speak to my First Nations (status and not) and Inuit colleagues though). 

Good luck with your application and please reach out if you have any more questions. 

T

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