Indigenous Ceremonial Practices on or at University Facilities


Date: April 3, 2019
Instance of approval: Administration Committee

Responsible Service: Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs

Date: October 26, 2022


1. This Policy outlines general principles that serve to guide the establishment and interpretation of procedures on how Indigenous ceremonial practices can occur on or at University Facilities.


2. This Policy and any procedures established pursuant to it apply to any and all Indigenous ceremonial practices, occurring on or at University Facilities.

3. This Policy does not replace or change the University’s obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code.


4. This Policy must be read and interpreted within the context of applicable law, including for example, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

5. For the purposes of this Policy and any procedures established pursuant to it, the following words and expressions shall have the following meaning:

“Indigenous ceremonial practices” encompasses, but is not limited to, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit and their respective and diverse spiritual traditions, including for example, smudging, lighting the Qulliq and tending sacred fires, as encapsulated within this policy, among others.

Smudging: A traditional practice by various Indigenous groups that requires the burning of any of the sacred medicines, such as sage, sweet grass, cedar, kinikinik (green tobacco), regular and traditional tobacco or a red willow bark mixture, alone or in combination. Smudging is a traditional spiritual practice that occurs alongside prayer but is also performed in open and/or closed meetings, feasts, pipe ceremonies, powwows, and a variety of other events or activities. Once a smudge has been lit, it does not involve open flame; sacred medicines are lit and then extinguished to create a small amount of smoke. It is this smoke, the smudge, that provides the source of purification.

Lighting the Qulliq”: The qulliq (kudlik, naniq) is the traditional oil lamp used by the Inuit and other northern peoples. Originally a multi-purpose tool used by women, the lamp provides light and warmth to the earth. The qulliq is a crescent shaped lamp carved from soapstone, fuelled by seal oil, with a wick made from moss or arctic cotton grass that, once lit, burns slowly while being tended to with a hook-shaped tool, the taqquti. The qulliq is often now lit at ceremonies to mark the start of important events.

Sacred Fires”: These are small fires used for ceremonies and important events. Sacred fires are lit at the beginning of significant events, kept burning under close supervision of a Firekeeper and allowed to burn out naturally at the close of the event. They represent a spiritual doorway to honour ancestors, and offerings of sacred medicines are fed to the fire by participants as a part of the ceremony.

University Facilities” means land, building, physical structure or space owned or rented by the University or otherwise under the control of the University.


6. The University has established a Procedure for Indigenous Ceremonial Practices On or At University Facilities, including without limitation, a Procedure for Smudging in Residence.

7. In establishing procedures pursuant to this Policy, the following principles apply:

a) The University is committed to creating a new, meaningful and lasting relationship with Indigenous communities based on mutual respect and collaboration.

b) The University recognizes the rights of Indigenous persons to practise their religious and spiritual traditions and seeks to accommodate these Indigenous ceremonial practices on or at University Facilities.

c) The University acknowledges that the smoking of tobacco or the holding of lighted tobacco by Indigenous persons or by non-Indigenous persons is permitted under Ontario law if the activity is carried out for traditional Indigenous cultural and spiritual purposes and, in the case of the non-Indigenous person, the activity is carried out with an Indigenous person.

d) Procedures in relation to the occurrence of Indigenous ceremonial practices on or at University Facilities must balance the right of Indigenous persons to freely practise their religious and spiritual traditions with fire and safety code requirements, as well as to respect the rights of others to freely enjoy access to University Facilities.


8. The Provost and Vice-President Academic Affairs is responsible for periodic review of this Policy and for proposing any amendments to it.

9. Amendments to this Policy require the approval of the Administration Committee.

10. The Provost and Vice-President Academic Affairs may establish, amend, or abrogate, procedures for purposes of the effective implementation of this Policy, provided that such procedures are consistent with the provisions of this Policy.

11. Notwithstanding Section 10 of this Policy, the Secretary-General may amend this Policy without the need to submit such amendment to the Administration Committee for approval if such amendment is required to:

a) update or correct the name or title of a position, unit, law, by-law, policy, procedure or authority; or

b) correct punctuation, grammar, typographical errors, revisions to format and other technical revisions, where appropriate, if the correction does not change the meaning of a provision or make such other correction if it is patent both that an error has been made and what the correction should be; or

c) correct the form of expression of a provision in French or in English to be more compatible with its form of expression in the other language; or

d) make consequential amendments to conform with or arising from another University by-law, resolution, policy or procedure.