Provision for Indigenous Ceremonial Practices for Events on University Campus


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

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


1. This Policy outlines how the University of Ottawa meets its legal duty to accommodate in relation to Indigenous ceremonial practices under the Ontario Human Rights Code, as well as the procedures under which these practices can occur on the University campus and at University facilities.


2. The University is committed to creating a new, meaningful and lasting relationship based on a respectful partnership with Indigenous communities. The University recognizes Indigenous peoples’ rights to freely practise their religious and spiritual traditions and welcomes these practices on its premises.

3. Under Section 19 of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, the use of tobacco or holding lighted tobacco by Indigenous persons for traditional Indigenous cultural and spiritual purposes is not prohibited.

4. The goal of this policy is to balance these rights with fire and safety code requirements, as well as to respect the rights of others to freely enjoy access to University premises.


5. This policy applies to any and all Indigenous ceremonial practices, including smudging, lighting the Qulliq and making sacred fires at events that are held on the University campus.

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


7. This Policy must be read and interpreted within the context of the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code, as mentioned in section 1 of this Policy, as well as the Occupational Health and Safety Act.


Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs

8. The Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs, is responsible for the oversight of this Policy and for monitoring progress and addressing issues that arise in its execution.

University Facilities

9. University Facilities is responsible for maintaining the master list of approved facilities where Indigenous ceremonial practices can occur and for ensuring that this list is updated and shared with the Indigenous Resource Centre, the Registrar’s Office, Conventions and Reservations and Protection Services through a web link provided and maintained on the Conventions and Reservations website.

Conventions and Reservations

10. Conventions and Reservations is responsible for receiving and processing requests from persons or groups wishing to reserve space for an event to be held on campus and for maintaining a master list of all rooms available for Indigenous ceremonial practices on its website.

Indigenous Affairs

11. Indigenous Affairs, supported by the staff at Mashkawazìwogamig: Indigenous Resource Centre, is responsible for providing guidance for Indigenous ceremonial observances, for the benefit of those on campus who require such support and information.

Information regarding ceremonial observances and reserving space will be available on the Indigenous Portal at and linked from the Conventions and Reservations website.

Human Rights Office

12. The Human Rights Office is responsible for providing expert advice on the duty to accommodate and accessibility matters for staff, students and faculty, and for handling complaints related to harassment and/or discrimination, including discrimination based on creed, as per Policy 67a - Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination.


13. Persons and groups wishing to include Indigenous ceremonial practices at events to be held on campus must make their request to Conventions and Reservations at least five business days prior to their ceremony.

14. A master list of all rooms available for Indigenous ceremonial practices is available on the Conventions and Reservations website. Requested spaces not available on this list are subject to approval and access may be refused if proper notice is not provided.

15. Participation in ceremonies is voluntary and no one should be forced to participate in a ceremony. A person who does not wish to participate may choose to stay in the room and refrain from participating in the ceremony or may leave the room.

16. A least two (2) days prior to the event during which the ceremony will be conducted, a notice will be issued through Conventions and Reservations software to Protection Services, Indigenous Affairs and building manager(s). Giving notice recognizes the importance of the ceremonial practice and that some members of the community may be sensitive and or allergic to smoke from these medicines.

17. While smudging or qulliq lighting is occurring, doors must be closed and a sign posted on both the door and near the building entrances alerting other users of the building that a ceremony is being conducted and that they may smell smoke. A digital version of the sign is available through Conventions and Reservations.

18. Responsibility for the safe and appropriate use of the sacred medicines rests with the lead participant in the event. Information on how to handle medicines can be found on the Indigenous Portal.

19. Any fees related to the Knowledge Keeper performing the ceremony are the responsibility of the persons or group responsible for the event, although Conventions and Reservations can facilitate payment.


20. This Policy may be updated periodically to make improvements or to bring it in line with current legislation in Ontario.

21. The Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs, is responsible for interpreting and updating this Policy. Consultation with the Indigenous Resource Centre will occur prior to approval or amendment of this policy.


22. Any exceptions to this Policy must be approved by the Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs.


23. The following definitions apply in this policy:

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.

Those who wish to light sacred fires on campus must first receive a permit from the City of Ottawa. Conventions and Reservations will assist with the process of obtaining these permits. Sacred fires must be in a strategic location, to be determined at the discretion of the Fire Marshall and the uOttawa Fire Prevention Officer. Fees applicable for this process will be the responsibility of the persons or group holding the event.