Indigenous Top Ten

October 5, 2012

First Nations leaders reject federal government's education reform

A much-touted plan to bring the federal government and First Nations together to overhaul native education has fallen apart. Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), emerged Wednesday from the Special Chiefs Assembly on Education saying they had agreed to reject Ottawa's approach. The government wanted to develop legislation that would set up school-board type arrangements that would give First Nations governments more control over their education. But chiefs state that the federal decision-making was happening behind closed doors, and leading to a one-size-fits-all law that would not work for reserves whose rights are defined by treaties. Earlier this year, the government and AFN said they would work on a joint action plan that would lead to a collaborative development of legislation by 2014. The plan was the centrepiece of a summit with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in January and formed the basis for $275 million in new funding in the 2012 federal budget. Canadian Press

Federal government asserts that First Nations education is not underfunded

In a backgrounder attached to a Tuesday announcement on constructing new schools, government officials included a raft of calculations that suggest First Nations students receive just as much, if not more, funding as non-Aboriginal students. Aboriginal Affairs says it spent an average of $13,542 for each student in the 2010-11 school year -- not including funding for infrastructure and building maintenance. That compares to a national per-student average of $10,438 in 2009, according to Statistics Canada; however, it contradicts figures from the Assembly of First Nations showing that First Nations receive approximately $7,101 for each student, on average. Canadian Press | Aboriginal Affairs News Release

Despite 16-year budget freeze, Yellowhead Tribal College perseveres

Celebrating its 26th year helping Aboriginal students bridge the gap between high school and university, the Edmonton-based Yellowhead Tribal College operates with $1.5 million in annual federal funding, which has not increased since 1996. With money so tight, the college has no capital budget, its instructors are paid less than at comparable mainstream institutions, and its classes are run out of the third floor of an aging brown building, a downstairs bingo hall, and a rented room across the parking lot. The college has dropped by 5 staff members to 18 to serve the 200-student institution. Even though the building is old, students seem excited to be there. It’s a good place, says a first-year student. "It's my kind of people; that makes it easier," he says. "It gives me the first step through the door to go to university or college." The college has seen student retention increase from less than 60% to nearly 80% in 5 years. Edmonton Journal

NWT, Nunavut launch comprehensive curriculum on residential schools

The Northwest Territories and Nunavut governments announced Tuesday a comprehensive curriculum on Residential Schools, the first of its kind in Canada. The curriculum is now a key section of the Northwest Territories Northern Studies course and the Nunavut Social Studies course. It covers topics such as the history and legacy of residential schools, traditional education and learning, assimilation, colonialism, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the federal apology, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and what reconciliation may look like. The curriculum includes literature and stories of former residential school students shared via video and audio clips, allowing students to learn about the impacts that school life had on individuals. The curriculum was piloted in March with a select number of schools across the 2 territories. NWT/Nunavut News Release

Push for Aboriginal content in BC school curriculum

The BC government has made strides toward improving Aboriginal content in the school curriculum, but much of the improvements are optional courses in secondary school offered as alternatives to mainstream courses. Enrolment in these alternative courses is low, which critics say is because students don’t realize they can be used for PSE entrance, too. BC's education ministry says including Aboriginal perspectives in the curriculum overall is part of its current BC Education Plan, but there is no set end date for curriculum changes. Some schools and First Nations organizations are not waiting for the province to change the curriculum. For example, School District 57 in Prince George, where more than 25% of students identify as Aboriginal, has initiated 2 district-wide strategies for incorporating Aboriginal content into their schools. Having declared this "The Year of Indigenous Education," UBC’s Faculty of Education has developed a course called Aboriginal Education in Canada, which is "intended to provide teacher candidates with opportunities to explore how a school program may need to be modified in order to respectfully and meaningfully integrate aboriginal/indigenous history, content and worldviews." The Tyee

Federal, NS governments invest in CBU Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies

On September 6, Cape Breton University’s Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies received a joint $1.5-million investment from Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The Nova Scotia government also contributed $50,000 to the chair, which will promote interest among Canada’s Aboriginal people in the study of business at the PSE level, while undertaking pure and applied research specific to Aboriginal business. ECBC News Release | NS News Release

Report explores BC's efforts to attract Aboriginal people to the trades

The BC Industry Training Authority recently released a report on the progress of BC's efforts to attract Aboriginal people to the trades in the province. The report observes that over the past 5 years, the number of Aboriginal people participating in trades training at public PSE institutions in BC had doubled to more than 1,200 in each of the past 2 years. The ITA attributes this success to partnerships with the provincial and federal governments, programs such as the Canada-BC Labour Market Agreement, and the ideas and partnerships First Nations and Aboriginal agencies in BC have established with educators, employers, and industry. The report outlines the accomplishments of the ITA's Aboriginal Initiatives, and what the authority plans to do next to continue this growth. ITA will continue to implement and refine its Aboriginal Initiatives to further reduce obstacles Aboriginal people face to successful entry into the trades. ITA News Release | Report

Canadore opens First Peoples' Centre

On September 14, Canadore College celebrated the grand opening of its First Peoples' Centre, whose design and concept is inspired by the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. The centre features an Aboriginal student lounge and a multi-purpose meeting room that will enable Canadore to continue to develop flexible learning opportunities through the use of technology. More than 350 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis students on campus will have access to an Elder in Residence, a focused Aboriginal Student Association, counselling, peer tutoring, and mentorship over the course of their academic experience. Nearly 20% of Canadore's student population is of Ojibway, Oji-Cree, Cree, Algonquin, Mohawk, Inuit, or Métis decent, one of the highest representations in the Ontario college system. Canadore News Release

UBC, Langara launch Aboriginal Transfer Program

UBC and Langara College have partnered to develop a transfer program to support First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students working toward a university degree. The first of its kind in BC, the UBC-Langara Aboriginal Transfer Program will offer up to $8,500 in scholarships to Aboriginal students, as well as guaranteed admission to UBC's arts faculty and personalized support from Aboriginal advisors at both PSE institutions. Program students will complete one or 2 years at Langara, including the new Aboriginal Plus Program, which is designed to prepare students for academic success through workshops, extracurricular events, and support from Aboriginal faculty and staff at both schools. Langara students who meet program requirements will get guaranteed admission to the arts faculty at UBC's Vancouver campus. By maintaining high academic standards, students in the program will be eligible for the scholarships. Planning is underway to expand the transfer program to other UBC faculties. UBC News Release | UBC-Langara Aboriginal Transfer Program

Carleton gets first look at design plans for Aboriginal centre

Carleton University has selected architect Douglas Cardinal to design the interior space for its new Aboriginal centre. Expected to be completed in January 2013, the centre will serve as a gathering place for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, staff, and faculty who want to spend time together, visit with elders, study, or engage in research. The project challenge is "having it be a place where the people feel at home, and the elders feel that it respects their culture and their heritage," says Cardinal, who is also working on the Gordon Oakes-Red Bear Student Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. The Aboriginal centre is the latest in Carleton's efforts to become a noted centre for Aboriginal learning and innovative research. Last fall the institution adopted an Aboriginal Co-ordinated Strategy, which seeks to welcome more Aboriginal students to campus, increase partnerships with Aboriginal communities, and include Indigenous knowledge in teaching wherever possible. Carleton News Release | Ottawa Citizen