Indigenous Top Ten

January 16, 2013

Idle No More movement reaches university campuses

Idle No More demonstrations reached Ottawa PSE campuses last Wednesday with a demonstration at Carleton University in the morning, followed by one in the afternoon at the University of Ottawa. uOttawa's Indigenous and Canadian Studies Students' Association issued a set of demands for the "decolonization" of the campus. Among the demands was for the Algonquin and Mohawk languages to be taught each term and eventually be recognized as minor subjects. Earlier this month there was an Idle No More rally at UBC. A student who collected signatures in opposition of Bill C-45 thought the UBC rally achieved an important goal: raising more awareness on campus about Aboriginal issues. In a recent interview with Maclean's On Campus, Michael DeGagne, who assumed his position as Nipissing University's president last week, said universities would do well to listen to what is going on with the Idle No More movement. "I think the university sector could really do a good job here of reaching out to the community and saying, 'what is it you need? What are your education needs? Let’s see how can we build a relationship here.'" Ottawa Citizen | The Ubyssey (student newspaper) | Maclean's On Campus

Federal Court ruling could expand PSE opportunities for Métis

Last week the Federal Court ruled that Métis and non-status Indians qualify as "Indians" under the Constitution Act of 1867, placing them under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Robert Doucette, president of Métis Nation - Saskatchewan, says the ruling could lead to future changes for Métis people, pointing to the issue of PSE as an example. "Presently Métis people do not have access to the funding process First Nations and the Inuit have where they get four years of funding to get an undergrad," Doucette says. "I hope with respect to this ruling the federal government will see merit in that and they will extend those obligations to Métis people." CTV

Report identifies data and evidence gaps hindering Aboriginal education policy development

Last month the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada released a report it commissioned to explore how better data and evidence can be developed to support jurisdictions' efforts to improve the academic achievement of Aboriginal students in provincial and territorial elementary and high schools. The report identifies important data gaps, such as ongoing substantial challenges in the process of collecting data that identifies Aboriginal students. The report says jurisdictions could develop and improve their administrative and assessment data by expanding current efforts in the areas of Aboriginal self-identification, the scope and frequency of data collection, and data linkage. These efforts include collecting a standardized Aboriginal identifier that distinguishes between on- and off-reserve First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students; improving collection and reporting of measures of educational attainment and secondary-school completion rates separately for First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students; and maintaining consistent student ID numbers that permit the construction of longitudinal student records. Report

Georgian College to offer Anishnaabemowin Language Programming diploma

Starting next September, Georgian College will offer a two-year Anishnaabemowin Language Programming diploma. The only one of its kind in Ontario, the fully accredited program focuses on creating functional Anishnaabemowin speakers by taking a multi-pronged approach to language retention. Students will receive in-class support, as well as participate in one-on-one sessions with a language specialist and facilitated group discussions to help with pronunciation and sentence formation. The program also prepares students to design, develop, and implement language programs at the community level. Students will study Anishnaabemowin as a whole, including the history, changes, and current issues affecting the Ojibway language today, as well as teaching methods and curriculum design. Georgian College News

uLethbridge approves Aboriginal Education Policy

An Aboriginal Education Policy at the University of Lethbridge was approved at a meeting last month of the institution's General Faculties Council. "The primary objective of this policy is to re-invigorate, reaffirm and strengthen the university’s historic commitment to Aboriginal peoples, reestablishing Aboriginal education as a core priority of the University," states a policy document. Efforts at uLethbridge to accomplish the objective include continuing to address equitable access and participation of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people in all faculties, programs, and services associated with the institution; increasing the overall awareness of and sensitivity to the diversity of Indigenous students and cultures within the uLethbridge community; provide quality support services for Indigenous students; and continuing to develop initiatives that strive to increase the recruitment, admission, retention, and completion rates of qualified Indigenous students at the university. NationTalk | Aboriginal Education Policy

BC summer math camps for Aboriginal students proving successful

In 2010-11, less than 10% of all Grade 12 Aboriginal students in BC completed Principles of Math 12, an important prerequisite for PSE. Melania Alvarez, education coordinator at the UBC-based Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, is trying to raise that percentage. In 2007, Alvarez and the institute launched a multiweek summer camp for Aboriginal students getting ready for Math 10 with 5 students. Last year, there were 21 students participating. A second camp, for older students, launched in 2008 with 9 students; in 2012 it had 24. Kerry Handscomb, vice-principal of Vancouver's Windermere Secondary and previously head of the math department at Templeton Secondary, said the camps were an excellent way to reach at-risk students. "We increased attendance rates, we improved success in mathematics. The program enables students to develop more confidence." Globe and Mail

New fund to support Indigenous programming at uWinnipeg

On December 18, the University of Winnipeg announced the establishment of a $10,000 fund in honour of Dr. Tobasonakwut Kinew. Kinew, who passed away on December 23, was an esteemed member of the uWinnipeg community in his roles as elder and instructor in the Master of Arts in Indigenous Governance and Master's in Development Practice with a focus on Indigenous Development. The Dr. Tobasonawkut Kinew Fund for the promotion of Indigenous Culture, History and Language will allow uWinnipeg to continue strengthening Indigenous programming for both the institution and its surrounding neighbourhood. The fund was created by a $5,000 donation from uWinnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy and his wife Denise Ommaney and a $5,000 donation from Tobasonakwut's son Wab Kinew, who is uWinnipeg's director of Indigenous inclusion. uWinnipeg News Release (Dec. 18) | uWinnipeg News Release (Jan. 7)

Non-governmental partnerships can point way to success in First Nations education

"If education is the key to the future of (First Nations) children, it has become clear that it will take non-governmental efforts to illustrate what is possible with modest resources properly focused on things that matter," writes Steve Styers, principal at Wallaceburg, Ont.'s Walpole Island First Nation Elementary School, for the Toronto Star. The federal government does not provide First Nations schools funding for libraries, computers, native languages, and principals, among other resources, notes Styers. The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI), spearheaded by former prime minister Paul Martin, provided Styers' school with support similar to a school board's, and with MAEI's help the school "is full of well-founded hope and enough initial success to fuel our journey." For example, after a few years, the school's Grade 3 students have gone from 40% writing at grade level to 79%. "While non-governmental partnerships should never replace the role of government, they can point the way to success so that perhaps, someday, our federal government can run to the front of the parade and implement a new funding model invented by others." Toronto Star

Saskatoon Catholic school division submits First Nations and Métis education plan

Saskatchewan school divisions with more than 100 self-declared First Nations and Métis students enrolled are now required to submit a plan to the province's education ministry on how they intend to narrow the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools approved its most recent plan at a board meeting last month. Goals and approaches in the plan include increasing attendance of Aboriginal Grade 9 students by 10% by this June, incorporating more First Nations and Métis books into literacy programs, and requiring all Aboriginal Grade 12 students to have a career-life transition plan in place by June. The $3-million plans builds on several existing targeted programs and will use existing personnel in the school division's First Nations and Métis education team, community school coordinators, home/school liaison workers, elders, and language teachers. Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Aboriginal students in Ontario need more help, says province's auditor general

In his 2012 annual report, Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter says the province's education ministry has not made significant progress towards its goal of improving the academic achievement of Aboriginal students and that the strategy devised to attain that goal has not been effectively implemented by school boards. Closing the gap in academic achievement between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students was identified as a priority by the ministry in 2006. Its most recent data, however, indicates that only 45% of Grade 10 students who identify themselves as Aboriginal are accumulating enough credits to be on track to graduate from high school. That is well below the 74% of the general Grade 10 population who were on track to graduate. "All school boards need to be on board if improvements are to be made," says McCarter. Ontario Auditor General News Release | Report