Indigenous Top Ten

March 27, 2013

Federal budget ties First Nations youth benefits to training participation

The federal government's 2013 budget ties much of the government assistance funding for Aboriginal youth to training participation. The budget calls for $241 million over 5 years "to improve the on-reserve Income Assistance Program to help ensure First Nations youth can access the skills and training they need to secure employment." But "benefits will depend on participation in training as per current practice in their province of residence," the budget documents state. The budget also allocates $10 million over 2 years for Indspire to distribute PSE scholarships and bursaries to First Nations and Inuit students, and $5 million over 5 years to expand an Aboriginal business studies program at Cape Breton University, providing the institution finds matching funds from the private sector. Budget Plan | National Post | CBC | APTN | Indspire News Release

Saskatchewan budget increases investment in First Nations education, skills training

The Saskatchewan government's 2013-14 budget outlines a $3.1-million increase to $29.8 million in funding targeted to First Nations and Métis initiatives and institutions. This includes increases of $1.5 million to work toward the elimination of on-reserve Adult Basic Education waitlists and $1.5 million to accelerate essential skills training and increase First Nations and Métis employment opportunities through partnerships like Northern Career Quest. The budget also includes a $600,000 increase to pre-kindergarten programs targeted in high-needs areas and $3 million in funding for initiatives to respond to the Joint Task Force on Improving Education and Employment Outcomes for First Nations and Métis People. Saskatchewan News Release

UBCIC argues First Nations education legislation threatens BC education agreement

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) says the federal government's proposed First Nations Education Act will override a tripartite education agreement signed between the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and the federal and BC governments last year. Phillip, who earlier this month attended Aboriginal Affairs' Session on Canada's Proposed National First Nations Education Act in Vancouver, says "this short shrift process threatens existing education jurisdiction agreements and is a continuation of the Harper Government's attack on our collective and inherent Title, Rights and Treaty Rights." BC is the only province that has signed a tripartite First Nations agreement between the provincial and federal governments and local First Nations. The agreement promises an increase in annual federal education funding by $15 million for reserve schools, bringing them to about the same funding level as public schools in BC. The provincial side of the agreement includes working with FNESC to provide a seamless transition for students moving between reserve and public schools, as well as provincial graduation certificates for students who graduate from secondary school on reserve. But all that could be tossed by the wayside should federal legislation be passed. "It's an agreement, so legislation could trump (it), the agreement is five years. So we're into year one. We see long-term the legislation can displace the work that's been done in BC," says FNESC's executive director. UBCIC News Release | The Tyee

Indspire Institute launches with $1.7-million donation

March 15 marked the launch of the Indspire Institute with a $1.7-million commitment from the Suncor Energy Foundation. The Indspire Institute is a new online meeting place, sharing place, and a resource for all of those engaged in the education of Indigenous students from kindergarten to Grade 12. Suncor's funding will support Indspire Institute programs, including "Nurturing Capacity: Building Community Success," a program available for communities across Canada that are experiencing challenges in the area of K-12 student achievement. Indspire News Release

Kwantlen, Métis Nation BC sign MOU

On March 8, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) joined in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. With this understanding, Kwantlen and MNBC recognize the importance of PSE and training for Métis peoples, their families, and communities, and the need for improved levels of participation and success of Métis learners. As part of the MOU, an endowment is being created at Kwantlen for Métis students in BC. Kwantlen and MNBC are making equal contributions to the endowment fund and it will be for the life of the institution. MNBC News Release

uSask launches Aboriginal Initiatives website

The University of Saskatchewan is taking one more step toward its commitment to engage Aboriginal people with the launch of a new Aboriginal Initiatives website. The site brings together all of uSask's Aboriginal initiatives, lists all the events, resources, and programs affiliated with the institution's Aboriginal academic and community activities, and outlines partnership activities. The site is also a centre for prospective students, researchers, employees, and members of First Nations and Métis communities to learn about uSask and its programming for employment, research, and business development opportunities. One of the site's features is the Aboriginal Engagement Map, an interactive map showing what Aboriginal activities, academic and cultural programs, services and events are happening on campus and in other Saskatchewan communities. uSask News Release | Aboriginal Initiatives website

Agreement to support educational success of Yukon First Nations students

The federal and Yukon governments, Yukon First Nations, and the Council of Yukon First Nations have signed an MOU to support the educational success of First Nations students in the territory. The agreement will help launch a long-term strategic plan for a First Nations student's life-long learning process focusing on the K-12 system. It also recognizes all aspects of life-long learning, and calls for initiatives to recognize the diversity of Yukon First Nations peoples, while taking into account the need for culturally-appropriate education. Aboriginal Affairs News Release

Regina schools encourage self-declaration among Aboriginal students

Boosting the number of self-declared Aboriginal students in schools is just one piece of the puzzle, as far as Sarah Longman is concerned. The Regina Public Schools' Aboriginal transitions consultant recently led an information session about the benefits of self-declaration, such as specialized programs, resources, and, most of all, more accurate data when it comes to the number of First Nations and Métis students in Regina schools. Longman says that will in turn lead to more factual results when it comes to academic achievement and graduation rates. "At some of our schools, just by looking at them we know that they have a population that's about 90 per cent aboriginal, and yet when we look at the data for that school, it says only 30 per cent of the kids are aboriginal," Longman says. "The goal is to accumulate that baseline data, so we know where performance levels really are, and then we can provide more programs and more services where they're needed." Regina Leader-Post

uWinnipeg students rally for increased on-reserve education funding

A group of University of Winnipeg students is calling for more education funding for First Nations students. Students held a round dance on campus last Tuesday and handed out reading materials on the proposed First Nations Education Act. The group wants to put pressure on the provincial and federal governments to increase funding for on-reserve education, and they are asking others to get involved. The group wants to see the government lift a 2% cap on funding increases. The cap has been in place since 1996, and students say that due to inflation and population growth, the amount of funding available to students is dwindling. A uWinnipeg student notes that removing or increasing the cap would improve the lives of Aboriginal students. CBC

Improving First Nations education outcomes in BC requires significant policy changes

Improving Aboriginal education outcomes in BC requires some significant policy changes, writes Simon Fraser University professor John Richards for the Vancouver Sun. These include ensuring Aboriginal children have access to early childhood education, whether they are on- or off-reserve; the BC education ministry expanding existing provincial precedents that allow school districts to undertake discretionary Aboriginal education initiatives; First Nations in BC strengthening the ability of "proto school districts" such as First Nations School Authority to assume the functions of a school district in provincial systems; publicly reporting comprehensive student performance measurement; and boosting the number of Aboriginal teachers. "Across Canada, on-reserve outcomes are weaker than in provincial schools but here, too, is a wide range of outcomes," writes Richards. "Good policy and leaders cannot explain all variations in aboriginal educational performance but nor do social conditions or issues of cultural identity. There is hard work ahead." Vancouver Sun