Indigenous Top Ten

October 23, 2013

Anaya urges Canada not to rush education legislation

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues James Anaya was in Canada earlier this month to visit First Nations communities and meet with Indigenous leaders to discuss a variety of topics, including Indigenous education. In a speech at the conclusion of his visit, Anaya spoke to a deep mistrust expressed by many Indigenous educators regarding the proposed First Nations Education Act, stating he “urge[s] the government not to rush forward with this legislation but to reinitiate discussions with Aboriginal leaders to develop a process and ultimately a bill that addresses Aboriginal concerns and incorporates Aboriginal viewpoints.” Anaya heard from representatives of the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and First Nations Schools Association (FNSA) in BC who expressed fears that federal legislation will disrupt already-existing agreements in that province. Anaya also heard from Prince Albert Grand Council Grand Chief Ron Michel, and Métis National Council President Clément Chartier about specific concerns regarding education. CBC | Global News | FNESC News Release | PA Daily Herald | MNC News Release

First Nations Education Act debate heats up

With Parliament resuming this week, it is expected that the proposed First Nations Education Act will be released shortly. As a result, numerous organizations and individuals have issued statements regarding the legislation, including Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt who stated this month that “reform will take place, funding will follow. But funding will not replace reform because the current system is failing these kids.” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and Chair of the AFN Chiefs Committee on Education Morley Googoo recently stated in a letter that “the money issues must be addressed before there can be any meaningful talk about education reform.” An editorial in the Globe and Mail called for collaboration between Aboriginal groups and governments to ensure Indigenous youth get a chance to succeed. In a statement rejecting the unilateral proposed legislation the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation also called on the federal government to work alongside First Nations. Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, Mi’kmaw lawyer and professor of Indigenous law, politics, and governance Dr. Pamela D. Palmater, and Métis writer Chelsea Vowel also issued statements denouncing the top-down approach of the proposed legislation. CBC | Globe and Mail | Globe and Mail (editorial) | Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg FN News Release | Huffington Post (Bennett) | Rabble.ca | Huffington Post (Vowel) | CTV

MAEI Aboriginal entrepreneurship program expands in SK

The Saskatchewan School Board Association has announced the launch of the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program (AYEP) at 17 schools across the province, including 3 on-reserve schools. AYEP was created by former Prime Minister Paul Martin's Aboriginal Education Initiative, and has been introduced to schools across the country, but SK is the first province to coordinate a broad implementation. SSBA President Janet Foord said the association wants to take the program to 28 school divisions across the province, although the province has not yet committed to any extensive plans. AYEP teaches entrepreneurship to high school students using innovative, hands-on learning techniques alongside Indigenous worldviews, cultures, and traditions. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada will provide $238,000 per year for 3 years and PotashCorp will give $150,000 per year for 3 years. News Talk 650 Radio | Saskatoon StarPhoenix | Global

Report says BC best for high school graduation rates for Indigenous youth

A new report released by the CD Howe Institute titled, “Why is BC Best? The Role of Provincial and Reserve School Systems in Explaining Aboriginal Student Performance,” has credited BC with the best high school completion rates among First Nations and Métis young adults age 20 to 24. Report author and Simon Fraser University economics professor John Richards explores the various reasons behind the better outcomes in BC, suggesting one critical factor is that “BC reserve schools have achieved more coordination among themselves and with the provincial school system than is the case in any other province.” Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Second Vice-Chief Bobby Cameron disagrees with the report, stating he doesn’t “feel that this formula will benefit First Nations in Saskatchewan.” Blair Stonechild, Indigenous studies professor at First Nations University of Canada supports the need to separate politics from education, noting “the communities that are more successful in education are those that place education above everything else.” Vancouver Sun (1)| Regina Leader-Post | Vancouver Sun (2) | Report

SK distributes funds for Aboriginal programming

School divisions across Saskatchewan will soon receive funds from the provincial government for Aboriginal programs. The First Nation and Métis Achievement Fund has committed $3.8 million each year for 3 years in order to strengthen programming with an Aboriginal focus, anything from “the creation of aboriginal advocate positions to targeted reading or career development programs.” Each school division is guaranteed a base $10,000, which increases based on the number of self-identifying Aboriginal students in the division. In divisions with very low Aboriginal enrolment, the money will likely go towards enhancing curriculum to include First Nations culture and treaty histories. Regina Leader-Post

uLethbridge launches protocol handbook

The University of Lethbridge General Faculties Council has released a new protocol handbook that provides guidelines for the uLethbridge community when including Blackfoot and other First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultural practices into ceremonies and events on campus. The guidebook was developed with Dr. Leroy Little Bear, a professor of Native American Studies and the FNMI Advisor to the President, and Roy Weasel Fat, Interim Director of the FNMI Centre, with input from local elders. The handbook contains information on the significance of including traditions at events such as convocation, the importance of eagle feather gifts, and pronunciations of Blackfoot greetings. Little Bear stated he is “very pleased to have had a role in developing this resource, which provides a foundation for ongoing exchange that we hope enriches the educational experience at the University of Lethbridge.” uLethbridge News Release | Protocol Handbook

Qikiqtani Inuit Association introduces historical documents

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association has released 2 substantial documents that detail the history of Inuit life from 1950-75 in the Qikiqtani region — otherwise known as the High Arctic and eastern Nunavut. The 2 volumes reflect the work of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, which was established in 2007, and bring together interviews with Inuit community members, ex-RCMP and government workers, historical archives, photographs, and the official report and recommendations produced by the Truth Commission in 2010. The documents, titled Community Histories 1950-1975 and Thematic Reports and Special Studies 1950-1975, offer valuable Inuit insight into local history and could become part of school curriculum, according to QIA President Okalik Eegeesiak. Nunatsiaq Online

First Nations leaders react to Throne Speech

First Nations leaders are disappointed with last week’s Throne Speech, calling it paternalistic, and suggesting it was too vague in its mention of First Nations education, considering the current debates regarding impending legislation. AFN Regional Chief Morley Googoo, who is in charge of the education file, said he wanted to hear stronger language on the need to improve First Nation education. AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut- Atleo stated Canada is at a moment of either “collaboration or collision … it has everything to do with the words that were spoken being followed up with real action, in full partnership” with First Nations. AFN News Release | CBC | APTN (1) | APTN (2) | Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Morley First Nations partner to provide on-reserve ELCC program

The Alberta community of Morley is celebrating the successful implementation of an education program that saw all 3 First Nations in Morley (Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley) partner with Bow Valley College to provide education on-reserve. The Early Learning Child Certificate (ELCC) program “was designed as a home-to-work transitional project to meet the economic and educational needs of a critical mass of women,” stated program consultant Dr. Rashida Keshavjee. Close to 30 students enrolled in the program, and over 90% graduated, preparing them for employment in childcare facilities, youth and community programs, and other family support programs, as well as providing a pathway for future education. Funding for the program was provided by the National Child Benefit Reinvestment (NCBR) Program and the Alberta Government and Employment Training Centre. Rocky Mountain Outlook

UBC concludes investigation into ‘Pocahontas chant’

The Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia has pledged to include Indigenous topics as part of the school's core curriculum, in response to a fact-finding report that determined “there is very little awareness of Indigenous peoples and their concerns among the students … interviewed.” The investigation was launched after reports emerged that students took part in so-called “Pocahontas chants” during UBC Commerce Undergraduate Society Frosh activities. The UBC First Nations Studies Program issued a statement calling the chants “an act of astonishingly poor judgment,” and suggesting the need for further education of Indigenous history and culture. Sauder Dean Robert Helsley stated students will now also “participate in workshops involving the First Nations Studies Program, and first-year orientation will be redesigned to include education in Aboriginal issues.” UBC News Release | FNSP Statement | CBC | The Tyee