Indigenous Top Ten

November 6, 2013

AANDC releases proposal for First Nations education legislation

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt released a Proposal for a Bill on First Nations Education late last month, and is asking for input and feedback before the legislation is tabled in Parliament in early 2014. First Nations leaders and communities have been vocal in their opposition to the proposal, particularly due to the lack of attention given to funding. The proposed legislation calls for the establishment of education authorities and various resources and services within the schools, but offers no indication of funding levels. According to Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, "When you read between the lines you see the minister is granted a tremendous amount of authority under the new legislation, with none of the liability.” Tyrone McNeil, President of the First Nations Education Steering Committee, stated “It is now clear that Ottawa has no intention of renewing [the tripartite education agreement in BC]," and called the proposal a “missed opportunity.” National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Shawn A-in-chut Atleo repeated earlier calls for immediate, meaningful engagement with First Nations regarding education, stating “First Nations control over First Nations education, respectful partnerships, and commitments to fair, sustainable and predictable funding to support the creation of effective First Nations education systems are all essential elements.” The Chiefs of Ontario are calling the proposal a “major step backward” and suggest that discussions regarding funding must occur before implementing systemic changes. The Union of Ontario Indians Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee stated the "proposed First Nations Education Act (FNEA) is about control and false accountability. It is a colonial document and makes no attempt to close the gap on inequality in education." Former Ontario Premier and Liberal Party of Canada Interim Leader Bob Rae called the state of First Nations education “disgraceful” and a “national scandal,” and agreed with Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the AFN, who said the federal government is approaching First Nations education in the wrong way. And the Chiefs of the AFN of Quebec and Labrador issued a statement that as the proposal answers none of their fundamental concerns, they will consider options such as creating their own laws to govern education, or possibly challenging the bill legally. AANDC News Release | CBC | Global | Globe and Mail | AFN News | AFN Communiqué | Chiefs of Ontario News | Union of Ontario Indians News Release | TB News Watch | AFNQL News Release

MRU receives $1.25 million from BMO for Aboriginal Students

Mount Royal University has received $1.25 million from BMO Financial Group to provide scholarships, bursaries, and a peer mentoring program for Aboriginal students. The funding will be available to eligible students before they officially enter a degree program, to aid them in completing necessary upgrades through MRU’s Aboriginal Education Program; as well, individual awards of $6,000 will be available throughout the course of an individual’s studies. MRU’s new peer mentoring program for Aboriginal students will be supported by the Iniskim Centre, the academic and cultural support centre for Aboriginal students at MRU. The mentorship program will pair upper-year students with first-year students, as many of them “struggle with that first year of ‘walking in two worlds,’ as we call it,” explains Valerie Sipos, student success coordinator, Iniskim Centre. “They need to learn to navigate in a western institution and at the same time hang on to their identity. It can be a big challenge for some of them.” MRU News Release | Calgary Herald

Ontario schools not doing enough for Indigenous students

A new report released by Ontario’s People for Education suggests that Ontario is not doing enough to support Indigenous students in provincial school systems. First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education: Overcoming gaps in provincially funded schoolsfound that 82% of Ontario’s Aboriginal students attend school off-reserve, and that 51% of elementary schools and 41% of high schools surveyed don’t have Aboriginal education opportunities. Annie Kidder, Executive Director of People for Education, stated, “Aboriginal education is not just for Aboriginal students. Every student in Ontario needs the chance to learn about contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures and our shared history – and educators need to recognize that there are FNMI students in almost every school in the province.” The report makes several recommendations, including a mandatory unit on Aboriginal education as part of the new 2-year teacher training program, and increased support for school boards “to ensure that schools with a high percentage of Aboriginal students are provided with First Nations’ language, special education, childcare, arts, and physical education resources that are at or above the provincial average.” People for Education News Release | Canada.com (Canadian Press) | APTN News | Report

Carleton opens new Aboriginal centre

Carleton University has opened its new Aboriginal centre, called Ojigkwanong, which means morning star in Algonquin. Designed by renowned Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal, the centre consists of circular designs in keeping with Indigenous themes, and includes an Elder’s circle for smudging, ceremonies and events, a computer lab, work and study spaces for students, and a communal kitchen. The centre will serve more than 500 Aboriginal students and faculty, as well as Elders and non-Aboriginal members of the Carleton community. “Seventy years ago, Carleton was founded by the community and today we’re celebrating a part of our community, not just a space,” said Carleton President Roseann O’Reilly Runte. One student noted the “collaborative effort” that went into the “bigger, more flowing, beautiful and organic space” of the 1,850 square-foot centre. Carleton News Release

Mi’kmaq communities in NS celebrate record graduation rates

Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia are celebrating a high school graduation rate of 87.7% among the province’s Mi’kmaq students for the 2012-13 school year, significantly higher than the national average of 35% for Indigenous students. Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey (MK), the organization that oversees and promotes Indigenous education in NS, assists schools in the delivery of language immersion courses, culturally appropriate teaching pedagogy, and other initiatives to promote student success. According to the annual report released earlier this month, Mi’kmaq student enrolment in PSE is up 25% over 2011-12, and several initiatives designed to foster and revitalize the Mi’kmaq language are experiencing success. MK Executive Director Eleanor Bernard believes they “have a self-governance model of education that works, and others are noticing.” NS’s Mi’kmaq communities had their right to administer the education of their children recognized through federal legislation enacted in 1999. MK News | CBC | Annual Report

Conference addresses Indigenous literacy

The first of 3 policy roundtable discussions regarding Aboriginal literacy in Canada was held last week in Banff, AB, with a focus on ways to boost literacy in Indigenous communities. The National Reading Campaign, with financial support from TD Canada, brought together advocates, authors, publishers, Aboriginal librarians, literacy experts, and other educators to “explore approaches and create an effective plan to promote access to reading on and off reserves for children and youth, and to create a much-needed common agenda to champion reading and reading policies for Aboriginal children.” It is estimated that 60% of Aboriginal Canadians do not have the necessary literacy skills to succeed in today’s economy. One presenter noted the lack of libraries in First Nations communities as a large impediment to increasing literacy, and efforts are underway to establish a national Aboriginal public libraries organization, although the federal government has declined to fund the initiative. CBC | National Reading Campaign News Release

2014 Indspire awards announced

Indspire has announced the winners of the 2014 Indspire Awards, recognizing “outstanding leaders in their fields, having made extraordinary contributions to their communities and to Canada,” said Roberta Jamieson, President and CEO of Indspire. Formerly called the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, the awards support Indspire’s mandate to provide educational support and programs to ensure success of Aboriginal students. “The Indspire Awards promote self-esteem and pride for the Indigenous community and provide outstanding role models for Indigenous youth. They recognize the success of individuals who have the discipline, drive and determination to set high standards and accomplish their goals.” The winner of the award in the field of Education is Rita Bouvier, Métis, from Saskatchewan, who called the award "humbling" and "an honour." The 3 winners of the youth awards are: John Nicholas Jeddore, Miawpukek First Nation, Newfoundland; Sarah Arngna’naaq, Inuit, Nunavut; and Christie Lavallée, Métis, Manitoba. James Eetoolook, Inuit, Nunavut has won the Lifetime Achievement Award, which “celebrates the summit of achievement amongst Indigenous peoples.” Indspire News | Saskatoon StarPhoenix

SK invests $10 million in Parkland technology centre

The Saskatchewan government has invested $10 million to support the construction of a new Trades and Technology Centre at Parkland Regional College in Yorkton. The 2,300-square metre facility is expected to help address the trades and technical training needs of the region by graduating an additional 360 students and providing upgraded facilities for more than 2,000 new students annually. “The Trades and Technology Centre will yield educational excellence, foster innovation, cultivate inclusion, and create accountability to the citizens of the Parkland Region as well as the entire province of Saskatchewan,” says Parkland President Fay Myers. The college expects the project to proceed with tenders in November. During the facility announcement, Premier Brad Wall also highlighted the provincial government’s matching of a $150,000 scholarship donation over the next 5 years by the Yorkton Tribal Council to Parkland to help provide local First Nations youth with scholarships. Ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 per student, the PSE scholarship is available to applicants to assist with students’ tuition, materials, living expenses and transportation costs. Saskatchewan News Release

UVic journal addresses Indigenous health

The University of Victoria has launched the International Journal of Indigenous Health, published by the Aboriginal Health Research Networks Secretariat (AHRNetS), a national network of researchers and community partners hosted by the UVic Centre for Aboriginal Health Research (CAHR). The journal was previously published by the National Aboriginal Health Organization as the Journal of Aboriginal Health. The peer-reviewed, open access, bi-annual journal “seeks to bring knowledge from diverse intellectual traditions together with a focus on culturally diverse Indigenous voices, methodologies and epistemology,” and according to UVic is the only international Indigenous journal specifically focused on health. UVic News Release | Journal website

Leadership program in NU helps students get back on track

An innovative program running at a high school in Arviat, Nunavut, is helping students deal with life’s troubles so that they can focus on success. The Leadership Resiliency Program launched last year to help students learn communication and resiliency skills, and to give them a safe space to express themselves within a school setting. The program relies on referrals from community agencies and consists of 3 components: community service, including cooking for elders; adventure, involving traditional camping and other physical activities, and resiliency, where students learn coping strategies and set goals. There is no judgement or evaluation in the program; students do not receive grades, and anything said in the program is protected by confidentiality agreements. One student who credits the program with helping her graduate on time said that not only did the program help her to communicate with others, it also helped her believe in herself. Nunatsiaq Online