Indigenous Top Ten

March 12, 2014

Loretta Saunders’ death incites calls for national inquiry

The murder of Saint Mary’s University student Loretta Saunders has renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. Saunders, an Inuk woman who was studying criminology at SMU and planning to write her honours thesis on missing and murdered Indigenous women, went missing on February 13. Indigenous groups across Canada have been urging the federal government to hold an inquiry, but the federal report of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women, released last week, did not include a recommendation for a national inquiry. Researchers working on databases that compile cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women state the number is over 800. Many organizations and individuals have expressed their disappointment with the government’s report and have suggested further action to highlight the issue. 2 people have been charged with Saunders’ murder and remain in custody in Halifax. Globe and Mail |AFN (Saunders) | Chiefs of Ontario News Release | APTN (Saunders) | CTV News |AFN (report) | Winnipeg Free Press | APTN (database)

Innovative block schedule seeing success at First Nations schools

At the Western Canada First Nations Education Administrators Conference in Saskatoon last month, Pauline McKay, Principal of Sturgeon Lake Central School in Saskatchewan, presented the “Copernican Block Schedule,” an innovative approach to high school teaching that has had positive benefits for the students. McKay’s approach is similar to others that use quarter terms instead of semesters, but with the Copernican schedule, students take one subject all day for 25 days, and the school year consists of 6 or 7 blocks. Some of the benefits, says McKay, are that “students and teachers don't lose time switching classrooms. Students have the time they need to master concepts, and become more confident in their skills and accountable to their teacher.” As a result, attendance has improved, and relationships between students and teachers have flourished. Graduation rates have also improved, with the grade 12 dropout rate falling to 21% from 60%. A handful of First Nations schools across SK are now using the system, and it has been adopted by at least one school in Alberta too. "You will never want to go back to the semester system," McKay told educators. "You're going to love the way you interact with your kids." StarPhoenix

First Nations community in QC welcomes new Pathways to Education centre

Thanks to a partnership with Rio Tinto Alcan, Quebec is celebrating the opening of a third Pathways to Education centre in the province. The new Pathways centre, in Mashteuiatsh, is the first of the educational and social support projects to be launched in a First Nations community in Canada, reports a Rio Tinto Alcan news release. The program offers homework assistance and tutoring services for students, and is involved in other community projects. In 2010 Rio Tinto Alcan committed $15 million over 5 years to make “persistence in school a top priority.” “This long-term partnership will help the community's students attain their full potential," highlighted Pierre Côté, President of Pathways to Education QC. Rio Tinto Alcan News Release

uToronto celebrates launch of Office of Indigenous Medical Education

The University of Toronto recently held an official launch of the new Office of Indigenous Medical Education (OIME), which aims to bring issues of cultural safety and awareness to medical students at uToronto. OIME was established last year to help support the growth of Aboriginal health professionals, as well as to graduate “more knowledgeable non-Aboriginal practitioners by integrating Aboriginal health issues and concepts into the undergraduate medicine curriculum in the form of lectures, panels, research projects and electives.” OIME brings issues such as Indigenous health and experiences, social determinants of health, and Indigenous health concepts to classrooms. Ideas of cultural safety serve to highlight “how to provide care in a culturally safe manner, recognizing their biases to the patient’s background or religion or race or sexual orientation, being aware of it so that their interaction with the patient can be much more therapeutic. Make the patient feel much more safe in their interaction with the doctor.” Windspeaker | uToronto News Release

Donation establishes new endowment fund and award for FN students

Thanks to a donation from alumnus Richard Masson, the University of Lethbridge will establish the Masson Family Endowment Fund and the First Nations Transition Program (FNTP) Award, which will provide financial support for students who successfully complete the FNTP and continue their studies. The funds will also serve to enhance the FNTP through workshops, a speaker series, and new laptops. The FNTP assists students with the transition to university by connecting Aboriginal and university cultures and aims to improve retention and graduation rates among Indigenous students. “The award is a celebration of student success,” said FNTP Coordinator Michelle Hogue. “It’s a tremendous honour to receive a scholarship for academic work, so not only will the award help students financially, it will help them believe in themselves as well. It will encourage retention and foster mentors for new First Nations students down the line.” “There’s a lot of opportunity for First Nations students to become strong leaders in their communities,” said Masson. “That’s something I want to support.” uLethbridge News | Lethbridge Herald

Literacy program reaches remote BC First Nations

A recent article in the Vancouver Sun brings attention to the “Write to Read Project,” an initiative designed to increase literacy in remote Aboriginal communities in BC. Founded by Rotarian Bob Blacker and former BC Lieutenant-Governor Steve Point – BC’s first Aboriginal governor – the program involves establishing mobile libraries in remote communities using donated mobile buildings, stocking them with books and computers and finding volunteers to provide literacy training. Urban Rotary clubs raise funds for ‘partner’ libraries in remote communities; there have so far been 17 of these partnerships established. The improved literacy rates have had positive effects on the involved communities; several have built permanent libraries and others are working on economic opportunities such as eco-tourism. “The long-term plan is to create jobs for aboriginal people … Literacy breeds opportunity. Entrepreneurship soon follows.” Vancouver Sun

MB launches new program designed to improve financial and economic education for youth

A new partnership between the Manitoba government and the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE), with funding from Investors Group, has established the “Building Futures in Manitoba” Program, which is designed to “better prepare Manitoba students to deal with the increasingly complex areas of economics and finance in today's global economy and help ready Manitoba youth to undertake their financial roles and decisions with confidence and competence.” The voluntary program helps teachers integrate basic financial and economic knowledge into existing curriculum from grades 4-10, and includes a website with resources for teachers, such as sample teaching units. Educators will also receive professional development opportunities, workshops, and support as the program is expanded and implemented across the province. CFEE President Gary Rabbior stated, "Our goal is to work with our partners to help prepare as many Canadians as possible to make sound economic and financial decisions. There is no more important place to start than with our youth in our schools where the priority is to prepare young people for the future." Investors Group News Release | Program website

Updated Blackfoot digital library unveiled at uLethbridge

Last week, as part of the University of Lethbridge’s Native Awareness Week, the updated Blackfoot Digital Library was unveiled. The library provides a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning about Blackfoot culture and includes text, photos, videos, and audio recordings. The project was started by Adrienne Heavy Head when museums and institutions began repatriating sacred objects to First Nations after the US passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. After the items were repatriated, Blackfoot Elders decided they wanted the items to be visible to as many people as possible, so digitizing the collection began. Now a partnership between uLethbridge, Red Crow Community College, and Old Sun Community College, Heavy Head hopes to continue to form new partnerships and improve the digital library. Lethbridge Herald | Blackfoot Digital Library

First Nations youth release Feathers of Hope youth action plan

A new report released last month brings the concerns of Ontario’s First Nations youth to light, calling on all levels of government to endorse the report’s recommendations and to implement the action plan with the full participation of the youth involved. Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan is the result of 2 forums held in northern Ontario last year that involved the voices of almost 200 First Nations youth from northern and remote communities. The report discusses the need for healthy role models and mentors, the importance of sports and recreation to enhance leadership skills as well as physical health, and the need for more transparency and accountability in community governance. The report suggests hiring youth to work with government and First Nations leadership on the implementation of recommendations and to ensure the action plan is enacted. “Youth are suffering the negative side effects of everything that has happened over numerous generations,” said one youth author. “And despite this, they are reaching out to say: ‘We forgive you and let’s move forward together.’” The report was welcomed by the Assembly of First Nations and the Chiefs of Ontario who both pledged support, and by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.Toronto Star AFN News Release | COO News Release | Full Report

uSask’s northern governance students involved in capacity-building initiatives

Masters students in the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development (ICNGD) at the University of Saskatchewan recently received scholarships from Cameco Corporation that will help with tuition and program costs. The scholarships will also help support students during the required internship component of the program, the newly launched “By the North with the North: Community Building in Northern Saskatchewan.” This research internship allows students to apply their knowledge in order to build capacity in a northern SK community by focussing on the program’s 5 core areas: governance, health and social development, innovation and entrepreneurship, capacity building, and resource development and environmental management. The ICNGD also recently held a forum on remote presence technology, which is currently used to deliver the Bachelor of Nursing program to northern SK communities. The forum, held in partnership with uSask’s College of Nursing, explored ways that remote presence technology can be expanded and best used in the health sciences. The use of this technology helps address the shortage of Aboriginal health care providers in the North, as well as enabling students to continue to use the technology in practice after graduation. uSask News (Scholarships) | uSask News (Remote Presence)