Indigenous Top Ten

April 23, 2014

First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act tabled in Parliament

Earlier this month, the federal government introduced Bill C-33, First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (FNCFNEA), designed to improve Indigenous education and provide “education standards, supports and opportunities” comparable to provincial schools. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said the bill meets the 5 conditions identified by First Nations chiefs late last year. Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), stated, “the bill is by no means a substitute for treaty implementation or self-government but rather it must act as a bridge and support for First Nations to establish their own education systems based on their traditions and priorities.” Many individuals and organizations have expressed displeasure with the FNCFNEA. Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, suggested that the act “is an attempt to create the illusion of First Nations control over education.” The FNCFNEA suggests the creation of a Joint Council of Education Professionals, comprised of individuals appointed by the federal cabinet based on input from the Aboriginal Affairs minister and the AFN, designed to advise the Aboriginal Affairs minister and receive budgets and performance reports from First Nation schools and First Nation education authorities. Canada News Release | CBC (Bill C-33) | CBC (Atleo) | CBC(Nepinak) | APTN News | CBC (Kinew) | Globe and Mail | AFN News Release

WesternU’s Indigenous education council gets new name and vision

Western University has revamped its longstanding Aboriginal Education and Employment Council with a new name and new terms of reference. Now the Indigenous Postsecondary Education Council (IPEC), the council will be involved in the development of a multi-year Indigenous Strategic Plan for WesternU, in alignment with the commitment to Indigenous education in the 5-year strategic plan introduced earlier this year. IPEC’s new terms of reference outline several broad goals designed to increase Indigenous presence and inclusion at the university, including “strengthening Indigenous access and community outreach; facilitating and enhancing Indigenous student representation, transition, retention, completion, and advancement; working to increase representation of Indigenous persons among staff and faculty through equitable hiring; improving current academic programming and course offerings by including Indigenous content; and supporting and expanding research on Indigenous issues in respectful and responsible ways.” WesternU News Release

Parks Canada supports Arctic expedition program for students

Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Leona Aglukkaq, recently announced Parks Canada’s support for the Students on Ice program, which provides students with the opportunity to join educational expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Parks Canada has committed around $150,000 a year for 3 years to sponsor 13 participants in the program, 6 from the South and 7 from the North. Participants this year will take part in a ship- and land-based expedition exploring the eastern Canadian Arctic and western Greenland, and will also get a summer job with Parks Canada. “Through this initiative, our government is contributing to the development of future youth and northern Aboriginal leaders, helping to build bridges between northern and southern Canada, and increasing connection among Canada's youth to Parks Canada's special places,” said Aglukkaq. Parks Canada News Release

SK announces new strategic plan with focus on FNMI education

Saskatchewan has announced the implementation of a new Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP), the first province-wide education plan to be developed in cooperation with all education sector partners, approved by the 28 school boards and accepted by the SK government. The ESSP provides short- and long-term outcome goals for the province up to 2020, with targeted areas of focus for each school year. The first areas of focus will be reading and First Nations and Métis education outcomes. The development of an Indigenous student achievement initiative will be based on a New Zealand model called Te Kotahitanga, which was designed to improve the educational achievement of Maori secondary school students. The ESSP was developed with input from more than 1,000 individuals, with representation from public school divisions, Catholic school divisions, Conseil des écoles fransaskoises, First Nations education directors and principals, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Métis Nation - Saskatchewan, Ministry of Education, school boards, and students. SK News Release | StarPhoenix

Canada’s First Nations communities experiencing brain drain

First Nations communities across Canada are experiencing brain drain, the effect of youth leaving home communities to seek education or employment and not returning. According to statistics by the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (2009), 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds who have left their home communities do not plan to go back, 33% are undecided, and only 19% say they plan on moving back home. Communities such as Membertou, Nova Scotia and the Westbank First Nation in West Kelowna, BC are working to develop employment opportunities that will attract youth back to the community after finishing school. In Nunavut and NWT where the Aboriginal population makes up 86% and 52%, respectively, of the overall population, recent graduates can have student loans forgiven if they return to work in the territory. CBC

Indigenous education program at Brandon University faces low enrolment

The Program for the Education of Native Teachers (PENT) at Brandon University is in danger of being discontinued due to low enrolment numbers. PENT is offered through the Faculty of Education and offers students intensive, culturally-relevant education from April to July, with students returning to home communities to complete practicums during the rest of the academic year. With program costs climbing, tuition has increased to $750 per course; this year, the program enrolled 110 students—the bare minimum necessary to run the program. PENT’s administrators are looking “outside the box” at ways to keep costs down and increase enrolment. Program Director Ken Friesen stated the next 2–3 years are critical, as enrolment numbers must increase in order for the program to continue. "There's a real need for this type of program and for this kind of teacher and educator," he said. CBC

New pre-medicine program at Selkirk College receives support

BC’s Selkirk College has received a $50,000 donation from Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) for the new Rural Pre-Medicine (RPM) Program. The 3-year program was designed to address the shortage of rural doctors in BC by providing access for rural and Aboriginal learners. Graduates of the program gain comprehensive knowledge and skills necessary to apply to medical school, including MCAT preparation. “Selkirk College is grateful to CBT for supporting its vision of excellence and access to local educational opportunities for students in our region,” says Elizabeth Lund, RPM Program Coordinator. Selkirk News Release

Northern Institute of Social Justice receives $2.5 million

The Yukon government has committed more than $2.5 million to continue operation of the Northern Institute of Social Justice (NISJ) through to March 31, 2019. NISJ provides training and professional development to frontline workers who deliver social justice related programs and services, covering topics such as trauma, FASD, managing response to threats and aggression, dealing with loss, grief and healing in the workplace, residential school awareness, Yukon First Nations histories and cultures, arbitration, and understanding of legislation. “NISJ programs are positively impacting the way frontline justice, police education, social service and health professionals are interacting with their clients and with each other,” said Yukon College President and NISJ Governing Council Chair Karen Barnes. Since its beginning in 2010, NISJ training has benefitted 2,511 professionals in Yukon. Yukon College News Release

NOSM makes suicide awareness training part of curriculum

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine is incorporating suicide awareness training into its medical curriculum in an effort to respond to the high rate of suicide in the region. First-year NOSM students will now take safeTALK training, a 3-hour program created by LivingWorks that trains participants to identify those with thoughts of suicide and to connect them with suicide first-aid resources. The school is also developing and piloting other tools that aim to help medical students deal with suicide during their future career as physicians. Community support workers, including youth, are currently receiving and facilitating safeTALK workshops in approximately half of Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s 49 member communities. “It’s something that is being welcomed by the medical school, from the students to the faculty,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “It’s something that is needed and we also commend them for recognizing that this is a real issue for our communities and [for] doing something about it.” NOSM News Release | Wawatay News

SK institutions receive donations to establish awards programs

The Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology has received a $100,000 donation from Wally and Collen Mah to create the North Ridge Development Saskatchewan Innovation and Opportunity Awards. The donation will be matched by the Innovation and Opportunity Scholarship Program, offered by SK’s Ministry of Advanced Education, for a total donation of $200,000. The awards will be granted to students in the carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and refrigeration and air conditioning programs, with special consideration given to mature students and female learners. “The Mah’s donation is an investment in students and apprentices who will one day play a key role in the provincial economy,” says SIAST President Larry Rosia. The Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies received a $50,000 donation from the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, with matching funds from the Innovation and Opportunity Scholarship program, to establish 20 new scholarships for first-year and continuing students. SIAST News Release | SIIT News Release