Indigenous Top Ten

August 13, 2014

Fraser Institute report on First Nations education draws criticism

According to a new report released last week by the Fraser Institute, increased funding to First Nations schools will not fix the low graduation rates currently plaguing First Nations youth. Suggesting that the overall operating expenditure for First Nations students is actually equal to or greater than that for students attending provincial schools, the report attempts to dispel several “myths” about First Nations education. The report asserts that on-reserve schools do not meet provincial education standards and are issuing diplomas and credentials that are not recognized by many employers or higher education institutions. Critics of the report, such as Tyrone McNeil, President of the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) in BC, state that the report pan-nationalizes data and ignores evidence to the contrary. Jarrett Laughlin, a senior policy analyst with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), takes issue with almost all of the myths explored in the report. "From our perspective, it's perpetuating more of the 'myths' and not enough of the realities," he said. A statement released by the AFN addresses many of the report’s claims, stating that the “Fraser Institute report uses an inaccurate approach to identifying the core, sustainable and predictable funding that reaches First Nation schools,” and that “despite the lack of specific resources to develop educational standards, First Nation education systems have been able to build and develop local standards that support their schools and communities.” Fraser Institute News Release | Report Summary |Chilliwack Progress | National Post | The Tyee | AFN Statement | Winnipeg Free Press

Elders key to revitalization of Indigenous languages

Many involved in initiatives to save and revitalize First Nations languages point to Elders as keys to restoring traditional language and culture. Allyson Eamer, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, has partnered with Marilyn Shirt, the Dean of Indigenous Language at Blue Quills First Nations College in Alberta, on a project that would allow Elders to gain certification to teach languages online through video conferencing. Elders are often the most fluent speakers of traditional languages, but may not have teaching credentials. As well, it is often difficult for learners to travel to the Elders to receive instruction. “We’re working on ways to get Elders technology training, some language pedagogy training and being able to reach across time and space and teach the language to people without people having to travel,” said Eamer. The women have applied for funding for a pilot version of their project. A Native Language Teachers’ Gathering held last week at Algoma University also focused on Elders as key carriers of traditional language and knowledge. Elders at the gathering were connected with younger language teachers in order to share resources, techniques, and best practices. | CBC | AlgomaU News

AUCC recommends federal investment in Aboriginal Canadians

As part of its pre-budget submission, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) recommends the federal government focus on funding for initiatives to attract Aboriginal Canadians to PSE, as well as for research and innovation and creating an opportunities strategy for young Canadians. AUCC recommends that the government triple support for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s Postsecondary Partnerships Program; create 500 graduate scholarships for Aboriginal students; provide more funding to Indspire’s Building Brighter Futures bursary and scholarship program; and invest in “reach back” and transition programs at Canadian universities to support mentorship and recruitment initiatives. AUCC also recommends that the federal government work with Canadian PSE institutions on a targeted communications campaign to increase awareness in First Nations communities about PSE funding options such as Canada Learning Bonds. “Harnessing the potential of Aboriginal youth through a focus on access to high-quality education is critical,” reads the submission. AUCC Submission

Ottawa Inuit centre offers school-readiness program with cultural component

The Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre (OICC) is offering for the first time the School’s Cool school-readiness program tailored for Inuit youth ages 3–5. School’s Cool uses play-based learning to increase developmental skills and prepare children for the school environment. The OICC program includes cultural components as well, in order to help the children remain connected to their culture and traditions. Children learn through participation in structured play: blocks teach numbers and letters, some toys enhance fine motor skills, and everyday interactions help youth with communication and sharing. “What we’re doing is giving them a place where they can come every day and be Inuit, and the School’s Cool is just an extension of doing that,” explains OICC Executive Director Karen Baker-Anderson. Children attend the program for 3 hours a day for 6 weeks, and according to program officials, participants can make a 50-week improvement in developmental skills in that short time. Ottawa Citizen

MUN signs agreement with Miawpukek First Nation

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Miawpukek First Nation and Memorial University’s Faculty of Medicine have signed a Memorandum of Understanding designed to increase opportunities for members of the First Nation to study medicine. MUN’s Aboriginal Admissions Program currently reserves 3 seats for Aboriginal students in its medical school per year. Under the MOU, members of Miawpukek will be eligible to sit on admissions and steering committees related to recruiting Aboriginal students for medical school; in addition, the First Nation will provide opportunities for all medical students to participate in learning experiences related to traditional medicine and culture. The agreement also provides support for learners during the admissions process and during the duration of their studies. “This MOU recognizes Memorial University’s special obligation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the importance of engaging and partnering with our communities to achieve common goals,” said Faculty of Medicine Dean James Rourke. MUN News

BC First Nation opens new literacy centre

BC’s Malahat Nation is celebrating the opening of its new literacy and culture centre, the Kwunew Kwasun Cultural Resource Centre. The centre expands on the existing modular library space made possible by Write to Read, a charitable program founded by ex-Lieutenant-Governor Steven Point and Rotarian Bob Blacker that gathers book donations and distributes them to rural First Nations communities. The new centre is modelled after a traditional longhouse, with one area dedicated to the literacy centre and a second area designed for community gatherings and early childhood education, language, and cultural programs. “This building provides us with the opportunity to learn through reading and education and ties in with the opportunity to learn about our historical ways, which are being passed on to this day,” said Malahat Nation Chief Michael Harry. The 3,000-square-foot facility cost $650,000, with $150,000 contributed by the Malahat Nation and the rest from donations and fundraising. Cowichan News Leader Pictorial | CBC

Métis Nation BC signs agreement with Selkirk College

The Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) has signed an agreement with Selkirk College that will serve to increase participation and improve access to PSE for Métis learners. The Métis Learners Protocol defines the pathway for the 2 organizations to follow and outlines 5 key principles: improved inclusion of Indigenous ways of knowing and Métis interests in program and service development; meaningful consultation and collaboration with Métis learners and communities regarding improved access and success; development of defined parameters for the use of cultural and traditional knowledge within college activities; collaboration on joint funding and project proposals in order to enhance service and program delivery; and development of an evaluation framework to assess effectiveness of agreement and to implement recommendations for improvement in the future. Bruce Dumont, President of the MNBC, noted the importance of formalizing such agreements in order to provide progress updates and review results. “It helps with the success in the long run,” he said. Selkirk News

Prince Albert chamber of commerce turns focus to youth education

Prince Albert, Saskatchewan’s Chamber of Commerce is launching a new initiative to further its support of youth education in the area. The Prince Albert Industry Education Council (PAIEC), modelled after a similar successful program in Saskatoon, is in early stages, but organizers hope to connect industry and business representatives with educators in order to provide career information and opportunities to youth at a younger age. “The critical purpose is to engage with the students and the kids and get them thinking about careers at a much earlier age so that whatever career they pursue, they’re doing so … more informed,” the Chamber CEO Merle Lacert said. The PAIEC would help connect students with information sessions and presentations on different industries and careers, as well as mentorships, internships, or co-op placements. The Chamber is also a supporter of the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program (AYEP), founded by former prime minister Paul Martin, which introduces Aboriginal youth to entrepreneurship. Triangle News

First Nations youth access individualized skills, career training

First Nations youth and communities are celebrating the Enhanced Service Delivery (ESD) program, a federally funded program that brings individualized support and skills training to Aboriginal youth ages 18–24. The goal of the program is to reduce reliance on income assistance by removing barriers to employment and providing tailored skills training and career counselling. The program is being delivered to more than 4,000 Aboriginal youth across Canada. Youth participants from Seabird Island and affiliated First Nations, Okanagan Nation, Meadow Lake Tribal Council, and the Blood Tribe have recently spoken of the success they are having with the program, and the benefits of having a dedicated counsellor to support them in various ways. “Seabird Island Band believes in the success of our people and empowering our members to achieve independence. With help from Enhanced Service Delivery, our youth and young adults are achieving self-sufficiency through employment, reducing the dependency on income assistance and positively impacting our community,” said Chief Clem Seymour. Agassiz-Harrison Observer | Chilliwack Progress | Canada News Release (1) | Canada News Release (2) | Canada News Release (3) | ESD Video

MHC offers no-cost pre-trades program to Aboriginal people

Medicine Hat College has partnered with SAAMIS Aboriginal Employment and Training Association to offer a tuition-free pre-trades certificate program to local Aboriginal people. Participants gain an understanding of various trades, including welding, carpentry, and pipefitting, as well as introductions to math and sciences. In order to qualify, individuals must be unemployed, underemployed, or facing unstable employment; a high school diploma or GED is not required to gain entrance to the program. The program is made available through funding from Community Futures Treaty Seven, Alberta Works, and Rupertsland Institute Métis Centre of Excellence. "Our goal is to assist the Aboriginal population in becoming more competitive in the labour market,” said Anita Neefs, Executive Director for SAAMIS Employment. Canada recently announced funding to study Aboriginal participation in the workforce, which is expected to identify areas of high demand of workers near Aboriginal communities. MHC News Release