Indigenous Top Ten

July 13, 2016

Inquest into student deaths concludes with recommendations

The coroner’s inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students from northern Ontario has concluded. The five-person jury found the circumstances around the deaths to be “accidental” in three cases and “undetermined” in the remaining four. The seven students died between 2000 and 2011 when they were living and attending school in Thunder Bay. The jury also issued a report with 145 recommendations to the federal, provincial, and municipal governments; local police enforcement; educators; and community members. Many of the recommendations echo those made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, such as equitable funding for Indigenous education and support to close the education gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. Reactions to the recommendations were largely supportive, with several groups suggesting that they have already begun to implement initiatives designed to better support students and prevent future deaths.

AFN | Canada | CBC (verdict) | Manitoulin | CBC (police) | CBC (youth) | CBC (students)

ACC and Waywayseecappo partner on in-community certificate program

Assiniboine Community College and Waywayseecappo First Nation have partnered on the in-community delivery of an Education Assistant certificate program. The nine-course program was launched last fall and the first cohort is expected to complete the program this December. Many of the learners currently work in the local community school and/or daycare and are already applying new skills and knowledge, benefitting the community directly. The program is funded by the federal Post‑Secondary Partnership Program and is offered on a part-time basis to accommodate the students’ work schedules. Colleen Clearsky, Director of Education for Waywayseecappo, noted there are a number of opportunities available to the students upon completing the certificate, adding that the students have become role models in the community. 


Montreal organization aims to offer Indigenous language classes

An organization in Montreal is planning to expand its Indigenous language course offerings in the fall, if enough teachers can be found. Native Montreal is a community-based organization focussed on providing services for the city’s Aboriginal population. The group plans to offer courses to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners in Innu, Cree, Mohawk, Abenaki, Anishnaabe and Inuktitut. The classes will also aim to connect learners with culture through cooking and other activities that are suitable for all ages. Native Montreal has in the past offered classes in Mohawk, Innu, and Cree. If the organization is able to secure the necessary teachers, courses will start in September.


Trent prepares BEd students to teach Indigenous history

Trent University has introduced a mandatory course that will better prepare future teachers to instruct students on Indigenous history and the environment. The new Indigenous and Environmental Sustainability Education course will be mandatory for all Bachelor of Education candidates at Trent; the course will be offered for the first time to second-year education students this fall. The course combines Indigenous and environmental education and reflects an Indigenous worldview of the natural world. Students will gain awareness of Indigenous culture and history that will be taught in future classrooms, and will also explore ways to teach these subjects effectively and respectfully. The new course builds on content in Trent’s Indigenous Studies course that is mandatory for all undergraduate students in the Teacher Education Stream, which precedes the two-year BEd program. In recognition of Inuit history, Trent recently unveiled a plaque in its Bata Library recognizing the initial meeting of what would become Inuit Tapirisat—now called Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami—the Inuit national advocacy organization.

Trent (course) | Trent (plaque)

Mohawk Institute Residential School receives support to become education centre

The Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, ON has secured the support and funds it needs to become an education centre focussed on the residential school system. The Woodland Cultural Centre (WCC), located adjacent to the former residential school, has been running tours and talks by survivors for visitors and educators; the new funds will allow for structural improvements to the building and the development of an interpretive centre. To fund the project, WCC will receive $1.4 M from the province, $220 K from the Six Nations community and matching funds from the city of Brantford and local groups. Some local survivors and critics had called for the building to be demolished, but supporters say keeping the original building as a place of education and evidence will help to offset the negativity it represents.

Hamilton Spectator

Cumberland becomes first Canadian institution to sign Declaration of Canadians for a New Partnership

Cumberland College's Board of Directors and First Nations and Métis Advisory Panel have recently passed the motion to sign the Declaration of Canadians for a New Partnership (CFNP), reportedly making it the first postsecondary school in Canada to do so. The declaration established by CFNP pledges to “build a new partnership between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples of this country—a partnership based on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and equality,” and aims to bring people together in a national dialogue. Cumberland established an indigenization initiative in 2015 as part of its strategic plan and has plans to implement Elders-in-residence programs at all three campuses this fall.


SIIT receives $500 K from Boeing

The Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies has received an investment of US$500 K from Boeing to support its mission of providing skills training for Aboriginal students. The Saskatoon-based institution offers an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer program, which trains learners to maintain, repair, and overhaul aircraft, ensuring that aircraft meet Transport Canada’s standards of safety and performance. SIIT will receive Boeing’s contribution through Canada’s Industrial and Technological Benefits framework. SIIT President Riel Bellegarde said, “with technology being the new platform on which we communicate and connect, Boeing’s investment in SIIT’s information technology infrastructure improvements is ultimately of great benefit to our learners.”


When critics attack diversity enrolment targets

Addressing a lack of diversity in Canada’s teachers requires institutions to consider revising the admissions processes for their Bachelor of Education programs, write Melanie Janzen and Jerome Cranston for University Affairs. Janzen and Cranston discuss the backlash they encountered after helping establish a new admissions policy for the BEd program at the University of Manitoba, noting that criticism often centres on the question of whether a program with diversity targets will still enroll “the best and brightest.” The authors contend that these arguments reveal a misunderstanding of how schools judge merit when admitting applicants. They conclude that “what has become important in this debate is the challenge for all us to confront our biases, the prejudices we hold towards others, and the privilege from which we benefit and which simultaneously disadvantages others.”

University Affairs

Red Crow to rebuild college destroyed by fire

Members of the Blood Tribe council and board members for Red Crow Community College recently announced that they have chosen a site to rebuild the college, which was destroyed by fire nearly a year ago. The new site is located nearby the original building, on land that had previously been donated by the chief and council. The college’s stakeholders have also issued a call for donations to help rebuild the school. College Board Chair Lionel Weasel Head noted that while last year’s fire was unfortunate, the new project “will be a new start for the college, and for the community.” Roy Weasel Fat, President of Red Crow, added that some valuable recordings and artifacts were lost in the fire and are irreplaceable, noting the community will have to come together to try to recover some of the knowledge lost.

Lethbridge Herald

SK educator calls for ability to contribute tax directly to Indigenous education

A long-time Indigenous educator in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to create a “third tax option” that would allow Indigenous peoples living in urban settings to contribute directly to Indigenous education programs, writes theStarPhoenix. Shauneen Pete, Executive Lead on Indigenization at the University of Regina, told the newspaper that she became concerned about the lack of investment in education in the most recent SK budget. Pete describes herself as an urban Aboriginal person who pays taxes and wants to be able to direct those taxes to support programs and education for Aboriginal students. “Can you imagine what would happen with a dedicated source of funds for First Nation and Métis education directly?” said Pete. “We could shift outcomes. I think we could actually have a huge impact.” Pete’s proposal was submitted to the province via its website and has reportedly been forwarded to applicable ministers.


La Loche students say: Thank You

Students from the La Loche Community School have created a video to say thanks to the world for the support they received after the tragic school shooting earlier this year. The video highlights new initiatives at the school such as a breakfast program and various extracurricular activities, and showcases the resilience of the students and staff.