Indigenous Top Ten

June 29, 2022

BC announces Indigenous-focused graduation requirement

The Government of British Columbia has announced that it is implementing an Indigenous-focused graduation requirement starting in 2023-24. High school students will be required to complete an Indigenous-focused course, such as Contemporary Indigenous Studies or one of 18 eligible First Nations language courses, before they graduate from high school. The introduction of the new requirement will make BC the first province to have an Indigenous-focused graduation requirement. “There’s really good work happening and I was excited when I first heard the Ministry of Education put a mandatory Indigenous-focused graduation requirement,” said Okanagan Skaha school trustee Kathy Pierre, who is a Penticton Indian Band member. All schools will be able to implement the requirement on the timetable set out, and the focus is now on supporting teachers who have not taught the course before. Chek News | BC | Penticton Herald (BC)

RHF announces expansion of Indigenous Teacher Education Initiative

The Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF) has announced that it is investing $45M to expand the Indigenous Teacher Education Initiative. The program’s goal is to increase the number of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis teachers in Canada. RHF will invest the funding into programs that will support pathways to train new Indigenous teachers, with the aim of having 10,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis teachers in the education system. The program is led by RHF’s board of directors and National Advisory Committee on Indigenous Teacher Education Co-Chairs Roberta Jamieson and Dr Mark Dockstator. The funding has been provided by several partners, including the Mastercard Foundation. “While being transformational for students and Indigenous communities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis teachers are also essential to Canada’s reconciliation journey,” said RHF Director of Indigenous and Northern Relations Bill Mintram. Nation Talk (National)

Schools celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day

Several schools launched new initiatives and hosted events in celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day last week. McGill University raised the Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag for the day to celebrate Indigenous heritage and culture. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board skipped the playing of the national anthem and instead read a message recognizing National Indigenous Peoples Day and celebrating the first peoples of Turtle Island. In Toronto, around 1,000 students were invited to an event at the Scotiabank Arena to celebrate Indigenous cultures and learn about reconciliation. Lethbridge College hosted a round dance, unveiled a scholarship for Blackfoot students, and announcing the Aiitsi’poyoip Blackfoot Speaking Award which encourages students to preserve their Blackfoot language abilities. Students at Centennial Secondary School in Coquitlam unveiled a mosaic created collaboratively by students and faculty members. The artwork was developed in response to the news of unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and many of the tiles memorialize children who went missing while at residential school. McGill | CTV News (Ottawa) | CBC (Toronto) | Global News (Lethbridge) | CTV News (Coquitlam) (National)

FNU, USask, URegina, RRC Polytech, Waterhen Lake launch new programs for Indigenous leaders, students

First Nations University of Canada, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina, Red River College Polytechnic, and the Waterhen Lake First Nation have announced the launch of programs that were specifically developed for Indigenous learners. FNU, USask, and URegina collaborated on a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Nation-Building that will be offered to leaders from across Canada. The program will include online classes and an in-person residency component, and will cover topics such as the impact of colonialism and the role of Indigenous self-governance in transforming economic, social, health, and environmental outcomes. FNU is also formally celebrating the opening of its Indigenous Continuing Education Centre (ICEC), which provides Indigenous-focused short course programming. RRC Polytech launched the Pathway to Information Technology Programs, which will help Indigenous Manitobans prepare to pursue postsecondary training in the information technology sector. To support its fledgling tourism sector, the Waterhen Lake First Nation has brought in a chef from the Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council to provide ready-to-work culinary programs for its residents. Learners will earn 15 kitchen-relevant certificates by the time they complete the program. USask | FNU (ICEC) | RRC Polytech | CBC (AB | SK)

Concerns grow about safety in, support for Indigenous schools

CBC reports that some communities have expressed their concerns about the safety of schools that serve Indigenous children and the adequacy of the financial support provided. In the Yukon, the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation has received complaints about issues at the local school, including discrimination against children with disabilities and staff making inappropriate comments to students. The First Nation says that some parents have kept their children home from school, and that the Government of Yukon has not done enough to address the safety concerns. Meanwhile, in Quebec, the Kitiganik elementary school has been closed by administration due to mould concerns. Though Indigenous Services Canada reportedly has said that the "building is safe for use," CBC reports that students will continue to learn in different locations until the end of the semester and that the school will hire an inspector to test the air quality. In Newfoundland & Labrador, the Innu Nation and its joint education body have filed a human rights complaint that alleges that funding for Sheshatshiu and Natuashish schools is inadequate. Concerns include the costs of delivering education in a remote location and inadequate support for Indigenous languages. CBC (Yukon) | CBC (Barriere Lake) | CBC (Sheshatshiu and Natuashish) (National)

Indigenous graduates honoured with ceremonial items

Several postsecondary institutions incorporated new initiatives into their graduation ceremonies in order to honour their Indigenous graduates. McGill University celebrated its 110 Indigenous graduates with a scarf ceremony, in which each student received a ceremonial scarf created by Kahnawake-based designer Tammy Beauvais. Degree recipients received red scarves, while diploma and certificate recipients received white ones. The Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue invited Indigenous graduates to personalize their graduation caps using traditional art techniques that express their identity. Humber College gifted Indigenous medallions made by Mikmaw artists Born in the North and lanyards made by Metis artist Beaded Bear to Indigenous students to wear during the convocation. Okanagan College recognized Indigenous graduates with a gift of a convocation stole embroidered with Syilx and Secwepemc pictographs. The pictographs include a canoe design symbolizing the Penticton, Kelowna, and Vernon campuses and their location on Syilx Okanagan territory and a Secwepemc design featuring three eagles to represent the Salmon Arm campus and its location on Secwepemc territory. McGill | Nation Talk (UQAT) | Humber | Okanagan (National)

Opposition builds against QC Bill 96, community explores workaround

Opposition is continuing to build as Indigenous communities in Quebec push back against Bill 96 and the challenges that it poses for Indigenous students. Cree Nation Government officials argue that the bill ignores treaty rights and that Indigenous students will be forced to attend school in Ontario to bypass the language requirements. The Kahnawake Education Center in the Kanien'kehá:ka community stated that it had discovered a workaround for the Bill and announced that it is exploring offering a Grade 12 program that will offer a recognized Ontario secondary school diploma. CBC reports that the spokesperson for the QC Education Minister indicated that the offer of ON Grade 12 services, which could enable students to bypass the cégep system, is not authorized and that QC intends to close the loophole. “[This legislation] will not deter our goal to support our students on any life and career path they choose,” said Kahnawake Education Center Director of Education Robin Delaronde. CBC (1) | CBC (2) (QC)

Indspire receives donations, announces partnerships with industry to foster Indigenous student success

Indspire has partnered with and received donations from several organizations over the past month in order to provide more bursaries and scholarships to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students. iA Financial Group announced that it would donate $1M over five years to create the iA Financial Group Indigenous Bursaries through Indspire. The donation is in addition to the $200K donation provided by iA in 2021. LifeLabs announced a recent partnership with Indspire to support and distribute the Empowering Futures: LifeLabs Bursary for Indigenous Students to Indigenous students enrolled in fields such as frontline health care and laboratory roles, human resources, and the STEM fields. The organization has also received a commitment of a $1M donation, given over four years, from Cenovus Energy Inc. Over the four-year period, Cenovus will be involved across Indspire’s programs and initiatives, and the donation will be used to create annual scholarships and support gatherings for Indigenous youth. Globe Newswire (LifeLabs) | Nation Talk (Cenovus) (National)

Communities celebrate new schools, gymnasiums, dedicated spaces

Several school boards and Indigenous communities across Canada have put out celebratory notices about new schools and facilities. Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick celebrated the grand opening of the Elsipogtog First Nation Community School. The school has a range of services on hand, including speech and language services and educational psychology, and will offer full Mi’kmaw language immersion to younger students. In Ontario, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation and the Kingfisher Lake First Nation each celebrated the ground-breaking of new elementary schools in their communities. The new schools will resolve crowding and maintenance issues in the communities’ old schools. The Nisga’a Board of Education in British Columbia shared that construction is underway on a new gymnasium at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary. The gym will be used by sports teams, dance groups, educational conferences, the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute, and other local organizations. Postsecondary institutions such as Lambton College, Dalhousie University, and St Francis Xavier University also recently announced new spaces on campus for Indigenous students, such as a dedicated community room and a new medicine garden. BC (Nisga’a) | Nation Talk (Biigtigong Nishnaabeg) | CBC (Kingfisher Lake) | CBC (Elsipogtog) | Nation Talk (Lambton) | Dal | StFX (National)

George Brown partners with MCFN to expand Indigenous presence on campus, curriculum, supports

George Brown College and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) celebrated the signing of an agreement on National Indigenous Peoples Day that outlines a larger partnership between the two. The partners will expand the visible Indigenous presence on all three George Brown campuses, collaborate on curriculum planning, and develop a plan to support Indigenous learners. George Brown and MCFN will also transform campus spaces to reflect Indigenous heritage and cultural practices, add the MCFN logo to entry ways, and name a space in George Brown's new Limberlost Place building. "The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation are the traditional land, treaty holders and ongoing caretakers of the land upon which our campuses are situated," said George Brown President Dr Gervan Fearon. "We are honoured to collaborate with and learn from this community." George Brown | NewsWire (ON)