AFN Annual Report 2016
AFN Education has always worked to support First Nations in their efforts to further Treaty and inherent rights to education and First Nations Control of First Nations Education, which includes:
- Equitable and sustainable funding for First Nations education within a lifelong learning context;
- Quality of education based on First Nations driven education systems;
- Change reflective of regional diversities;
- First Nations driven timelines and priorities; and
- First Nations language recognition and revitalization.
KEY ISSUES AND ACTIVITIES
2016 Federal Budget
On March 22, 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau tabled his first federal budget. An historic $8.4 billion over 5 years in investments have been made on Indigenous issues, including lifting the 2% cap on education programming. Specifically, the federal budget invested $3.7 billion over 5 years for First Nations education, including $969 million for education infrastructure and $275 million over 5 years for languages and cultures. In 2016, AFN has been informed that the federal government will ensure all funding commitments reach First Nations communities using existing proposals and agreements. Funding allocations beyond 2016 will be determined using new fiscal mechanisms that are to be developed collaboratively with First Nations.
AFN First Nation Directors of Education Forum
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) hosted the first National First Nation Directors of Education Forum on February 23-24, 2016 in Ottawa, on traditional Algonquin Nation territory. The Forum brought together nearly 600 participants and speakers for keynote presentations, panels and interactive workshops, while encouraging discussion among all in attendance about ways forward for First Nations education.
The Forum provided the first national opportunity for First Nation Directors of Education, principals, educators, members of leadership, experts, and community members to gather, share successful education practices, and provide insight and feedback on preferred approaches to Closing the Gap in education. The Forum presented an important opportunity for the consolidation of national priorities, leadership recommendations and information sharing on First Nations education. The specific objectives of the Forum were:
- Sharing successful practices in First Nations education across Canada;
- Discussing the concept of a First Nation Directors of Education Association; and
- Providing a timely opportunity to garner insight and feedback from First Nation Directors of Education on best practices to closing the education gap.
First Nations Education Reform
After successfully witnessing the withdrawal of Bill C-33 in 2015, the National Indian Education Council (NIEC) and the Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) continue to outline a plan forward to support statutory funding for K-12 education. The existing mandate provided by Chiefs-in-Assembly was adopted in principle through Resolution 35/2014, Federal Act for Funding First Nation Education. This resolution spoke in support of the Framework for a Federal Act for Funding First Nation Education drafted by the CCOE and NIEC as the chosen path forward for First Nations education. Given the new Liberal government and context, the CCOE recently confirmed this direction at the 2015 AFN Special Chiefs Assembly through a CCOE motion.
In May and June, 2016, the AFN, CCOE and NIEC have been discussing what a new honourable process to support statutory funding would look like given the new Liberal government and federal budget. It is expected that a new resolution will be discussed at the 2016 AFN Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, to seek consensus from Chiefs across Canada.
The Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) has remained unchanged for several years with no indication from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) for any contemplated changes or reform work. The funding levels for the PSSSP have remained unchanged for several years as well. The Liberal government pledged an additional $50 million per year for the PSSSP in its platform, yet there was no announcement in the 2016 federal budget. The AFN continues to advocate for a review of the PSSSP in an effort to identify efficiencies and increased funding as the PSE graduation rates for First Nation students continues to lag behind their mainstream counterparts.
Given the significant funding cuts to First Nations education over the past few years, the focus of the AFN’s work on education has been almost entirely on K-12. It is the intent to rebuild capacity across the country and focus attention on much needed areas such as: early childhood education; special needs education; education infrastructure; education systems development; development of education standards and measurement systems; post-secondary education; and First Nation language immersion programming.
NEXT STEPS – MOVING FORWARD
The primary focus of the AFN Secretariat for 2016 will be to confirm a national position on K-12 First Nation Education, which includes positions on items such as:
- Establishing an honourable process with the federal government to ensure statutory funding guarantee for First Nations education;
- Ensuring immediate funding relief outlined in the 2016 federal budget is allocated immediately to First Nation schools and the 2% cap is lifted; and,
- Working collaboratively with First Nations and the federal government to develop a set of regional education funding formulae for K-12 education.