Education, Jurisdiction and Governance
AFN Annual Report 2013
With Resolution 18/2011 (Moving Forward on First Nations Control of First Nations Education), First Nation leadership across Canada confirmed the priority of First Nations education and are dedicated to ensuring that every First Nations child will be supported to succeed through culturally and linguistically appropriate education. In advancing this priority, First Nations have set out a broad policy of First Nations control of First Nations education, reflecting Aboriginal and Treaty rights, responsibilities, and an Indigenous world view of lifelong learning.
Reconciling state laws, programs and policies with Indigenous rights to education may include activities which ensure access to education and services by First Nation students; identification of respective roles, responsibilities and accountabilities; addressing comparability issues; ensuring adequate, secure and predictable funding for First Nations schools and programs; recognition and implementation of First Nations governance over education; addressing First Nations information privacy concerns; strategies to encourage parental engagement; recognition and implementation of initiatives to strengthen the use and teaching of First Nations languages; and ensuring the reflection of First Nations cultures and identities throughout the education environment. This work and activities are framed within the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Key Issues and Activities
First Nations Education Legislation
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) has announced intentions to introduce First Nations education legislation by September 2014 and to explore mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nation students. In October and December 2012, the AFN passed resolutions opposing the unilateral development of legislation on First Nations education. On December 11, 2012, the federal government announced the start of time-limited consultations with First Nations on the development of a First Nation Education Act and released a Discussion Guide which provides a suggested framework for their approach. First Nations have been clear that this process has not met the conditions for adequate consultation and free, prior, and informed consent. A national strategy has been drafted and discussed by the Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) and the National Indian Education Council (NIEC) to support First Nations.
Education Information System (EIS)
Resolution 48/2011 directed AFN to inform the Minister of AANDC of the need to institute a formal process of consultation for the EIS and that until such a process is in place, to halt the implementation process of the EIS. Resolution 39/2012 called for a review of legal options to address privacy concerns, and for communication to the federal government to delay the implementation of the EIS until the concerns of First Nations have been addressed. Despite these efforts, AANDC is continuing to develop the EIS unilaterally.
Education Funding Human Rights Challenge
The AFN has worked with the First Nations Education Council (FNEC), Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) to prepare a Human Rights complaint pursuant to Section 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The issue is that First Nations children and youth living on reserve and attending on-reserve schools across Canada are denied access to the same standard and quality of primary and secondary education programs and services to that available to children and youth living off reserve. This discrimination is historic, systemic and ongoing and affects approximately 70,000 First Nations children and young people. It is believed that potential success in the human rights case on discriminatory funding for First Nations child welfare will set a positive precedent for an education challenge.
The FNEC has taken the lead to encourage a Human Rights Complaint on Education regarding inequitable funding to First Nations schools, in conjunction with the AFN and other organizations, and has requested support from other First Nations across Canada. There is hope that more First Nations organizations will join the coalition to pursue this complaint.
The Audit and Evaluation Branch at AANDC conducted audits of the Elementary and Secondary Education Program and the Post-Secondary Education Program in 2012-13. First Nations representatives from across Canada participated either on the advisory committee or as key informants in the evaluation. Reports are currently being analyzed.
In March 2010, the Government of Canada announced plans to review the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP). Despite intensive discussions between AANDC and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), there are no changes to the program at this point.
The administration of the Indian Studies Support Program (ISSP) component of the PSE program was recently transferred from regional administration to headquarters. The implications of this decision are troubling. The process is set up to evaluate proposals against national government priorities and federal labour market needs. There are no assurances that local and regional priorities will be addressed. ISSP funds are used to support the delivery of accredited post-secondary programs. ISSP funding is an important funding source for Indigenous institutions of higher learning (IIHLs), capacity building programs for First Nations councils and organizations, and key First Nations programs at post-secondary institutions.
The AFN has advocated for broad application of the Indigenous Accord across elementary, secondary and post-secondary education. The AFN is participating with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges on the development of a protocol, similar to an Indigenous Accord created by Canadian Deans of Education in 2010. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada is currently exploring the expansion of the Indigenous Accord to the entire university sector. The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association has embraced and agreed to promote national application of an Accord for elementary/secondary education.
The AFN is participating in a multi-year project lead by the Canadian Career Development Foundation, funded by HRSDC, on the State of Essential Skills Practice among First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The key activities have been to conduct a literature review, develop an inventory of essential skills programs for First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and now considerations are being discussed for ‘growing a community of practice’.
First Nations Regional Early Childhood, Education, and Employment Survey (FNREEES)
Further to Resolution 19/2011, the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC), in collaboration with the CCOE and NIEC, and other national partners, has been identified to implement a survey in 2013-2014 on early childhood development, education, and employment for on-reserve and northern First Nation communities, that is compliant with OCAP principles and incorporates a holistic framework.
First Nations Languages
The AFN continues to strongly advocate the need for more support for First Nations languages and culturally-relevant education. In the past year, the AFN released two key reports dealing with languages and improved education outcomes:
First Nations Languages and Improving Student Outcomes provides a review of current language research to examine whether language immersion or being taught in Indigenous languages facilitates the development of language and cognitive abilities, including mental flexibility, abstract thinking, and problem solving. This project provides an inventory of evidence from local, national and international sites to support Indigenous language immersion and instruction as a significant factor for improved outcomes for learners in all subject areas.
Soul of Sovereignty: The Impact of Culturally Responsive Education on the Academic Achievement of First Nations Students explores the importance and impact of culturally-competent teachers utilizing First Nations cultural knowledge in the elementary and secondary school experience for creating optimal learning environments so that students can maximize their learning potential and move successfully through a lifelong learning curve.
In addition, the AFN continues to monitor the work of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Study of Language and Culture and provide relevant documentation. Approximately 90 key documents dealing with First Nations languages and education are posted on the AFN website.
Early Childhood Education (ECE)
An electronic network of First Nations Early Childhood Educators throughout Canada has been established. It is critical to continue to elevate the discussion on First Nations access to early childhood development and early childhood education programs which reflect First Nations identities and languages. Through the electronic network, the AFN provided information to brief the newly established Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) ECE Working Group to highlight issues in First Nations ECE.
Special Education and Student Support Services
An analysis of a Special Education comparability report commissioned by AANDC and released during the fall of 2012 reveals that several of its recommendations may enable First Nations to provide comparable levels of inclusive second and third level supports. While not as comprehensive as a full review of Special Education on reserve might be, the report may be useful for updating and amending the Special Education Program (SEP) terms and conditions which have essentially been the same since the program was first introduced in 2003 and strengthening the case for appropriate special education programming for First Nations schools. The analysis includes the above commentary and is in the process of being finalized as an AFN response to the Department and to stakeholders.
The AFN is also working to support the National Board of the Youth Solvent Addiction Committee (YSAC) to advocate for SEP funding for students housed within these centres.
It’s Our Time First Nations Education Tool Kit
Grounded in the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and reinforcing First Nations teachings and values, this Tool Kit is part of a comprehensive strategy to reach out to First Nation students, teachers, schools, and the public to create a greater awareness and understanding of First Nations’ rights, histories, and cultures. It has been successfully piloted in select First Nations and non-First Nations schools in Manitoba and a full implementation plan begins in the fall.
Next Steps - Moving Forward
• Continued work with the CCOE and NIEC to further Treaty and inherent rights to education and First Nations Control of First Nations Education which includes:
o equitable and sustainable funding for First Nations education within a lifelong learning context;
o quality of education based on First Nations driven education systems;
o change reflective of regional diversities;
o First Nations driven timelines and priorities; and,
o First Nations Language recognition and revitalization.