The mandate of the Education Secretariat is to engage, inform and coordinate with First Nations in all regions on education issues through proactive collaboration with the Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) and the National Indian Education Council (NIEC). The Secretariat assists First Nations by advocating governments through policy development and analysis. It works to advance the development of quality and comprehensive First Nations education systems through a focus on projects and initiatives inclusive of the following: Head Start, early years, elementary/secondary education, special education, post-secondary education (PSE), vocational training, comparable and equitable funding, accountability, languages and cultures. The Secretariat also works toward increasing educational access and attainment for First Nations learners.
Key Issues and Activities
National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo’s “CALL TO ACTION” ON EDUCATION
- Reconciliation – the federal and provincial governments must reconcile our rights within education acts across the country to ensure consistency with constitutional provisions.
- First Nations Education Guarantee – a secure fiscal framework is needed for funding for education.
- Sustainability – statutory funding arrangements based on real costs, indexation and appropriate treatment for northern and remote communities.
- Systems – First Nation education must be supported through professional and accountable institutional supports delivering second and third level supports.
- Support and Partnership – creating a learning environment in our communities and linking with organizations, the public and private sector to invest in our schools and for our kids.
Answering the Call – Implementation Strategy and Follow-up
Advocacy and Awareness
The two policy papers, First Nation Control of First Nation Education and Taking Action for First Nations Post-Secondary Education: Access, Opportunity, and Outcomes, lay a strong foundation for a multi-pronged approach to advancing First Nations education. Both papers have been widely distributed to key organizations and agencies who have publicly endorsed the need for First Nations consultation in the development of education policy. Advocacy efforts include the National Week of Action on Education, the Sept. 23rd rally on Parliament Hill, parliamentary liaising, and support of numerous local activities in Kitigan Zibi (Quebec), Garden River (Ontario), Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, amongst others. The National Chief was also a key catalyst in the Council of the Federation’s call for a First Ministers’ Meeting on First Nations Education.
Further to a human rights challenge on education, a trust fund has been established, and a legal review is currently underway to explore various legal and legislative options to advance an agenda on education. In addition, Shannen’s Dream has been launched, both as an NDP parliamentary motion and as a social movement (www.shannen’sdream.ca), and the Bloq Quebecois is working on a bill focused on a statutory funding guarantee for First Nations education.
Planning and Dialogue Forum
Held in Montreal in November, a session was hosted on the Strategy for the Advancement of Education. A sub-committee has been formed to work closely with the Education Secretariat, the Chiefs Committee on Education, and the National Indian Education Committee to work on identified action items. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was finally endorsed by Canada on Nov. 12, 2010, and the AFN is optimistic that this is another step forward to working with Canada to ensure equity for our children and communities.
Education Information System
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is moving forward on the revision of Data Collection Instruments (DCI) and ongoing development of the Education Information System (EIS). The AFN will continue to review and provide feedback and recommendations on these developments.
Legislative Options for First Nations Education
In addition to a legal review and political advocacy, the Education Secretariat is conducting research on various Education Acts and legislative options that exist both nationally and internationally, to develop a model of options that First Nations may wish to consider in the development of regional and local education policy. The AFN continues to pursue a statutory guarantee for First Nations education funding in elementary/secondary and post secondary education.
Strengthening Educational Alliances
The Education Secretariat has enjoyed the support of many First Nations education organizations and non-First Nation organizations which have assisted in implementing our mandate. These include but are not limited to the following groups:
- Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)
- Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC)
- Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA)
- Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)
- Canadian Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC)
- Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT)
- Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF)
- Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Looking-Forward Agenda to Annual General Assembly – July 2011
- Implementation of First Nation Control of First Nation Education through a coordinated national strategy that aligns with the National Chief’s “Call to Action” utilizing five key strategies: federal engagement, communications, litigation, social movement, and provincial engagement.
- Continued efforts by AFN to review INAC’s Education Information System to ensure adherence to the principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP), privacy, data governance, and third-party access to information.
- Clarification of education roles and responsibilities between INAC and First Nations and implementation of a systematic review and evaluation process.
- Establishment of a legislative basis to ensure comparable, predictable and adequate funding for First Nation schools including the resources necessary for provision of holistic programs and services grounded in First Nation languages, values, traditions and knowledge.
- Full research agenda for post-secondary education including the establishment of a legislative basis for post-secondary student support.
- Development of a national communications strategy aimed at mainstream Canada that highlights best practices in Aboriginal education across Canada and the benefits to Canada of a well-educated Aboriginal population on the economic well-being of our country as a whole.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) complied with all requests from Canadian Heritage to provide reporting for the Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) and the Critically Endangered Languages (CEL). Following an intensive file audit, it was determined that Canadian Heritage owed the AFN over $1 million. Reporting was successfully completed in August 2010 and the funds received have been paid against the outstanding language expenses from previous fiscal years.
It is noted that Canadian Heritage has removed the AFN as a Third Party Manager for the ALI and no longer receives funding for this file. However, language activities are still being carried out by the AFN:
- The AFN hosted a Special Evening Session on Languages on July 20, 2010, in Winnipeg that was well attended by leaders, youth, Elders, teachers, parents and students. A Declaration on the Right to Indigenous Languages in Canada was drafted from input of those in attendance – stressing that urgent action is needed.
- The AFN has organized three conference calls (October 19, November 10 and November 19) with language champions to develop a coherent plan to identify immediate actions for the AFN, which have been included in a draft resolution for consideration at the Special Chiefs Assembly.
- A Discussion Session on Languages will be held December 13 just prior to the Special Chiefs Assembly to review the Languages resolution going forward.