The Government of Canada recognizes that enhancing First Nations education is a fundamental part of renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples. First Nations children and youth deserve culturally appropriate, high-quality education that meets their needs, while respecting the principle of First Nations control over First Nations education.
Previous reports and recommendations have called for:
- significant new investments
- a fiscal relationship that allocates funding in a predictable, equitable and sustainable manner
- the creation of effective new systems to deliver education
The Government of Canada is committed to working with First Nations to develop and implement these positive changes; and to establish a new partnership on First Nations elementary and secondary education.
Through the funding announced in Budget 2016, the government made significant investments to ensure that First Nations children on reserve receive a quality education and that education outcomes are improved. This includes:
- funding to address immediate needs
- investments in language and cultural programs
- investments in literacy and numeracy programs
- investments in special needs education
These investments are only a first step.
The Government of Canada is seeking input on further improvements through this engagement.
At the regional and local level, the Government of Canada will engage with:
- First Nations leaders
- First Nations communities
- First Nations organizations
The Government of Canada will work with education stakeholders in the territories to plan an engagement process that ensures that the voices of Indigenous individuals in the North are heard. While this process is being developed, Northwest Territories Indigenous groups and Yukon First Nations can expect ongoing program delivery to continue under existing frameworks. In the territories, the territorial governments currently deliver elementary and secondary education programs.
The Government of Canada acknowledges that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, and further discussion and dialogue must build upon existing knowledge and previous discussions with First Nations. That is why it has launched this engagement.
A Joint Working Committee has been established with representatives from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), the Assembly of First Nations, the Chiefs Committee on Education and the National Indian Education Council to work together to address various issues of importance to First Nations education.
This engagement has four parts:
1. Community-level discussions
Beginning in November 2016, the Government of Canada provided up to $3.6 million to support community-level discussions led by First Nations organizations. These meetings provided parents and community members with the opportunity to share their views on what needs to be done to ensure that all First Nations students receive a quality education that improves student success.
These discussions were funded through a specific call for proposals under INAC's New Paths for Education program, designed to support First Nations education transformation community-level discussions in all provinces in Canada.
Community-level discussions are now complete.
2. Online survey
In order to hear from as many voices as possible, and provide a forum for those who may not be able to attend community-level discussions in person, INAC launched an online survey in February 2017. This survey collected input from those with experience and interest in First Nations education on the way forward. It was shared through Facebook and Twitter. The information from the survey will also help inform the technical task teams and the leadership dialogue parts of the engagement.
A summary report of what we heard through the survey will be posted in summer 2017.
3. Task teams
In January 2017, technical task teams were launched to examine key issues and make recommendations to enhance First Nations education. The teams are focused on the following areas:
- mutual accountability and results reporting
- funding (sustainable mechanisms)
- legislation (education statutory funding)
- post-secondary education
- early childhood education
These teams will be jointly led by technical experts from First Nations organizations and INAC, and may include participants from other Government of Canada departments. More teams will be established to support other key issues as they emerge.
The Joint Working Committee has endorsed terms of reference and outlined roles and responsibilities to support the teams:
- Members are recommended by the National Indian Education Council, Assembly of First Nations, and INAC, and approved by the Joint Working Committee.
- Members are expected to have the knowledge and expertise to support task team work.
- External presenters and experts may be asked to participate from time to time.
4. Leadership dialogue
Beginning in summer 2017, the Government of Canada will formally engage with First Nations leadership in the regions through a series of dialogues. Building on the work of the task teams and informed by other engagement activities, these dialogues aim to validate regional priorities for transforming First Nations education and improving student outcomes, as well as options for reforming the way INAC funds First Nations elementary and secondary education.