Heather, I share your concerns about the inequity in Aboriginal education. Our Aboriginal communities deserve so much more - all children should have access to the same educational opportunities, no matter where they live in Canada. I am willing to bet that if our own children were subjected to the quality of schools and education that our Aboriginal neighbours are, we would be up in arms.
There are so many simple things we can do. For a start, every single member of this community can take one minute and sign on as a supporter of Shannen's Dream. Shannen Koostachin was a young student from the Attawapiskat First Nation who started a campaign to ensure 'safe and comfy schools and culturally based education for First Nations children and youth'. She was a powerful advocate, working tirelessly to convince the federal government to give First Nations children a proper education. Tragically, Shannen died in a car accident at the age of 15 in 2010. However, her dream lives on, and we can all support it simply by signing as a supporter.
On a slightly different note, last week I attended a forum, "Truth and Reconciliation - Canada's Residential Schools", presented by the Centre for Urban Schooling at OISE/UofT and the TDSB's Aboriginal Education Centre. The Honourable James Bartleman, former Lieutenant Governor, spoke eloquently, as always, and there was a powerful presentation by an amazing group of high school students. The session provided information and resources for teachers to help them address the residential school experience in their classes - a very tough topic for both teachers and students to speak about. I am glad to see that there is an effort being made to go beyond the traditional teaching of Aboriginal culture and traditions, and to explore the more difficult issues that have had such a severe impact on generations of Aboriginal families. Many of the resources provided can be accessed online from the Legacy of Hope Foundation and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
I forgot to mention another great resource, one that we mentioned in our November newsletter...
"Guiding the Way: First Nations, Métis, Inuit - A Guide for Staff" is a handbook developed by the Bruce-Grey Catholic and Bluewater District School Boards. The guide provides information on First Nation, Métis, and Inuit heritage, traditions, cultural teachings, celebrations, treaties, terminology and best practices for inclusion. It also includes links to community agencies serving the Aboriginal community and protocols for greeting and thanking traditional visitors. It is an incredibly comprehensive and useful resource for schools, and it would be great to see similar guides available in all boards. For more information about the guide, please contact Lori Wilder, email@example.com.
Just posting another link that will get you to a guidebook for staff that our board developed awhile ago.
National Aboriginal Day is on June 21. If you can, take a minute that day to support Aboriginal education:
- sign on as a supporter of Shannen's Dream - this literally only takes one minute!
- support the Thunderbird Rising campaign to get much-needed school supplies to isolated northern reserves. For more information on how you can help, visit www.thunderbirdrising.com
There is so much information here. Thanks for sharing!
This report was also released today:
Our Dreams Matter Too; First Nations children's rights, lives and education, First Nations children and youth report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
Almost as many young people who died by suicide in the Pikangikum First Nation between 2006-2008 as graduated from high school – only 8 or 9 kids a year graduate from high school.
The chief coroner identifies strengthening the education system as a crucial step in preventing further deaths.
- The school burned down in 2007 and has not been replaced.
- There are 520 kids enrolled in school – and another 300-500 kids who are not enrolled, and not accounted for
- There is no high school in the community, so already vulnerable children need to choose between leaving home and getting an education. Only 8-9 kids have graduated each year, and they are not pursuing post-secondary.
- Schools on reserves are federally funded, at a much lower per-pupil rate than the rest of the schools in the province. As the coroner remarked, in funding, “First Nations children on reserve [are] at a significant disadvantage.. Most concerning, they represent the very students at the greatest need in the province.”
- Coroner recommends province bring its expertise in delivering education to on-reserve education, either through an agreement with First Nations and the federal government, or with a transfer of jurisdiction from the federal government to the province, where the federal government pays for the cost of providing kids with the level of education that other Ontario children expect.
This is so very tragic, and something about which there remains a terrible shortage of political will. The problems are not simple - but it is shocking that governments hide behind the complexity and use it to avoid accountability for even comparable levels of funding.
Here's something easy to support! The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada is asking people across the country to send an e-valentine to the Prime Minister and your MP on Valentine's Day 2012. For more information on the Have a Heart for First Nations Children campaign, visit the First Nations Caring Society website.
Wow. What a great conversation you've started everyone. I did support Shannen's dream and now will send my e-valentine to the PM. If there's any other way I can help, please let me know!
There was a great program on CBC's The Current this morning about Aboriginal education. There are two parts:
Fifteen year-old Shannen Koostachin's powerful voice is featured at the beginning.
You can also read the full report from the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, Reforming First Nations Education: From Crisis to Hope.
The National Panel on First Nations Education has released its report, available here. In a webinar Q&A with the panel chair, Scott Haldane, he stated clearly that the recommendations of the report are NOT aspirational - they are supposed to be acted on! Let's cross our fingers that some real action is taken.