Update on things happening in Rotary and indigenous communities, including current events – Rotary luncheons with guest speakers, open community and cultural gatherings, etc.



UPDATE | The 176 Million Dollar Question: Are the Promised Federal Education Funds for First Nations Actually Flowing?

UPDATE | The 176 Million Dollar Question: Are the Promised Federal Education Funds for First Nations Actually Flowing?

 Posted December 4, 2018
UPDATE | The 176 Million Dollar Question: Are the Promised Federal Education Funds for First Nations Actually Flowing?2018-12-042018-12-20https://yellowheadinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/yi-header-logo.pngYellowhead Institutehttps://yellowheadinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/yellowhead-institute-final-select-stan-williams-13-of-29-e1528746998471.jpg200px200px

There is new data available for the education funding Brief published last month. That Brief (below) utilizes figures from the Public Accounts of Canada. Public Accounts data comprises the sum of total expenditures in elementary and secondary education, and post-secondary education.

Since its publication, the Department of Indigenous Services Canada contacted Yellowhead with an answer to the question: why the funding disparity? They provided specific information with respect to expenditures in First Nations elementary and secondary education.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the Department spent $1.464.7B1 on Elementary and Secondary education out of a total education expenditure of $1.805.1B2 spent on First Nations education. Post-secondary education comprises the balance of expenditures ($340.4m). 

There is a five-year commitment to add $2.6 billion3 to the 2015-16 total for Elementary and Secondary education. The Department clarified that new funds added each year do not create a new baseline. In other words, they are program expenditures over and above the funding which has historically been provided. The Department provided a graph to illustrate this point.   The promise of $287.54million in Year 1, 2016-17, is shown as being added to the 2015-16 baseline, but it does not change the baseline for Year 2 (2017-18).

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The historic funding amount which serves as the baseline has been widely acknowledged as being inadequate to meet the needs of First Nations education, particularly First Nations schools, and has been subject to a two per-cent cap on annual increases for over two decades.   The graph provided by the Department shows that the historic funding amount, represented by the blue line, gradually increases annually.

The chart provided by the Department suggests that the federal government has provided its Year 2 commitment of $382.9 million, and kept its promises for the first two years of its five-year commitment to First Nations Elementary and Secondary education. There is no additional information publicly available to confirm this information, but if it is the case, then it is a positive development, particularly for First Nations schools. This leaves a total of approximately $1.930 billion in additional funding out of the original $2.6 billion commitment remains to be allocated in 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21.

In the meantime, there are ongoing deliberations between representatives of national and regional First Nations organizations, and the federal government, to develop new and modernized funding approaches, nationally, and regionally, to replace the inadequate and outdated funding model which has been in place for decades.  Although it is a difficult task, it is critical that this work achieve success; current and future generations of First Nations students are depending on it.


Here's how one local charity is providing free, accurate curriculum on Indigenous history

A new, free curriculum available online was created with the help of Indigenous youth who are working to tell the stories of their history.
Dec 14, 2018 1:51 PM by: Erika Engel
John Rice and some of the students at the Awen Gathering Circle for Orange Shirt Day. The students spent first period at the site on Monday, Oct. 1. Elephant Thoughts has a mandate to improve the education available on Indigenous history and culture and they are doing it through The Indigenous Journey project. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

A local charity is one of the players behind a project aimed at getting accurate, extensive, and unique curriculum on Indigenous history and culture into the hands of educators in Ontario.

The project is called The Indigenous Journey, and it’s a series of multimedia educational modules designed to fit into a 45-minute class. Some of the modules have included camera and production work by Indigenous youth, and all include personal stories and history as told by Indigenous people.

“The idea was to tell the story of Indigenous people and youth, and to learn their stories,” said Lisa Farano of the Elephant Thoughts Educational Outreach program. “The Elephant Thoughts teachers have put the modules together with some classroom activities, but the youth are the ones that are sharing their stories and recording the modules and, in some cases, filming.”

Earlier this year, Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government announced it had cancelled a planned revision of the Ontario public school curriculum intended to provide programming on Indigenous History, which only made Farano and others more determined to get The Indigenous Journey ready for the classroom.

“This really does step in in that regard,” said Farano. “Teachers do have this learning tool where it was basically taken away.” 

A study published in the International Indigenous Policy Journal in July, 2017, indicated there’s a want and need for embedding Indigenous cultural content in public schooling, but found many teachers don’t feel confident teaching the material and are nervous about saying the wrong thing.

“This really is meant to help,” said Farano. “It’s a best foot forward. This is accurate, comprehensive information and it really will help people understand more about the big picture.”

The modules address topics such as residential schools, missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, land claims, truth and reconciliation, and more.

“It’s a new day!” said Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, education advisor to the Premier of Ontario and the Minister of Education, in a news release. “The time has come for the exploration of Indigenous contributions to the reformation of a new Canada built on equity, well-being, and acknowledgement of rights, histories, cultures, languages, and faith traditions of many Indigenous Nations. The indigenous Journey provides a marker for us along the trail to reconciliation.”

Elephant Thoughts has an office in Collingwood, but does work around the world in many Indigenous communities.

Farano hopes the program will continue to grow and receive support and funding. 

“My dream one day would be to have a module for every Indigenous community in the country,” said Farano. “There’s all kinds of other pieces that can be shared … it’s extraordinary information that needs to be shared.”

She said it’s been pilot tested in Simcoe County schools and the feedback is positive so far.

Recently, they received $74,400 in funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for The Indigenous Journey project that will allow the program to work with more Indigenous youth to give them opportunities to learn skills such as interview techniques, storytelling, digital filmmaking, computer coding, graphic design, photography, and sound engineering.

Their work will be showcased online at The Indigenous Journey website, and will become part of the modules offered for free on the website. The programming is free for anyone, not just educators.

Glen Trivett, an Ojibway Elder, Knowledge Keeper, and Cultural Resource Coordinator, and member of the Midewin Medicine Society has been working with Elephant Thoughts on the project.

“The Indigenous Journey is a fun and interactive way to learn and explore the poignant issues of Canadian colonialism and Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island,” said Trivett in a news release. “The lessons pull no punches while, at the same time, approach sensitive issues without accusation or blame.”

You can access The Indigenous Journey online here.



Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Canada mark milestone with Education Agreement-in-Principle

Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Government of Canada have signed an Education Agreement-in-Principle that paves the way for continued negotiations for First Nations' authority over K-12 education in their communities. The agreement marks a major milestone in the two parties' journey towards reconciliation and renewed nation-to-nation relationships. "Asserting our jurisdiction over education is necessary so we can teach our children in a way that is consistent with our cultures, while also ensuring that they are prepared academically for whatever opportunities their futures hold," stated Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. "Our education system will be developed and implemented by our communities, and will provide our children with culturally appropriate and high quality learning opportunities that are on par with the rest of Canada." Nishnawbe Aski Nation represents 49 First Nations with a total student population of approx. 10,000 students.

VIU to help Indigenous grads build their business skills through BC-wide partnership

A new partnership between Vancouver Island University, the Government of BC, the BC Assembly of First Nations, and the Business Council of BC will match Indigenous graduates of technical, trades, diploma and degree programs with companies in BC for a two-year paid internship. VIU is providing logistical support to the partnership, but a release notes that the program is open to Indigenous graduates throughout the province. "The Indigenous Intern Leadership Program is a beautiful step in building reconciliation in BC," says VIU Chancellor Louise Mandell.

First Nations students push for new high school in Thunder Bay

A group of northern Ontario First Nations youth is pushing for a new high school and a residence to end billeting. Youth from remote First Nations in northern Ontario currently must attend high school in urban centres, and the students say that the current billeting systems create too many problems related to racism and crime. Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, which is run by the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, has seen declining enrolment as parents are increasingly hesitant to send their children to Thunder Bay. "I told them I was a big champion of their dreams to see that new, or improved school built as soon as possible," said Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott. "We know how important this initiative is." Philpott stated that she is waiting for the completion of a feasibility study on a new school project before determining the federal government's next steps. While the federal government has not historically funded off-reserve schools, CBC notes that Indigenous Services' recently provided a $10M to Southeast Collegiate.

 Keewatin-Patricia school board partners with Windigo First Nations Council to "improve lives of children

The Keewatin-Patricia District School Board and the Windigo First Nations Council have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance First Nations control over First Nations education. The two parties will work together to help Indigenous students reach their personal and educational goals. The memorandum highlights key priority areas in student support services, independent education plans, curriculum, professional development, and improved communications. The agreement will see the school board offer training for teachers, resources, and technological experties. "After three years of meetings and negotiations, the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board has proudly signed the official memorandum of understanding with Windigo First Nations Council," said KPDSB Director of Education Sean Monteith. "Keewatin-Patricia will now proudly add Windigo to its successful Indigenous partnerships that will improve the lives of children."

Financial empowerment can contribute to success for Indigenous youth

For Indigenous youth embarking on higher education and careers, financial empowerment marks the road to success, writes Bettina Schneider, Associate Vice-President Academic of First Nations University. Schneider explains how many First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities have experienced persistent barriers that have contributed to gaps in financial literacy. Furthermore, many personal finance books provide excellent content, but do not include the taxation, housing, banking and other specifics that impact Indigenous people. To this end, Schneider explains how "sharing the wisdom and power of culturally relevant financial literacy education in Indigenous communities is one way to promote the success of Indigenous youth."