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



Toronto Star - February 25, 2015

By: Louise Brown GTA, Education Schools, Published on Tue Feb 24 2015


Grade 3 students on two Ontario reserves saw reading results on standardized testing rise from only 13 per cent to 67 per cent meeting provincial standard.

Chief Thomas Bressette from Kettle and Stony Point First Nation says the latest results about improved aboriginal children's test results "exemplifies in my mind that our people were not ignorant; we just didn't have the tools."

Aboriginal children on reserves — among the most at-risk students in Canada — can hold their own at reading and writing if given the same intense help, fresh materials and teaching tactics used to help struggling students in mainstream schools, according to the results of a pilot project released Tuesday.

In a staggering turnaround, students on two Ontario reserves saw their grim performance on standardized tests climb from only 13 per cent meeting the provincial standard in Grade 3 reading, to a whopping 67 per cent meeting the standard after five years of extra help — paid for by former prime minister Paul Martin's aboriginal education foundation.

The 473 children on the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation near Grand Bend and Walpole Island near Sarnia showed dramatic surges in Grade 3 writing — from 33 per cent making the grade on provincial tests to a towering 91 per cent, well above the Ontario average of 78 per cent. In Grade 6 reading, the number of students making the grade tripled, and in writing, doubled. Also, fewer students showed up late.

"This exemplifies in my mind that our people were not ignorant; we just didn't have the tools," said Chief Tom Bressette of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. "This lets them know they can shine like everyone else."

Dean Julia O'Sullivan of the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) agreed "the results were phenomenal by any stretch of the imagination." OISE provided the teacher training on the two reserves, sponsored by the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, at a cost of about $1.5 million over five years.

"We wanted to demonstrate that if you give First Nations students the tools they need, they will succeed," said Martin at a presentation at Toronto's Native Canadian Centre.

Once schools began starting each day with a full 90 minutes on literacy and teachers raised their expectations of students and focused more on boosting the oral language skills of children, the number of students deemed to have special needs plunged to just 19 per cent from a previously startling 45 per cent.

"When you raise the quality of teaching for all students, you start seeing far fewer of them misidentified as having special needs," said O'Sullivan. Teachers were trained to help children talk about what they were reading, predict the meaning of new words and spot spelling patterns, said O'Sullivan — but getting parents involved was also key.

Hillside Public School in Kettle and Stony Point Reserve got parents involved in creating school gardens, invited them to literacy nights, started a school choir that often performs for the community and set up a parent-friendly school website with photos of kids, said Principal Cathy Hampshire.

"A lot of parents didn't want to come to school before because they were afraid of hearing about what their kids can't do," said Hampshire. "When we turned the conversation to what your kids can do, we got parents in."

To Martin, the project also makes fiscal sense.

"Every penny that we spend on education is a dollar saved later in incarceration costs, in lost productivity. I can't think of a higher return on investment."





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Opportunities are available for sponsorship - $2,500 allows you a table for 8 attendees

We are pleased to announce that The Rotary Club of Toronto will be hosting their luncheon on Friday, June 19, 2015 at 12:15 p.m. with a First Nations focus.

The guest speaker will be Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

If you would like to attend, please email Julie Dunaiskis at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at your earliest convenience and we will advise at a later time the cost and how to order tickets.  We look forward to sharing this special day.

Toronto Star Editorial - Published Mon Feb 09 2015


The federal First Nations Transparency Act is correcting an unfair public perception that most aboriginal leaders are highly overpaid.

Karihwakeron Tim Thompson says new legislation has not improved First Nations governance.

If the controversial First Nations Financial Transparency Act has achieved anything, it's to correct an unfair public perception that most aboriginal leaders are highly overpaid.

At the same time, the legislation has shone a well-deserved spotlight on the relatively few who are.

In other words, the controversial law – which requires First Nations that receive billions in federal funds every year to publicly disclose their spending, including the remuneration and expenses of chiefs and councillors – is turning out to be a striking success.

Using compensation figures posted on the Aboriginal Affairs website under the act, the Star's Joanna Smith found the median amount of salary and honorarium earned by chiefs in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, was a fairly modest $60,000.

She also found eight chiefs who took no remuneration, 34 who received less than $10,000 and another 41 who got between $10,000 and $20,000.

That's a far cry from revelations about the salaries of some First Nations chiefs going back as far as 2000, which spurred calls for making their finances public. One example from that era: Chief Allison Bernard of the Eskasoni First Nation on Cape Breton Island earned $416,500 tax-free for one 14-month period. (That's the taxable equivalent of $770,000. The prime minister himself is paid only $327,000.)

Things are much different now. Data filed under the transparency act show that only three of 647 chiefs surveyed received more than $240,000 in the year ending March 31, 2014.

Still, the act is revealing questionable salaries and economic practices to band members who had been in the dark before it was passed.

Members of the tiny Kwikwetlem First Nation in British Columbia, for example, were surprised to find out their chief, Ron Giesbrecht, was paid $914,219. A full $800,000 of it was an "economic development" bonus. The band's population is only 82.

And the Shuswap First Nation in B.C. dumped their long-time chief, Paul Sam, after learning he was earning more than $200,000 a year for presiding over 87 members.

The government is also rightly ensuring First Nations members can demand accountability by insisting that all bands post their financial information. So far, all but 28 of 582 First Nations subject to the legislation have met that requirement. The five bands who have declared they will not are being taken to court by Ottawa.

That has its own risks for leaders. When the 5,500 member Onion Lake Cree Nation in Alberta and Saskatchewan declared it was going to court to fight the act, it drew the ire of unhappy members who would rather see funds used for services than for legal costs.

In its first year the transparency act has already opened taxpayers' eyes to the fact the great majority of First Nations chiefs are not highly overpaid. And it's allowed First Nations to demand accountability from their leadership. Band members and taxpayers alike can be happy with that.







Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Feb. 09 2015, 3:00 AM EST

Last updated Monday, Feb. 09 2015, 10:18 AM EST

What actions could end the shocking disparity between the prosperity of Canada and the deprivation of First Nations? In our series Rich Country, Poor Nations, a range of contributors argue for one idea that could make a difference.

Paul Martin was prime minister of Canada from 2003-2006

When it comes to the reality of indigenous life in Canada, no issue can be deemed the most important. But if I were to single out one action that has too long been ignored, it would be to repair the mistake that was made by colonial governments who, believing that native culture had no value, assumed its people had nothing to say.

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Click on link for further story:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/gabrielle-fayant-native-youth-claim-their-future-through-technology/article22856060/


This false assumption has contributed grievously to the wrong and repeated attempts to assimilate the First Nations, which is a root cause of so much of the poverty and missed opportunity we see today. From outlawing traditional ceremonies to the horrors of residential schools, the history of Canada is fraught with examples of a culturally genocidal dismissal of First Nations values and sense of worth, a policy of unconscionable discrimination that continues apace. For example, it can be seen in the current case before the Human Rights Tribunal on the underfunding of child welfare on-reserve, where one out of every two children already lives below the poverty line, and in the current underfunding of schools on-reserve as a result of the government's expropriation of the new education monies provided in the 2006 Kelowna Accord.

It's to be hoped that the tribunal will render its decision soon, and that it will be the right one. But what about the six-year-olds on-reserve who enter Grade 1 only to be told effectively that their education is less important than the students attending provincial schools, which receive much greater per capita funding.

Nor is this the only issue arising out of the government's most recent education bill – C33, which not only failed to provide adequate funding, but was as well oblivious to the importance of community involvement in a child's schooling. The bill would have legislated that Ottawa, which has no department of education, should nonetheless assert control over on-reserve learning, despite the fact that across the country there are outstanding First Nations educators and countless examples of structures that work. Even more baffling was the government's knee-jerk reaction when asked before Christmas by the First Nations leadership for a meeting to resolve these issues. The minister refused, stating that it was the "government's plan or no plan." At some point the government must come to its senses.

Wherein lies the answer? It lies on a dusty shelf of a shuttered library in a recommendation of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which says, "Aboriginal children are entitled to learn and achieve in an environment that supports their development as whole individuals." It is this statement that must penetrate the conscience of the nation, for it means that we cannot ignore the need for indigenous thought and fairer funding in on-reserve schools. It also means we can no longer ignore the need for indigenous history in all of our schools.

Can indigenous thought hold its own? Of course it can. Modern science and mathematics are an essential component of indigenous learning. However, unlike Western teaching, which compartmentalizes much knowledge, the indigenous approach, which is grounded in the links between all of existence, is more holistic. Or to come at it another way: Western thought often implies that we are above nature. Indigenous thought states that we are unequivocally a part of nature, which is one of the reasons indigenous thinkers have had trouble making themselves heard in so many debates, such as those focused on the environment.

To put it quite simply, while indigenous traditions differ from many of their Western counterparts, this is not to say that in the search for the truth we can't learn from each other - and the time to start is now! This for many reasons! But let me close with two. The first is that to deny the benefits of working together is to subvert the very openness that has advanced human knowledge thus far. Furthermore, as Canadians, it is to ignore our origins as a nation at a time when the real need is to repair the consequences of those who treated this land as terra nullius, or a place where nobody lived, so many hundreds of years ago.

The second reason for raising the indigenous worldview is that indigenous Canadians are the youngest and fastest-growing segment of our population. They are arriving on the doorsteps of Canadian colleges and universities in greater numbers than ever before. Thus, it is important that our institutions of higher learning recognize the argument of many indigenous scholars to the effect that indigenous thought is not a subset of Eurocentric thought, but a body of knowledge with very different origins that are every bit as rich and profound.

This is important in terms of the integrity of university teaching. But it is important for another reason as well, one to be found in an insight of the philosopher Charles Taylor, who suggested that it is non-recognition, of being invisible, of not being there in the minds of the majority that is one of the major obstacles facing those of indigenous origin. In today's Canada, no student who wants to succeed should have to leave their identity at the door when they walk into a classroom.