Newly Elected NAN Executive meets Nault in Ottawa
Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic with the rest of the NAN Executive Committee will be meeting on September 5th with Minister Robert Nault and his senior staff at Indian Affairs to discuss a wide range of issues. In a letter to the Minister, Deputy Grand Chief Kakegamic plans to raise the following issues: the Special Education Program, Band-Operated School Formula, ISSP and increased dollars for NAN students attending college and university. "The time is ripe for serious progress," Deputy Grand Chief Kakegamic said. "I was recently re-elected for another three- year term with a strong mandate from the Chiefs to work towards the improvement of education for all of our members. It is time we roll up and sleeves and get down to work."
One of the topics to be discussed at the September meeting will be the status of the NAN budget for this fiscal year. Under a new policy, the Minister’s office approves funding for each of the PTOs. NAN has not received approval for its allocation for this year. Staff lay-offs planned for August 29th has been postponed until the end of September, pending the Minister’s decision on NAN funding for this fiscal year.
Lakehead University Aboriginal Management Council Bombshell
At the last meeting of Lakehead University Aboriginal Management Council, Irene Goodwin, a newly appointed student representative dropped a bombshell. Without any notice, she charged that long-serving AMC Chair and member of the LU Board of Governors, Corrine Fox was holding office "illegally." The LU student said that according to university by-laws, Ms. Fox had remained in the office of AMC Chair beyond her term.
Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic has written to Lakehead University President Fred Gilbert to call an emergency meeting of the AMC to resolve the matter of the chair. In his letter, Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic said, "there are many important matters that must be addressed by the AMC this academic year and consistency and stability are crucial if our youth are going to receive a high quality of education at Lakehead University."
The NAN Deputy praised Ms. Fox saying the AMC Chair, "is a highly respected NAN member of Bearskin Lake First Nation who has distinguished herself as a scholar and administrator. As you know, she will be graduating with a Master’s Degree in Social Work at the fall convocation. She is a role model for all students at Lakehead University."
Good Friends who are Moving On
Best wishes are extended to Ruth Baxter, the Executive Director of Oshki Pimanche-O-Win. She will be retiring this fall to start a new life in Florida. Ms. Baxter is engaged to be married next May. She has been associated with NAN for many years. She has served NAN in many capacities that culminated with her work at Oshki. Of her many accomplishments at Oshki, the recent Northern Medical School Aboriginal Workshop earlier this year must be a highlight. Good luck with all of your future endeavours, Ruth!
Wendy Martin-Johnson, the education policy analyst with the Chiefs of Ontario in Brantford has announced her resignation. She is assuming a new position with the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation which she starts mid-September. Wendy was instrumental in lobbying the Ontario Regional Office of Indian Affairs to provide NAN with an additional $500,000 in new special education dollars.
Special Education Update
In spite of months of lobbying, the Department of Indian Affairs continues to ignore calls from NAN and its member Educational agencies to flexibility with the Special Education Program (SEP), the new fund to assist First Nations with high cost special education costs.
Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault announced the SEP almost two years ago. However, the department could not release any funds to the First Nations over its inability to get Treasury Board approval. It was not until January 2003, that the Treasury Board granted authority to the department to distribute the new funds. Further delays meant that many NAN First Nations did not get their money until March or even April 2003. Still, the department insisted that all of these dollars had to be spent prior to the end of the fiscal year! The situation was the same for the new reporting requirements.
Under the old rules, First Nations had to report how their had spent their special education dollars in a separate schedule in their audits. Under the SEP, First Nations had to report their special education expenditures in a new reporting mechanism. COO contacted the department to provide a train the trainer workshop to prepare the First Nations to complete the new reports. However, nothing has been agreed to yet. Nevertheless, the headquarters is insisting that all special education reporting had to be completed by the end of June. Any special education reports that were not filed would be treated the same way as a late audit.
Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic wrote a letter to the Minister outlining his concerns about the way the department delivered the Special Education Program and asked that no First Nation be penalized for submitting a late report or for showing a surplus on any special education line item. He has not received any answer.
In response, the Deputy Grand Chief is seeking alternative ways to ensure that no special education surpluses appear in any NAN audits and that no NAN first nation is penalized for filing their reports late. He is consulting with educators and Chiefs across the territory. He will bring this issue to the Minister Nault when the two meet in Ottawa.
His lobbying efforts have led to the department providing NAN First Nation community schools with an additional $500,000 for the current fiscal year. Each NAN First Nation will be allocated a share based on geography, isolation, small schools and other factors. To access its share, a First Nation must first spend all of its total allocation for the current fiscal year. Once spent, the First Nation must draft a one to two-page proposal stating that its original allocation has been spent, how it was spent and what it intends to spend the additional allocation on. Proposals for the additional allocations should be submitted to the department by Christmas. If a First Nation does not apply for its share of the $500,000, other NAN First Nations may have the opportunity to access any surplus. If no NAN First Nations applies for these additional funds, other First Nations in Ontario may apply for them.
Proposed Changes to the Band-Operated Funding Formula?
NAN in cooperation with the COO Education Unit is working with the Ontario Regional Office of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to develop a joint proposal to INAC headquarters to revise the band-operated formula. Acting on an AOCC Chiefs-in Assembly resolution, an initial meeting has taken place in Brantford between the COO Education Unit and officials from the Ontario Region of INAC. NAN First Nations have specific issues with respect to the band-operated school formula, which must be identified and articulated clearly in whatever proposal is developed and presented to headquarters.
INAC’s band-operated school funding formula has not been fundamentally changed since the 1970s when the department began the process of transferring the responsibility for educating NAN elementary school students from the federal government to First Nations communities. A window of opportunity has now opened in Ontario for a fundamental review of the entire formula by which both NAN elementary and secondary schools are funded.
The band-operated school funding formula has not changed significantly for over twenty years. The formula is not based on the actual costs of educating either elementary or secondary school students in the NAN territory. Although the real per unit costs for secondary school are much higher for secondary school than elementary, the department provides the same per unit costs for both elementary and secondary schools on-reserve. Nevertheless, the department pays the provincial school boards with what tuition agreements they negotiate with NAN First Nations. The status quo is inherently unfair. The situation has created an educational crisis as more and more of our students fall behind in their education. By the time, they enter grade nine, many NAN students are four to five grade levels behind in mathematics and literary. This is largely due to the inequity in funding.
The COO Education Unit and the Ontario Regional Office of INAC are preparing to open discussions to reform the band-operated formula. COO has a mandate from the Chiefs-in-Assembly to develop a strategy to improve the levels of funding for band-operated schools. A joint proposal from COO and the INAC Regional Office to establish a pilot funding project could be the first step in changing the way the department funds our schools.
With a mandate from the NAN Chiefs-in-Assembly, NAN will fully participate in the drafting of the proposed reform to the band-operated formula in Ontario. To ensure that the vital interests of our First Nations communities are protected, Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic is seeking the advise of the NAN Chiefs on how to proceed with these discussions.
Sioux Lookout area taking the initiative
Sioux Lookout area Chiefs are not waiting for the work of the COO Working Group. Last month representatives of NAN, Sandy Lake, Pikangikam, Big Trout Lake, Kasabonika and NNEC met to discuss a common strategy to reform the council / band-operated school funding formula. NNEC faced a financial crisis when the Department of Indian Affairs announced last spring that it would no longer fund travel, accommodation and related expenses for high school students who chose to attend one of NNEC schools if a secondary school option was available to those students on reserve. Although the department agreed to fund the 84 students impacted by this new directive, it made no commitment for students who find themselves in this situation in the future. The Chiefs of the four communities which operated high schools on-reserve are not satisfied with this "band-aid" solution. They want improved funding for their schools and guarantees from the department that NNEC will be properly funded in the future. They have struck a working group and have invited NAN, NNEC and KO to participate in the campaign to reform the council / band operated school funding formula.
President appoints Task Force to Review Aboriginal Access at Lakehead University.
Lakehead University President Fred Gilbert has appointed a working group composed university deans and representatives of the Aboriginal Management Council, NAN, COO and the AFN to review the current Aboriginal access programs and make recommendations.
Lakehead University has a variety of access programs, including the following: general access for all arts and science programs, native nursing access and native access to engineering program. Over a year ago, Mary Louise Hill, LU vice president, was mandated by the president to prepare a report on all of the access programs. To date, no report has been submitted and Gilbert is getting frustrated with the slow progress of her work. In response, he has organised a working group to look into all aspects of the access programs. It is a very broad mandate.
This new working group was created in response to demands by Native students from LU and NAN to re-establish the Native Access to Engineering Program (NAPE), which was suspended due to lack of funding earlier this year. The program was funded entirely by private funding. For a variety of reasons, these funds dried up.
NNEC and LU Faculty of Education discussing new Native Teacher Training Program.
The Northern Nishnawbe Education Council has begun discussions with the Faculty of Education at Lakehead University to develop a new community-based Native teacher training program that will better prepare NAN’s future educators for the challenges facing the profession in the NAN territory. The first meeting held on August 25th in Thunder Bay. NAN representatives stated that the old two-year programme must be reformed to ensure that graduates can successfully receive full accreditation from the Ontario Colleges of Teachers. David Kakegamic, a Sandy Lake principal, said a two-year teaching certificate is not enough to ready teachers for the classroom. He said that a Bachelor of Arts degree is an extremely important component in a teacher’s professional preparation. Margaret Angeconeb of Windigo Education Authority stated that any proposed programme needs to prepare future teachers to fully embrace a bilingual / bicultural approach to education to ensure that the traditional languages survive into the next generation. Maureen McKenna of the Shibogama Education Authority stated that the new program should adopt a holistic approach that allows participants to move through the entire educational system for tutor escorts, to teachers’ aid to accredited teachers.
Julia O’Sullivan, the Dean of Lakehead’s Faculty of Education, was pleased with all of the ideas that were expressed and is looking forward to working with community educators to develop a new Native teacher training program that reflects the needs of NAN’s 49 First Nation communities. The next meeting will take place in Sioux Lookout. No date has been set for the next meeting.
Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic wants Lakehead University to set aside for qualified Aboriginal students to enter the faculty of education directly without participation in any access programme.
Profile of NAN’s new Residential School Coordinator
NAN is welcoming a new face to its Thunder Bay offices. Stephanie Peltier is the new residential school coordinator. A member of Wikwemikong, the only unceded Indian Reserve in Canada, Stephanie brings a broad range of academic and personal experiences to the new position that makes her ideally suited to wrestle with the challenges ahead associated with the impacts of the residential school experience. She is a graduate of the Lakehead Native Language instructors programme and attended Confederation College as a nursing student. She is also an accredited Aboriginal Justice Counselor who is a certified court worker, inmate liaison and addictions counselor. She is currently working part-time to complete a Bachelor’s Degree of Social Work degree at Laurentian University in Sudbury.
Stephanie, however, did not learn about the impacts of residential school in a book or about the consequences of drug and alcohol addiction from a university lecture. She experienced it all first hand and lived to tell about it. She has been clean and sober for eight years. "I know what it takes. I was 21 when I decided to stop drinking."
She credits her life experience with making her a better counselor. "In order to be a good helper, you need to be open to all issues and to all people."
Both of her parents are residential school survivors. As a child, she lived with parents who did not learn traditional parenting skills. There was alcohol, there was abuse and there was family violence. When she was 14, her parents were separated. By the time she was fifteen they were divorced. She identifies with those who struggle with the impacts of the residential school experience. "I’ve been there. I was a youth who had issues with drugs, substance abuse and even suicide." She been in abusive relationships and she has lost friends to drugs and alcohol abuse."
Her five-year daughter grounds her. " Because I’m a mother, I have a mission to teach my daughter our language, our culture and our history. Everyday, I’m trying to be a healthy parent."
She says it is never too late for recovery. Her parents are on their healing journey. "My parents are learning to be good parents for me so they can be good grandparents for my daughter
Stephanie is excited about her new role at NAN. "I’m ready to do this job. I want to be a voice and advocate at the grassroots level." If you have any questions for Stephanie, you can call her at 1-800-465-9952 or email her at email@example.com
Northern Ontario Medical School (NOMS) Update
The final report from the NOMS Aboriginal Workshop held earlier this summer in Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation near Kenora is expected to be released next month. Its recommendations focus on ways to increase the numbers of Aboriginal people attending the new medical school and develop ways to ensure that they graduate and practices medicine in remote and isolated regions of the province. The final report will be widely distributed throughout the region and comments will be welcomed.
NOMS has selected Dr. Jill Konkin as its first Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs. Prior to joining NOMS, she worked as a family physician in Jasper, Alberta for the past 16 years. Dr. Konkin brings to NOMS a vast quantity of knowledge and experience, including advanced skills in obstetrics. Involved over the past few years in medical organizations including Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (currently President), College of Family Physicians of Canada (Alberta Chapter) and the Alberta Medical Association, Dr. Konkin is also currently working on her Masters thesis on the patient-doctor relationship. Dr. Konkin wants to ensure that Aboriginal people play a prominent role in all aspects of the medical school programme.
In other medical school news, Northern Ontario Medical School recently recognized the outstanding support and commitment of Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic with the presentation of a special plaque. The award was made at the close of NOMS’ Aboriginal Workshop. In making the special presentation Dr. Roger Strasser, Founding Dean of NOMS, acknowledged Kakegamic’s successful efforts in ensuring that Aboriginal People have a strong voice on the new NOMS Board of Directors. He also acknowledged Kakegamic’s contribution to the development of NOMS’ curriculum, governance, and to the issues around recruitment and retention of Aboriginal students.
Meeting of NAN Educators Announced
Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic is hosting a brainstorming session with NAN educators to discuss the new Special Education funding and proposals to change the Band-Operated School Funding Formula. The details will follow.
Outstanding Work by NAN Summer Students
Congratulations and best wishes are extended to Judy Crowe and Corey Wesley, two of NAN’s students working in the Education Department for the summer. Judy is a Fort Severn member who is beginning her final year at the Faculty of Education at Lakehead University. Corey is returning to Confederation where he is a student of international business. Both did outstanding work. Their efforts have advanced many initiatives at NAN including the proposed Aboriginal Elementary School in Thunder Bay. However, their most outstanding achievement was their work to collect donations for the elementary school in Koocheching First Nation. The two collected computers, desks and other critical materials for the education of the children of Koocheching First Nation. Outstanding Work!