The First Nations SchoolNet program's Quebec Regional Management Organization recently posted its third publication of First Nation schools ICT success stories. Coordinated by the First Nations Education Council out of Wendake First Nation, the Quebec RMO is working with the K-Net team to develop and support innovative ICT applications in First Nation schools across the province. The series of success stories highlight the investments being made by the schools, the communities, regional organizations and Industry Canada in supporting these developments.
On Tuesday March 7th at 3pm EST / 2pm CST, Dr. Pirjo Vaittinen from the University of Tampere, Finland will conduct an on-line seminar with teaching professionals across Ontario's far north.
She will provide a thirty minute overview of her research on teaching and learning language and literacy in the Finnish school system. Following her presentation and responses will be made by Darrin Potter, principal of the Keewaytinook Internet High School in Balmertown. Joining Darrin will be Roy Morris and Sherry Mamakwa of the Kwayaciiwin Educational Resource Centre in Sioux Lookout.
A question and answer period will follow with directors of education, principals andteachers working in First Nations schools in remote and isolated communities in Ontarios's far north.
Workshop participants will discuss whether best practices and lessons learned in Finland have an application in Ontario's far north. The session will be streamed and archived for those unable to participate "live."
The on-line workshop is hosted by the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute (KORI - http://research.knet.ca), the research arm of Keewaytinook Okimakanak, one of NAN's six tribal councils serving First Nations in Ontario's far north.
Confirmed videoconferencing sites include Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout, Balmertown, Keewaywin and Weagamow First Nation. KO is the leader of First Nations connectivity and telecommications in Canada. K-NET Services, the telecommunications department of KO facilitates IP videoconferencing in over 80 communities in Ontario and across Canada.
For more information or to find out how to participate on-line, email email@example.com at KORI.
Tories to create aboriginal school boards: 'There's no school system': Native-run boards to be 'accountable,' Prentice says
OTTAWA - The Conservative government is set to overhaul aboriginal education in Canada by introducing native-run school boards that would be accountable for the $1.2-billion in federal money spent on the country's 140,000 on-reserve children.
The Liberal government was heavily criticized by the Auditor-General and the Conservatives when they were in opposition for simply handing over the cash to First Nation band councils without any measure of accountability or educational performance standards.
Auditor-General Sheila Fraser said high school completion rates of around 41% would take 28 years to reach national Canadian rates of nearly 70%.
Ms. Fraser said the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs had no idea whether it was spending too much or too little and was equally in the dark about results achieved by children on reserves.
Jim Prentice, the new Indian Affairs Minister, said in an interview yesterday part of the problem has been that his department has acted as a funding agent without setting educational standards.
"What's happened is we've evolved from the old residential school system to a funding arrangement where there is no school system. It's every school for itself, operating according to its own rules and standards," he said. "[But] I don't accept that we simply flow the money through to 615 First Nations with no system, either as to their financial accountability or education outcome accountability."
Mr. Prentice said he intends to bring forward a First Nations Education Act that would prescribe the same rights for aboriginal children as those that are enshrined for other Canadian children in provincial school acts -- the right of a child to get a defined quality of education; curriculum requirements; classroom sizes; teaching certificate requirements, and so on.
He said he has already held discussions with First Nation chiefs in Alberta and has had a good response. In Alberta, aboriginal school boards would be set up along treaty boundary lines, which would result in three boards.
British Columbia would have a different system of aggregation. He said both provincial governments have shown a "high level of interest."
"I hope other provinces see the merit of this and begin to evolve in this direction."
Mr. Prentice said he believed First Nations leaders would be excited about the opportunity to exercise authority over a system that could match provincial standards, while protecting their own cultural and linguistic sensibilities.
Phil Fontaine, the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, gave the government's plan a cautious welcome.
"Aggregating communities under one school authority is a good option, provided the school authority or board has the resources and capacity to deliver good education programs to kids. If the money isn't there, all these good ideas will fail, and I don't think anyone wants to see that."
The Conservatives, in their election platform, committed to the goals of the Kelowna conference on aboriginal affairs last November, which aimed to close the high school graduation gap by 2016.
"Obviously what this requires is a willingness on the part of aboriginal Canadians to breathe life into the educational commitments from Kelowna," said Mr. Prentice.
"How important is this? After issues of basic things like water service and so on, I think the whole subject of First Nation education is the most important task at hand. Everything else flows from having well-educated children."
Mr. Fontaine said major reforms will be needed if Canada is to hit its Kelowna targets.
"There is no question that there needs to be major changes. But one of those major changes has to be greater control by First Nations."
He said he was "quite encouraged" by his conversations with Mr. Prentice, who, he said, "has not turned his back on Kelowna."
More "solutions" to the "barriers" that create the problems for Aboriginal people from the CD Howe Institute. Be sure to read a response to this lobbying effort at the bottom.
For Immediate Release, Feb 28, 2006
Aboriginal Policy Reforms Required, Starting with Education and Health Care: C.D. Howe Institute Study
Toronto, Feb. 28 --- Aboriginal policy reforms should focus on improving the quality of education and health care Aboriginals receive, says a study released today by the C.D. Howe Institute. Reforms should also include holding band councils accountable for the billions of dollars they spend, and recognizing the needs of the seven out of 10 Aboriginals who live off-reserve, according to the study.
The policy study, Creating Choices: Rethinking Aboriginal Policy, was written by John Richards, a professor in Simon Fraser University’s Public Policy Program and the Roger Phillips Scholar in Social Policy at the C.D. Howe Institute.
The main reason for poverty among Aboriginals today, Richards argues, is the low level of Aboriginal education. Low education leads to low employment rates and the intergenerational perpetuation of poverty. Moreover, low education levels, low employment rates, and many Aboriginal health problems, such as diabetes, are closely interrelated.
The goal of reforms is to place Aboriginals in a better position to support and maintain their culture wherever they may live: on-reserve, off-reserve in rural communities or, as fully half do, in cities.
The Study, Creating Choices: Rethinking Aboriginal Policy, is available at www.cdhowe.org.
For further information contact:
Public Policy Program
Simon Fraser University and
Roger Phillips Scholar in Social Policy,
C.D. Howe Institute,
Tel. (604) 291-5250
Associate Director of Research,
C.D. Howe Institute,
Tel. (416) 865-1904 ext:238
March/April 2004 Issue
As I have had occasion to remark before, “God save me from intellectuals!” especially right-wing Canadian intellectuals, when they take unto themselves the impulse to discourse on Aboriginal policy.
In recent years, these people have perpetrated some real howlers, whose only use has been to indicate how deep the gap remains between the beliefs and posture of Aboriginal people in Canada, and what could at a pinch be described as the thinking of many influential, fuzzy-minded, well- intentioned, ill-informed Canadians of European background.
A couple of years ago the leader of the right-wing pack was Thomas Flanagan, the intellectual powerhouse of the Reform, aka the Alliance, aka the Conservative, party. Mr. Flanagan wrote a book, highly regarded and widely reviewed in the media, apparently before he had ever set foot in an Aboriginal community. I never read the book, but so far as I remember, it was stern stuff, calling on the Aboriginals to shape up, and espousing the line that the cure to all problems was for them to assimilate in Canadian society. This was welcomed by the press as a bold new policy.
At around the same time Jonathan Kay, the neanderthal right-wing editor of the editorial page of the National Post, (incidentally, he’s a favourite commentator for CBC television), took an active interest in Aboriginal policy, recommending the same bold policy.
And now John Richards, professor at Simon Fraser University, who has turned dramatically right and become an acolyte of the C.D. Howe Institute, has been getting a lot of attention for an article that recently appeared in the magazine Policy Options in which he recommends that Paul Martin must “rethink Aboriginal policy independently of the premises of tribal chiefs and their organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations.”
In other words, Aboriginal policy should ignore what the Indians and their leaders say they want, and instead hand over delivery of most Indian services to the provinces, which are, for the most part, regarded by Aboriginal people as unfriendly to Indians.
What alarms Richards the most, apparently, is the insistence of Aboriginal leaders that their people should be governed by the treaties signed with them as Europeans marched westward to take over their lands. There is a great deal of emphasis in Richards’ article on the $7 billion paid to (or for) Indians every year: but no recognition that this is a bargain price for what Europeans have gained from the exchange. The most recent of these exchanges, for example, that between the Crees of James Bay and the Quebec and Canadian governments, saw the Crees initially paid $139 million for privileges which now allow the governments and their corporate hangers-on to take $5 billion worth of electrical, mineral and forestry production every year from the lands they “bought” from the Indians.
Since many of the provisions of the original agreement were not fulfilled (for example, those covering economic development, under which the Crees were supposed to benefit in training and jobs), the Crees have recently made a new agreement which pays them $70 million a year — still a great bargain for the $5 billion wealth exchange. To get even this, the Crees have had to sell to Hydro-Quebec their central river, the Rupert, which they had spent 25 years defending, and agree that it should become part of the huge James Bay hydro scheme, a humiliation which is leading to increasing anger in the Cree communities, and has sullied the Cree reputation outside Quebec.
Richards also worries that under current policies, which provide free health care to Aboriginals, including dental care, a second tier of health insurance is created in Canada that “invites resentment among non-Aboriginals who pay taxes and yet receive fewer insured health services.”
There are a number of wonders about all these learned prescriptions for Indians by Canadian intellectuals. First, I suppose, is the naked assumption that Indians have proven themselves incapable of making decisions about their own lives: what else is to be assumed from Richards’ prescription, that the very bases of Aboriginal policy must be rethought by government without any reference to Indian chiefs or organizations? Second, and perhaps more important, is the blind ignorance of these people, who apparently have never heard that it has been Canadian policy since before the nation was founded to assimilate Indians into “the body politic,” and that pursuit of this policy led to monstrous legislation whose aim was to strip Indians of everything that might mean anything to them ‹- their languages, their beliefs, their religions, their rituals, their economies ‹- you name it, and Canadian policy in the past has tried to abolish or forbid or destroy it.
What are they teaching these professors? (Leaving aside that these guys are themselves actually teaching this stuff to people!)
Casual reference to diseases like diabetes omit to mention that the epidemic of this disease among Canada’s Aboriginals can be directly traced to the Euro success in destroying the Indian economies, leaving the native people bereft and at a loss to know what to do. In hardly any part of the country was a serious effort ever made to build a viable life around the remarkable skills of the native occupants of the land. More likely, they were just swept aside ruthlessly to make way for roads, railways, airports, farms, mines and all the paraphernalia of modern, industrialized life, including even parks and protected areas.
Establishment of Canada’s first National Park at Banff resulted in bands of Indians wandering the countryside in a desperate effort to find enough food to live on. They were unwanted either in the reserves that were set up for them (where they quickly became dependent on government food handouts), or in the countryside where they normally operated, because there they were constantly getting in the way of Western development. Anyone who arrived from Europe with any money-making scheme was given priority in land use over the original occupants of the land. I’m not making this up. That is a fact.
In the most recent such takeover, which I am familiar with, the Crees of James Bay were not even consulted before the Quebec government announced its plan to inundate their hunting territories and build one of the continent’s biggest hydro-electric generating schemes. The ignorance of the proponents of this scheme was so vast that when the natives protested the likely effects on the moose and caribou on which they depended for food, the engineers on the other side of the table said this was of no concern, because the Manitoba port of Churchill was open in the summer, and cattle could be shipped across Hudson’s Bay to the hungry Crees. (Remember, I am not making this up).
If Mr. Richards has any doubt about any of this having happened, he could consult Sarah Carter’s remarkable book, Lost Harvests, in which she proves without a doubt that even when Indians accepted the bases of Euro policy, and tried to become farmers, as they were intended to do, suddenly, in response to pressure from neighbouring white farmers, measures were taken by government to prevent the Indian farmers from selling their produce. In other words, successful Indians were never part of the Euro plan (an assertion supported by the fact that any Indian who attained a university degree was “deemed to be no longer an Indian”.)
Is this relevant to John Richards’ prescriptions for the Aboriginal future? One would think that any intellectual would be able to grasp the fact that the policy of integrating Aboriginals into the Canadian society has been the main determinant of their present desperate conditions. And that, the policy having failed, a more promising policy might rest in the rebuilding of Aboriginal confidence and pride in their heritage, the transfer to them of the resources on which alone they can build a promising economic future, and the establishment of mechanisms by which they can govern themselves, make their own decisions, within the Canadian polity.
One gets a feeling that Mr. Richards is not familiar with reserves or Aboriginal communities. If he had spent 25 years, as I have, wandering the country from one Aboriginal community to the next, he would have gathered a sense of the really impressive effort that Aboriginal people are making all across the country to pull themselves out of their desperate situation by their boot-straps.
Everywhere, they are trying to build a viable economy (although hampered in that by the miserable resources left to them); trying to overcome the many pathologies with which their communities have been saddled after their 200 years of history as whipping boys for Euro arrogance; trying to re-establish the importance of their own languages, beliefs, and rituals, their profound understanding of the relationship between people and the Earth.
In my view, the future of Aboriginals in Canada depends on generous recognition by both government and public opinion of Aboriginal rights and title as the bedrock of relationship between our two peoples. And we not only need to recognize these rights, but to fulfil the deals we have made with them.
Surely our intellectuals can come up with something better, as a prescription for the future, than this melancholy right-wing stuff.
Boyce Richardson is a former journalist and filmmaker and a Member of the Order of Canada. This article and many others of interest may be found on BR’s website at www.boycespaper.com.
A December 2005 paper entitled Literacy and Digital Technologies: Linkages and Outcomes published by Industry Canada and Stats Canada highlights the links between literacy and computer usage. For example ... "adults who have average or higher literacy skills and who are intensive computer users have about three to six times the odds of being in the top quartile of personal income, compared to respondents with below average literacy skills and less intensive computer use."
The authors describe the paper as an investigation of "relationships between adult literacy skills and use of information and communications technologies (ICTs)."
Under Findings ... "Results also confirmed an association between literacy skills and ICT use. While controlling for other factors, adults’ perceived usefulness and attitude toward computers, use of the Internet, and use of computers for task-oriented purposes increased as literacy skill levels increased. This was true for all four literacy domains examined. In most countries, for example, respondents with medium to high prose literacy skills had between two to three times the odds of being a high-intensity computer user compared to those with below average literacy skills.
Those without access to ICTs also tended to have lower literacy levels than the rest of the population. In addition, only a minority of non-users of computers expressed an interest in starting to use a computer. This has implications for all nations if those individuals who perhaps stand to benefit most from ICTs (by obtaining health, employment and government information, for example) are not in a position to access and use them."
Wed. Dec. 28, 2005.
Tales of hope from northern schools - Teachers getting parents involved - Success stories despite daunting odds
LOUISE BROWN - EDUCATION REPORTER
It's not your typical school field trip, even up in Ontario's Far North.
The annual Grade 9 moose hunt in the remote reserve of Fort Hope — complete with "firearms protocol" and tips on how to produce the quickest kill — is part of a broad move to boost Ojibwa children's sense of identity and help them feel ready to learn.
In a year filled with reports of despair from across Canada's First Nations, teachers and principals from Ontario's most isolated reserves flew "south" to Thunder Bay recently to share some moving tales of hope.
This quiet little conference on "best practices" north of 50 may offer an early peek at the sorts of programs Ottawa could choose to support with the $1.8 billion it promised native schools last month at the historic First Ministers' Aboriginal Summit in Kelowna, B.C.
The Toronto Star reported earlier this year about the daunting social odds faced by children in schools on federally funded northern reserves in the series Ontario's Forgotten Children.
Yet despite the odds, a growing number of northern schools brought good news to the conference organized by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 northwestern Ontario reserves.
Here are some of the more dramatic success stories:
Meanwhile, while the Fort Hope students learned much from their moose hunt, they did not actually shoot a moose, confides principal Steve Bentley.
"I wouldn't say anything to the kids, but I imagine a group of 13-year-olds having fun would have a hard time surprising any animal at all."
Honouring unsung heroes of the north - Living conditions among the challenges
April tour of reserves reveals rare educators
Dec. 27, 2005
LOUISE BROWN - EDUCATION REPORTER
Running late because he had been busy moose hunting, David Kakegamic was a different breed of education director than I'm used to interviewing.
But then, the fly-in community of Sandy Lake, Ont., is a different kind of community than the kind I generally cover.
It's wrapped in woodlands, hours by bush plane from the nearest library, coffee shop or hospital — and the children here face a different level of challenge than I've ever seen.
In the isolated northern reserves where photographer René Johnston and I went to report on schools last April, we saw living conditions that were shocking to find in Ontario. But we also met a most inspiring and motley crew of educators working to help these children learn.
High in the northern bush, out of sight and mind from the rest of Canada, an eclectic army of visionaries — some native, some non-native and a whole rowdy bunch from Newfoundland — are devoting years of their lives to helping Ontario's forgotten children. I didn't get to write about them in our series, but they are the unsung heroes of the north:
Grizzled Hungarian refugee Joseph Farsang, a veteran teacher with white stubble and soft heart, walked the gravel roads of the poverty-stricken North Spirit Lake First Nation, night after night, to visit his more needy students and encourage their parents to send them to school.
Genteel teacher Laura Marchand, a retired principal from Vancouver Island, would slip food to hungry students and scold parents and staff she suspected of using crack.
Teacher Lynda Brown of Sandy Lake set up a weekend reading program for children in the school library and discreetly laundered the clothes of students whose families have no washing machine.
Ponytailed teacher Chris Williams returned to his hometown of Weagamow Lake with a native teaching diploma and now uses a gentle manner and firm rules to deal with a Grade 5 class that includes a student with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, another with a speech disability and several with behavioural problems.
Soft-spoken artist Saul Williams' passion for children outweighs his Grade 8 education to make him not only the beloved education director in his hometown of Weagamow Lake, but a powerful advocate for children in the 24 reserves across the Sioux Lookout District.
He can remember being flown off to residential school as a boy, and dropping out.
He is fighting to ensure that his own son has a better future.
It was an honour to meet them.
PROVIDING OUR CHILDREN WITH THE TOOLS FOR LIFE
2006 First Nations Early Childhood Development Conference
Participants of the conference will deepen their understanding of the expanding early childhood knowledge base, develop skills that improve professional preparation and practice, and sharpen their ability to use effective, active learning approaches for families. The conference will include workshops and plenary sessions that give participants time to reflect, network and dialogue with one another about practical applications of these ideas. Innovative strategies will be presented to address the cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs of young children. Participants will have opportunity to expand their professional networks with other early childhood educators and exhibitors representing early childhood organizations and associations. The conference will benefit those seeking to gain ideas about what has been effective in the development of early childhood programs in various First Nations communities. Ultimately, participants will return to their organizations with an action plan, resources, other practical tools, and supportive professional relationships.
What to Expect?
The conference theme is “Providing Our Children with the Tools for Life.” Early childhood educators recognize the critical importance of children’s early years and share a common goal to prepare children to start school ready to learn, and to grow to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Although a wide range of topics will be presented, workshop presentations will relate to cooperation in the community and elements of success in programming. Areas of particular interest in the conference include the following:
Who Should Attend?
The conference is designed for early childhood educators and community workers who mentor early childhood professionals and parents of young children, including:
How to Register?
From the Heritage Canada web site at
2006 marks the 10th anniversary of the Racism. Stop It! National Video Competition. The Competition involves thousands of young Canadians in every province and territory. It requires little or no acting experience but requires one to have fun. It also allows individuals to move beyond the recognition of the problem and take action to Stop It!
All members who enter the Racism. Stop It! National Video Competition receive participation certificates. The 10 winning videos are selected by a tiered process in which entries are judged for originality, audio/visual quality and, most important, the effectiveness of the Racism. Stop It! message. The winners are invited to an award ceremony to commemorate March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
In 1966, the United Nations declared March 21 the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and, in 1989, Canada began the March 21 Campaign to promote racial harmony. The Racism. Stop It! National Video Competition is part of our country’s Campaign against racial discrimination and every year we encourage youth to participate.
If you are between 12 and 18 years of age inclusive (must be under 19 as of March 21), you are eligible to enter the Racism. Stop It! National Video Competition. Produce a 60 to 90 second video that represents your team's thoughts on eliminating racial discrimination. Use your personal filmmaking style: experimental, narrative, animated, high-tech, or documentary. Whatever helps get your message across. You can feature as many people as you like in your video - include your whole school or members of your community if they have something to say about eliminating racial discrimination. However, your production team can consist of only five people! You and your team can get help, but it must be your own creative efforts.
You can enter the Racism. Stop It! National Video Competition by filling out the Entry form and sending it to the Racism. Stop It! National Video Competition Co-ordinator, c/o The Students Commission, 23 Isabella St., Toronto, ON M4Y 1M7, as indicated on the entry form.
The entry deadline for the Racism. Stop It! National Video Competition is January 16, 2006. Videos must be postmarked by that date. For further information please call 1-888-77MULTI/1-888-776-8584.
Greetings Educators and Community Leaders!
The Canadian Aboriginal Youth Writing Challenge is happening again for the 2005-2006 school year (visit http://www.our-story.ca).
Inspired by the launch of the publication Our Story in 2004, last year the Dominion Institute and Enbridge Inc. challenged young Aboriginal high school students to sharpen their pencils and contribute a short story (800-1400 words) that explored a great moment in Aboriginal history - and the results were phenomenal!
Submissions included topics such as residential schools, the signing of the numbered treaties, the extinction of the Beothuk and passing on traditions between generations. With her story First Contact, Nicole Nicholas of Victoria, BC, was chosen as the 2005 winner by a panel of judges that included Tantoo Cardinal, Tomson Highway, Dwight Dorey and Jose Kusugak.
The first-prize winner will receive a $500 Prize, the opportunity to be profiled in a Canadian Learning Television and Book Television production, to be published in The Beaver Magazine: Canada's History Magazine and to travel to Ottawa to read an excerpt from his/her story at a special celebration event. Students with a story in the top ten will receive a $200 prize. All winning essays will be published online and all participants will receive a letter of recognition for their participation.
The deadline for submissions is May 6, 2006.
There will be special prizes for classes that participate as a group.
If you are interested in encouraging a student or an entire class to participate in the Canadian Aboriginal Youth Writing Challenge please call 1-866-701-1867 or visit http://www.our-story.ca.
Published by Doubleday Canada, Our Story is on sale in bookstores across Canada. Our Story brings together nine leading Aboriginal authors from across the country to explore great moments in history and to consider the significance of these events for Canada's Aboriginal Peoples.
The Dominion Institute
416.368.9627 or 866.701.1867