First Nation Education in Alberta
On February 24, 2010, the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, and the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs in Alberta signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to achieve the following vision for First Nations Education in Alberta:
First Nations students are achieving or exceeding the full educational outcomes, levels and successes of all other students in Alberta.
Through a Joint Action Plan key measures are proposed for the restructuring of First Nation education in Alberta in order to improve First Nation student outcomes, including:
§ The development of a First Nation Education System in Alberta, with an “opt-in” mechanism that will formalize all parties’ roles and responsibilities, maximize the impact of investments, and create new ways of supporting First Nation education.
§ Empowering First Nation Chiefs and Councils to establish/delegate First Nation Education Authorities to foster best practices in the delivery of First Nation education, enhance the availability of supports and services, and be the recipient of education funding.
§ Establish an Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre (IKWC) that will provide First Nation schools with expertise and support to revitalize First Nations languages and culture.
§ Creating Parent and Community Councils to build collaborative relationships, improve student attendance, and increase community engagement.
First Nations people understand the world in terms of relationships, and the inclusion of Elders, parents, and the community in the learning process is fundamental.
Support and Participation
On June 22, 2009 the Assembly of Chiefs in Alberta signed the Negotiation of a Tripartite Agreement for First Nations Education. The three Grand Chiefs are elected representatives for all 48 of Alberta’s First Nations and therefore their approval and signatures on the MOU demonstrates the support of member Nations within Treaty No. 6, Treaty No. 7 and Treaty No. 8. Further, the IKWC Taskforce includes Education Directors from all three Treaty areas all of whom have consulted with key Nation members and Grand Chiefs throughout the development of this business plan. This process allows the insights, cultural preferences and expertise of each Nation to be reflected within these initiatives. It should also be noted the MOU (Appendix E) is also signed by the Minister of Education – the Honorable Dave Hancock and the Minister of Aboriginal Relations the Honorable Gene Zwozdesky
Ongoing And Sustainable
Per the approval and direction of the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs in Alberta, the design and implementation of IKWC must be a long-term, sustainable initiative, expected to serve current and future generations.
While the funds provided via the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Education Partnerships Program greatly facilitate the establishment and implementation of IKWC and its programs, the Assembly Chiefs of Alberta fully intend for the IKWC to be financially sustainable – relying less on Government funding and as time permits, supported by non-government programs.
The IKWC will be a centralized location offering education, policy, language and culture; as well, providing a repository of information on Treaty No. 6, Treaty No. 7 and Treaty No. 8, members. Therefore providing a First Nations directed environment to learn and share information.
Through the commitment of substantial resources, the Treaty Chiefs of Alberta are committed to their responsibilities under the MOU. The IKWC is a commitment made by all signatories to the agreement.
Recommendations from the Children in Care, Children in Custody, and Children Not in School Sub-Table Report
In April 2012, the Children in Care/Children in Custody/Children Not Attending School Sub-Table of the Memorandum of Understanding for First Nations Education in Alberta released its final report and recommendations. With the mandate to “explore and make recommendations that all First Nations children and youth, living on reserve in Alberta, have the same opportunities to learn and to engage in learning as any other child in Alberta,” the Sub-table made five major recommendations that enable the parties to achieve the common vision for First Nations education in Alberta that is inclusive of the needs of First Nations children who are most vulnerable such as those children who are in care, in custody, and/or not attending school.
To ensure that the IKWC meets it mandate to improve First Nations student achievement, it is crucial that the needs of First Nations students who are in care, custody, or not attending school are incorporated into the overarching Business Plan. Specifically, the IKWC will work within its mandate and partners to address the Sub-Tables five major recommendations that are:
1. Introduction of a Point Person, based in the community, to work on behalf of the child, assisting in their transitional needs;
2. Regular case conference meetings facilitated by the Point Person, between the family, school and Child and Family services. The Point Person will ensure the child’s needs are the focus of all parties and provide updates to each party on the progress of the child/youth. The Point Person will support the child/youth and speak on their behalf.
3. Engagement Strategy, beginning with Data Collection, to determine the number of children/youth not attending school and identify risk factors and causes for truancy; once the study is complete a community action plan will be developed by the community members and supported by the provincial and federal governments;
4. For children in custody there needs to be more licensed group homes in First Nations communities to combat the issue of lack of placements for children transitioning out of custody;
5. Build a connection to the child/youth, transitioning out of custody, to their community through mentorship programs and inclusion in community celebrations
Framework Mechanism for Opting In
Canada, Alberta, and First Nations will develop a framework mechanism through which First Nation Education Authorities can opt-in. The mechanism will identify each party’s responsibilities with respect to programs, services, and funding; governance, accountability and reporting relationships; and the processes for its review and amendment.
Federal and Provincial Roles
Canada will continue to support the education of on-reserve First Nation students, including its commitment to develop new funding methodologies that will provide more predictable and sustainable funding to support a restructured First Nation education system. Alberta retains responsibility for provincial curriculum and standards, student assessment, teacher development and certification, and K-12 education policy and regulations. Alberta will enhance, and not replace, federal funding by extending access to identified provincial initiatives to First Nation Education Authorities.
Both Canada and Alberta will support the development of collaborative frameworks between First Nation Education Authorities and Provincial School Boards that will support joint planning and actions to improve student success.
In keeping with commitment 2 (4) (a) and (b) of the MOU, the parties have agreed to review existing legislation and policies and to examine options for a legislative base for First Nations education in Alberta. The research on First Nations education emphasizes the significant need for education legislation that incorporates statutory funding. Legislation defines the relationship of an education system to students, parents and stakeholders while also providing for the system of administration and financing of education. Most importantly, education legislation ensures that a child’s right to access education is defined and protected.
The MOU for First Nations Education in Alberta, signed by the Grand Chiefs of Treaty No. 6, Treaty No. 7, Treaty No. 8, Ministers of the Government of Canada and Government of Alberta states: “whereas, First Nation students attending First Nation schools or provincial schools are not achieving educational outcomes or levels of success similar to all other students in Alberta”. This statement summarizes the empirical evidence found in student performance records, grades, succession ratios and many research studies. The evidence is overwhelming. This Business Plan is a response to the dire need to provide appropriate levels of education to Alberta First Nations through the proposed activities outlined in the Capacity Development Plan.
Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its Summary report entitled Honoring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future that made 94 specific Calls to Action to federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments in an effort to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.
In consideration of the work proposed for the federal, provincial and First Nations governments within this Business Plan, and recognizing the need for ongoing, cohesive, and collaborative work in this regard, the IKWC also intends to align with and work towards specific Calls to Action in relation to Education, Language and Culture. They are:
7. We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
8. We call upon the federal government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.
10. We call upon the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples….and would incorporate the following principles:
i. Providing sufficient funding to close identified educational achievement gaps within one generation.
ii. Improving education attainment levels and success rates.
iii. Developing culturally appropriate curricula.
iv. Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.
v. Enabling parental and community responsibility, control, and accountability, similar to what parents enjoy in public school systems.
vi. Enabling parents to fully participate in the education of their children.
vii. Respecting and honoring Treaty relationships.
14. We call upon the federal government to enact…an Aboriginal Languages Act that incorporates the …principles:
i. Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them.
ii. Aboriginal language rights are reinforced in the Treaties.
iv. The preservation, revitalization, and strengthening of Aboriginal languages and cultures are best managed by Aboriginal peoples and communities.