Truth and Reconciliation calls to action on education continued

·8 min read

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) provides regular updates on the progress of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) calls to action (CTA), keeping tabs on governments, educational and religious institutions, civil society groups, and all Canadians for full and meaningful implementation on all of the instructions given by the commission.

The CTA’s regarding educational discrepancies surrounding on and off-reserve schools, the differences that continue to occur in funding process and amounts, and Indigenous rights and culturally appropriate teachings are described by the AFN as making “moderate progress.”

“Moderate progress has been made in this area. Most notably, the ongoing efforts toward the completion of Call to Action #11,” AFN’s website said.

“Future budget announcements must continue to commit further funding as there is still a persistent backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education. Further progress on Action #8 is possible if the government reduces funding discrepancies between on- and off-reserve First Nations.”

The Indigenous Watchdog said that “between 1996 and 2016, a 2 per cent cap on annual increases was in place; between 2004-05 and 2013-14, provincial expenditures increased roughly 2 per cent a year after adjusting for inflation (during this same period). This is in the context of declining enrolment.

“Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) estimates that, nationally, the total funding shortfall for education programming in all band-operated schools in 2012-13 was between $300 million and $595 million. PBO estimates this shortfall grew to between $336 million and $665 million in 2016-17.”

Indigenous Watchdog reported that on Jun. 11, 2021, the federal government posted updates to their “Delivering on the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action” website, as well as an update delivered on Jun. 7, 2021, using the phrase “Date modified.”

The problem noted with this is that “not a single word had changed from the last revision to the site on Sept. 5, 2019.

“Those updates, beginning on Jun. 7, began just 11 days after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops and the resulting outcry over the lack of government actions and resolve in addressing the TRC Calls to Action and, in particular, those relating to “Missing Children and Burial Information” (Calls to Action 71 – 76). To consciously draw attention to “modified” sections of the Calls to Action implies that something has been revised or updated and that there is progress in advancing those specific Calls to Action.

The Watchdog noted that the CTA’s that were reported as “updated or revised,” were all directly related “to those areas that would draw the most attention from the media, concerned Canadians and Indigenous groups themselves given the context of the last month, the discovery of about 1,250 unmarked graves in four sites and counting.”

Note: the number of unmarked graves is reported to be over 5,000 at the time of writing this article.

We continue where we left off with CTA #9.

The Indigenous Watchdog states that as of Sept. 5, this CTA is classified as “stalled.”

“Latest public report on the official government website is for the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year. Report does not address federal funding for schools off-reserve vs. on reserve nor educational and income attainments for Indigenous vs. non-Indigenous peoples.”

Canadian government stated that “in 2016-17, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), now Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), invested about $1.94 billion to support the delivery of kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) education for First Nations students ordinarily living on reserve. In addition, $165 million was invested in First Nations education infrastructure for capital projects, targeted projects, and salary or administration expenses.”

The full report can be viewed at https://www.rcaanc.

- Providing sufficient funding to close identified educational achievement gaps within one generation.

- Improving education attainment levels and success rates.

- Developing culturally appropriate curriculums.

- Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.

- Enabling parental and community responsibility, control, and accountability, similar to what parents enjoy in public school systems.

- Enabling parents to participate in the education of their children fully.

- Respecting and honouring Treaty relationships.

The Indigenous Watchdog reports that CTA #11 is also stalled.

“No specific action on developing Aboriginal Education Legislation other than a $3.6M budget allocation for “community-level discussions.” Government response refers to policy “proposal” and a policy “framework,” not legislative action. Also, still no mention of off-reserve or specific needs of Métis and Inuit.

Other issues:

- 31 per cent of the $2.6B Budget 2016 allocation ($801M) is only available after the 2019 election

- Budget 2018 allocation of $815M over ten years to extend funding is actually less than the 2017 budget: $81.5M annually vs. $90M annually.

- No details provided on the First Nations Policy and Funding approach

- No details on improving education attainment level and success rates

- No details on developing culturally appropriate curriculums

- No details on protecting Aboriginal languages nor teaching of Aboriginal language courses

- No details on enabling parental and community responsibility

- No details on parental involvement in their children’s education

- No details on respecting and honouring Treaty relationships

The Watchdog also reports that there has been a significant deletion from federal government response:

Deleted “Any discussion of legislative options would need clear support from First Nations communities for ISC to proceed. The government is open to these discussions should First Nations wish to do so.”

A detailed report for progress on each of the principles mentioned above can be viewed at https://indigenouswatchdog.org/call-to-action-10/.

The Canadian government website provided the following status report CTA #10:

“Based on the policy proposal for transforming the Government of Canada’s support for First Nations elementary and secondary education that was co-developed with First Nations, Indigenous Services Canada has established a new policy framework for First Nations elementary and secondary education.”

This CTA is classified as “in-progress,” the Indigenous Watchdog reports.

Both the Watchdog and the government website reported similar findings on the progress of #11, with significant improvement being made.

Both sources said that the Government of Canada had completed a comprehensive and collaborative review with Indigenous partners of all current federal programs that support Indigenous students who wish to pursue post-secondary education. The purpose of the evaluation is to ensure that these programs provide Indigenous students with the resources and support they need to attend and complete post-secondary studies.

The most recent update reported on April 19, 2021, said that Budget 2021 proposes $150.6M over two years to support Indigenous students through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program and the Inuit and Métis Nation Post-Secondary Student Education Strategies, as well as $26.4M in 2021-22 during COVID-19.

Notably, on Oct. 23, 2020, according to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, a 13-member Task Force on Northern Post-Secondary Education will assist in delivering on objectives identified in the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework that seek to close gaps in education and skills training that exist between the North and the rest of Canada. The government of Canada is working with Provincial, Territorial, Indigenous, and community partners in the North and Arctic to develop long-term changes that provide greater access to quality education, build healthier communities, and support a sustainable and dynamic economy. The committee will deliver recommendations on how to improve education.

The full details can be seen at https://indigenouswatchdog.org/call-to-action-11/ and www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca.

Indigenous Watchdog reports this CTA as stalled.

“As of Jun. 14, 2021, the National Progress Report on Early Learning and Childcare has not been updated since Aug. 22, 2019, and there has been no update on the Indigenous Early Learning and Childcare Framework other than “Canada Country Background Report – Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care” released by Employment and Social Development Canada in July 2021 that explored:

- Early Childhood and Education and Care (ECEC) Quality in Canada

- Policy Context

- Curriculum and Pedagogy

- Workforce Development

“The above report touched on the Indigenous Early Learning and Childhood Framework as part of a historical analysis.”

The government website reports no updates since Apr. 1, 2019, when “Indigenous Services Canada implemented a new approach to First Nations elementary and secondary education, which was co-developed with First Nations education leaders and experts from across the country. On top of new formula-based regional models for First Nations education, this new approach will provide added funding to on-reserve schools for language and culture programming and full-time kindergarten for children aged 4 and 5.”

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s (NCTR) 2019-2020 Annual Report provided the following information.

“The NCTR was unrelenting to make progress on projects throughout 2020. We continued to engage Survivors, communities and partners as best we can to move our work forward.

“Despite the dramatic changes 2020 has brought, the NCTR has successfully delivered Every Child Matters: Reconciliation through Education on Sept. 30, 2020.

“This virtual event reached over 500,000 teachers and students across Canada and won two international awards and a Canadian Screen Award and nomination.

“The NCTR is also working hard to implementing the Calls to Action. We supported the work and Bill C-5 to make the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a reality.”

The following article in this series will cover the CTA’s 13 – 17, language, and culture.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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