Current Reality

High School Graduation RatesIndigenousNon-Indigenous
201668%86.3%
200658%

The above is based on

University/College Completion RateIndigenousNon-Indigenous
200611.4%28.5%
201617%35.2%

The above tables are based on Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC’s) Census Core Table 9A and INAC’s Census Core Table 6.05 as reported in the 2019 Indigenous Economic Progress Report

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 time 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.

Federal Spending on Primary and Secondary Education on First Nations Reserves: Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Dec. 6, 2016

Budget 2021 invests $1,188 over 5 years with $181.8M ongoing across three priority areas: COVID-19 support, funding mechanisms and First Nations control over education and adult education

There are seven Education Calls to Action. To find out more about each Call to Action, including government and stakeholder responses and progress to date, visit the links below.

Education Calls to Action

Call to Action #6Repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code
Call to Action #7Develop a joint strategy to eliminate education and employment gap
Call to Action #8Eliminate discrepancy in education funding for on-reserve vs off-reserve
Call to Action #9Prepare and publish annual education reports: Indigenous vs non-Indigenous
Call to Action #10Draft Indigenous Education legislation with Indigenous people engaged
Call to Action #11Provide funding to end backlog for First Nations post-secondary education
Call to Action #12Develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs

Education for Reconciliation

There are four Education for Reconciliation Calls to Action. To find out more about each Call to Action, including government and stakeholder responses and progress to date, visit the links below.

Call to Action # 62Consultations on Indigenous education reform (curriculum content, funding)
Call to Action # 63Commitment to Indigenous education (K-12 curriculum, teacher training)
Call to Action # 64Denomination schools must teach course on Indigenous spirituality
Call to Action # 65Establish a National Research Program with multi-year funding

Current Problems and Issues in Education

Distorting impacts of colonial expansion on Indigenous lives in Manitoba

July 10, 2021: CBC – A First Nations leader is among those accusing Manitoba’s premier of offering a distorted reframing of the province’s history, omitting the displacement of Indigenous people and violence against them in what feels like “a punch in the gut.”

“It’s very disheartening, very disrespectful to Indigenous people,” said Leroy Constant, the interim grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Constant is among a number of Indigenous people calling on Brian Pallister to educate himself on the history of colonization in the province, after the premier spoke publicly about the toppling of the statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth on the Manitoba legislative grounds on Canada Day.

On Wednesday, Pallister admonished those involved in bringing the statues down and announced they will be restored.

“The people who came here to this country, before it was a country and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything. They came here to build. They came to build better.” Brian Pallister.

That take on history doesn’t sit well with Leroy Constant, the interim grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Constant, is also the chief of York Factory First Nation in northern Manitoba. Pallister’s comments served to “minimize, romanticize and celebrate the settler colonialism that displaced First Nations from their ancient and sacred lands in the most brutal and heinous ways,” Constant said. That’s “unconscionable and a desecration to the graves of the ancestors on which the legislature is built and on which the city of Winnipeg now lies,” he said.

Pallister is out of touch with reality, says Mary Jane Logan McCallum, a history professor at the University of Winnipeg and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous people, history and archives. “I think his knowledge of Manitoba history is about 50 years out of date, maybe 60 years out of date,” said the member of Munsee Delaware Nation in Ontario.

Settlers in Canada did come to build farms, businesses and churches as Pallister says, but that building came from dispossessing and destroying Indigenous peoples’ way of life, she said.

In the 1870s, the numbered treaties that cover Manitoba were signed by the Crown and First Nations leaders. They allowed the Canadian government to actively pursue agriculture, settlement, transportation links and resource development in exchange for payment or other promises, the Treaty Commission of Manitoba says.

Within a few short years, though, McCallum says land was given to settlers in exchange for small, remote reserves and First Nations treaty rights were never fully realized. Then came the deluge of government and church-run programs that attempted to assimilate Indigenous people and “take the Indian out of the child.”

The idea that “to build you always have to tear down” suggests “that what is being torn down doesn’t matter — it’s not relevant, it’s not meaningful,” McCallum said. “In a way, that fails to bring a really deep analysis to our country’s history and it allows us to get through with a really positive story of progress.”

Only 10% of Canadians are very familiar with the history of the residential school system

June 15, 2021 – Thirteen years after the Government of Canada offered a formal apology to the survivors of the residential school system and families,68 percent of Canadians polled still say they were either unaware of the severity of abuses at residential schools or completely shocked by it.  A poll conducted by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the Assembly of First Nations and Abacus Data shows that the majority of Canadians believe governments are not doing enough to teach students about the legacy of the residential school system. “The results of the survey expose glaring gaps of knowledge and education related to Canada’s history and renew calls to re-examine questions around who should be held accountable.

  • 93 percent of Canadians are aware of the discovery of remains at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, with 58 percent Canadians following the news closely.
  • This is a slight increase (seven percent) in the number of Canadians who were closely following the news on the legacy of residential schools upon the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, nearly six years ago.
  • Despite 72 percent of Canadians being saddened by the news of the mass grave, only 10 percent of Canadians are very familiar with the history of the residential school system.
  • 62 percent of Canadians believe that provincial education curricula do not include nearly enough about residential schools,
  • 65 percent believe the level of education around residential schools should increase.
  • 70 percent of survey respondents say that the framing of residential schools has been downplayed in the education system.
  • The majority of Canadians are unequivocal about whom should take responsibility for the damage done by the residential school system:
    • Ninety percent of respondents believe that the federal government is liable for the damage caused by residential schools, followed by the Catholic Church (81 percent) and the RCMP (80 percent).

Four out of five Canadians would like to see the Pope formally apologize to the survivors of residential schools. Nearly as many want the federal government to offer more funding to identify other possible mass graves at all residential school sites.

“By margins of greater than three to one, Canadians are telling us they want action on First Nations priorities,” added AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “People want to see Canada accelerate progress on the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, invest in efforts to identify all unmarked graves at residential schools, and to stop fighting against our children and residential school survivors in court. Decisionmakers at all levels must heed these calls for action. These are some of the ways we can truly honour the lives of those who were so tragically lost.”

Protests against Egerton Ryerson, one of the primary architects of the Indian Residential School System by the Yellowhead Institute and protestors against what his statue represented

June 2, 2021: Toronto Star –On May 11, Ryerson University’s First Nation-led research centre, Yellowhead Institute, issued an open letter announcing that their students and faculty would be swapping the school’s current name with “X” University in their email signatures and on social media. This is the firmest action taken by the department that has long denounced the university’s affiliation with Egerton Ryerson, whose beliefs are widely credited with the establishment of what became the residential school system.

Yellowhead Institute’s letter was in response to the “Standing Strong” task force, an independent group created by the university to complete expert historical research on Egerton Ryerson, while consulting with the community on how to address his statue on campus and other ties to his name…However, the Yellowhead Institute says it’s not enough…From an Indigenous student perspective, it cannot be reconciled.”

Meanwhile, the Ryerson school of journalism on Tuesday announced that their masthead publications would be changing their names after the 2020-21 year following a unanimous vote at the school council meeting on May 18.

June 6, 2021: Global News – A statue of Egerton Ryerson at Ryerson University, which was pulled down earlier Sunday evening by demonstrators, will not be “restored or replaced,” the university said Sunday. “The question of the statue was only one of many being considered by the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force, whose mandate includes consideration of the university’s name, responding to the legacy of Egerton R erson, and other elements of commemoration on campus,” read university president Mohame Lachemi’s statement.

Denial of access to education for Inuit youth who are prohibited from speaking Inuktuk and/or English

May 19, 2021: Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse – Considering the limited availability of residential care units for youth in Nunavik, Inuit youth must leave their communities to receive rehabilitation services. Two media articles reporting that Inuit youth could not speak their language in rehabilitation centers prompted the Commission to launch an investigation. The investigation initially concerned the right of Inuit youth to speak their language as well as the social services they receive while in the residential care of the CIUSSS-de-l’Ouest-de- l’Île-de-Montréal (CIUSSS-ODIM). However, the Commission soon realized that youth residing in these facilities were deprived of a formal education, as were youth residing in units under the governance of the Ungava Tulattavik Health Center in Dorval. For this reason, the scope of the investigation was expanded to include their right to education.

The investigation focused on the following areas:

  • The cultural safety of Inuit youth from Nunavik placed under the residential care of the CIUSSS-ODIM
    • The use of language
    • Cultural and social isolation: obstacles to exercising cultural rights
    • Rehabilitation services
    • Cultural competence and clinical tools
    • The right to rehabilitation services in their communities
  • Access to education in English of Inuit youth placed in residential care
    • Obstacles to access to education in English and lack of schooling
    • The limits of the legal framework
    • The cultural safety of Aboriginal students

Final considerations

The current investigation demonstrates a series of actions and omissions and institutional practices on the part of the different actors involved which led to the exclusion of Inuit children in residential care from the formal education system as well as a chronic violation of their right to education and to the full development of their human and cultural potential.

mailto:https://cdpdj.qc.ca/storage/app/media/publications/enquete-inuit-jeunes-DPJ_resume_EN.pdf

Alberta Human Rights Commission launches Human Rights Strategy to address systemic racism in Education

May 3, 2021 – The Alberta Human Rights Commission has released a “draft” Indigenous Human Rights Strategy to reduce systemic racism that Indigenous individuals and communities face in health, education, child welfare, housing, and justice (including policing and corrections) systems. Research, data, and information collected from consultations with key stakeholders indicate that systemic racism—in the health, education, child welfare, housing, and justice (including policing and corrections) systems—is a major issue facing Indigenous Peoples in Alberta.

he Alberta Human Rights Commission is launching an Indigenous Human Rights Strategy to guide the Commission’s practices and initiatives with the goal of reducing barriers that Indigenous individuals and communities face. It also aims to enhance the Commission’s interaction with Indigenous Albertans and communities.

The overarching goals of this strategy are:

  • To help address and reduce systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in
  • health, education, child welfare, housing, and justice (including policing and
  • corrections) systems.
  • To work with communities throughout Alberta to address the racism and
  • discrimination Indigenous people encounter in their day-to-day lives.
  • To build capacity and knowledge within and across the Commission to ensure we
  • can serve Indigenous individuals and communities with respect. This must address the accessibility of our processes, relevance of our educational material, and our awareness of the lived experiences of Indigenous Peoples, in all their diversity.
  • To strengthen and expand Commission’s relationships with Indigenous communities and organizations.
Government of Alberta K-6 curriculum review ignores input from Métis people

May 25, 2021: CBC – Some Alberta Indigenous leaders and an elder say the provincial government has used them or misrepresented their positions to gain endorsements for a new elementary school curriculum they do not support…Last month, the Sovereign Nations of Treaty Eight wrote to Premier Jason Kenney telling him to revisit the draft curriculum. The letter, co-signed by Laboucan, says the “glaring absence” of First Nations people from the writing process is “deeply offensive.”…After facing criticism last year for initially hiring a slate of all-male, mostly white curriculum advisers, the Alberta government asked five Indigenous elders to review the material and provide feedback.

One was Betty Letendre, a Métis residential school survivor who has worked for years with Edmonton schools to help teach students about Indigenous history and culture. She said the government on multiple occasions handed the group of mostly senior citizens hundreds of pages of documents and gave them one day, or a few days, to respond. They weren’t allowed to consult any other experts and the conditions were inadequate for providing meaningful feedback, she said. She feels the government took advantage of her position and identity.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has said in the legislature that all of Letendre’s feedback was included in the drafts. Letendre disputes this, and says mentions of Indigenous people and history appear as an afterthought.

has said in the legislature that all of Letendre’s feedback was included in the drafts. Letendre disputes this, and says mentions of Indigenous people and history appear as an afterthought.

March 31, 2021: The Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) – is calling on the Government of Alberta to redraft its proposed K-6 curriculum, citing monumental concerns about the Euro-American colonial undertones. The MNA and its education and training affiliate Rupertsland Institute had very little input into the design of the curriculum despite several attempts to be included in the committees that were established.

In a letter to Alberta’s Minister of Education, MNA expressed deep concerns about the lack of transparency by the government of Alberta leading up to the release of the draft curriculum, which breaches the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) principles.

“This is another example of Alberta’s continued colonial practice over Métis peoples,” said Poitras. “The secretive approach under which this process was taken undermines the collective approach valued by our communities and it is unacceptable.” The MNA calls on the Minister of Education to re-draft the K-6 curriculum in collaboration with the Métis and other Indigenous groups in Alberta to address concerns about UNDRIP and allow the government to uphold recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to abolish colonialism in this province.

Oct. 21, 2021: CBC – Curriculum advisers hand-picked by the Alberta government are recommending changes to the kindergarten-to-Grade 4 curriculum for fine arts and social studies that would eliminate all references to residential schools and “equity.” The advisers also recommend that seven- and eight-year-olds learn about feudalism, Chinese dynasties and Homer’s Odyssey in social studies classes. Curriculum experts familiar with the province’s process say the suggestions are a huge departure from where work was heading before the United Conservative Party was elected in 2019. Some education experts also say the proposed changes are regressive, racist, unsupported by research and would put Alberta’s school curriculum vastly out of step with most of North America. Dwayne Donald, an associate professor of education at the University of Alberta, is an expert in Indigenous teaching and curriculum. He said he felt hopeful about the potential for the previously proposed elementary curriculum to better include Indigenous perspectives. The suggested changes erase all of that work, he said.

Toxic culture at College of Education at University of Saskatchewan

Sept. 13, 2020: CBC – More than 200 people have signed an open letter demanding more respect for Indigenous knowledge and faculty in the University of Saskatchewan’s college of education. The letter follows revelations that at least nine Indigenous faculty, as well as other senior Indigenous staff, have recently departed the U of S in frustration. The letter, signed by current and former faculty, alumni and others, says the U of S college of education has historically been a leader in First Nations and Métis education, but that things are going backward. It refers to a “toxic culture” and “climate of fear” inside the college. It says Indigenous faculty who left, and many of those who remain, “did not feel supported and were fearful of speaking out against the present administration’s harmful attitude, policies and practices. “It says Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who spoke out were “targeted.” It also accused U of S administrators of “exploiting Indigenous education by using it for public recognition while scaling back on necessary resources.”

Concerns include the following:

  • Indigenous faculty, staff and students facing institutional and individual racial hostility
  • The limits placed on academic freedom
  • The impact on public education across the province, in particular for marginalized
  • students and community members that face a violent settler colonial context
  • The climate of fear and the silencing of people who shared concerns about the administration’s policies
  • Allies supportive of Indigenous faculty and staff have been targeted
  • The lack of ethical hiring practices and appointments through nepotism
  • Some key positions in Indigenous education have been dissolved
  • Exploiting Indigenous education by using it for public recognition while scaling back on necessary resources
Premier of Manitoba ignores contribution of Métis and First Nations in speech celebrating the 150th anniversary of Manitoba entering Canada

May 13 – Premier Pallister missed a golden opportunity to advance reconciliation by deliberately choosing to ignore the contribution of the Métis and First Nations peoples to the founding of Manitoba and its entry into the newly formed confederation of Canada. “Manitoba” derived from the Cree, Ojibwe or Assiniboine languages means “straits of Manitou, the Great Spirit”. (Canadian Encyclopedia). Louis Riel, the Métis leader, brought Manitoba into Canada in 1870.  He also led the northwest rebellion after Canada reneged on land promises it made in return for Manitoba’s entry info confederation.

Sound familiar.

What better forum to advance reconciliation than the 150th anniversary of Manitoba’s entry into Confederation to celebrate the leadership of Louis Riel, the Métis leader and the First Nations who made up the original inhabitants of Manitoba. In a province where Indigenous people make up 18% of the population according to the 2016 census, Pallister could have taken the opportunity to celebrate Indigenous people. What a missed opportunity to change perceptions, combat negative stereotypes and use the opportunity to move reconciliation forward. Instead he has chosen to further entrench negative bias and white privilege  in a province where according to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:

  • 74% of incarcerated men are Indigenous
  • 82% of youth in custody are Indigenous
  • over 90% of children in the child welfare system are Indigenous
  • the highest rates of child poverty at 75 per cent;
  • highest rate of police-involved deaths of Indigenous people at 60 per cent; and
  • one of the highest rates of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls at more than 50 per cent

Prime Minister Trudeau on National Indigenous Day on June 21, 2020 acknowledged the contribution of Louis Riel and the Métis people in bringing the province of Manitoba into Confederation. He also took the opportunity to recommit his government to Reconciliation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

Government of Ontario reneges on previous Liberal government’s commitment to make new Indigenous curriculum mandatory

May 21, 2019 – Release of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Studies Curriculum for Grades 9 – 12 by Ministry of Education. The 10 courses making up the revised curriculum are not mandatory as recommended by the TRC C2A # 62 but are “electives”.

On July 10, 2018, the newly elected Conservative government cancelled curriculum writing sessions initiated by the previous Liberal government designed to fulfil findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In the intervening year, the conservative government did not engage fully in consulting sessions with the indigenous stakeholders throughout the province contrary to their public statements. Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities within northern Ontario with the total population of membership (on and off reserve) estimated around 45,000 people was not consulted even once.

The previous Liberal government committed $15M over three years In response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action (#62 and #63), Ontario was investing the funds to support the development of resources and educator capacity to enhance the learning and teaching of the history of the residential schools system, the legacy of colonialism and the importance of treaties.

Calls to Action Status Updates

For an updated summary of the TRC Calls to Action, including all Education Calls to Action, click here (PDF 205 KB).