A British Columbia teacher who was fired in June 2020 for her treatment of two Indigenous students will undergo a two-day license suspension and will be expected to complete anti-racism training before she is able to return to the classroom. The decision stems from multiple incidents in the classroom with Indigenous students. In 2019, teacher Deborah Laurie Croft grabbed an Indigenous Grade 11 student’s arm and took their phone in an attempt to make them leave a classroom, and in 2020, CTV News reports that the teacher asked an Indigenous Grade 10 student who had been disruptive to leave the classroom and hit the student “on the rear end” with a book as they were leaving. When determining Croft’s consequences, the Teachers Act commissioner determined that Croft had acted in a matter “inconsistent with an educator’s responsibility to contribute to truth, reconciliation and healing” and that she had failed to treat students with dignity and respect.
The University of Waterloo recently welcomed an Eagle Staff to the institution. Indigenous Knowledge Keeper Myeengun Henry introduced the staff to UWaterloo on behalf of the UWaterloo Indigenous campus community. With the introduction of the staff, UWaterloo takes on the responsibility of ensuring Indigenous perspectives are reflected in the governance, structure, and intent of the university. The staff will be present at ceremonies and celebrations as a representative symbol of UWaterloo’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit community members and their respective traditions, cultures, and strengths.
In two provinces, friendship centres have received dedicated supports and funding that will enable them to better support their local communities. A $10.35M grant from the Government of British Columbia will support the BC Association of Friendship Centres as they expand access, education, and training opportunities for Indigenous youth across the province. The funding will be used to enable approximately 500 more Indigenous youth to attend the Gathering Our Voices event each year for the next five years, as well as to support education and training workshops. In Alberta, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology has partnered with the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association on a multi-year retrofitting project that will lead to more energy efficient Friendship Centres around Alberta. The partners will also hold a series of summits, as well as educational, training, and engagement events to build awareness of the need for climate action.
A youth program hosted by Honouring Indigenous Peoples (HIP) in Winnipeg recently brought together Indigenous and non-Indigenous students from across Canada to learn about Indigenous culture, reconciliation, and environmental sustainability. 50 youth participated in the five-day program, which drew on traditional land-based knowledge and featured guest speakers at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Students spent time at Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness in Sagkeeng First Nation where they learned about traditional teachings. “A lot of people say the youth is the future,” said HIP Executive Director John Currie. “We actually say the youth are the now, and so it’s important that their voice is heard today so that we can build the future they want to live in.”
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is calling for a coordinated school food program that would provide Indigenous students across Inuit Nunangat with nourishment. The call stems from a report co-developed by ITK, Inuit partners, and the federal government that found that students in the region would benefit from a coordinated school food program. ITK is requesting $1.66B to implement and sustain the program over the next 15 years, and noted the importance of long-term investments in human resources and infrastructure. The program would be run in 75 schools across 51 communities, with students provided a breakfast and lunch prepared from healthy, locally sourced foods. It would be grounded in Inuit culture and flexible to the needs of regions and communities. “Food security has a major impact on our ability to live a safe, healthy, and prosperous life,” said ITK President Natan Obed. “Ensuring Inuit children have enough to eat will help enhance their educational experience, mental wellness, connection to Inuit culture and overall security.”
First Nations University of Canada, the University of Regina, and the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre (FENFC) have signed an agreement that will enable FNU to offer a Mohawk Language Certificate Program. FNU will launch Yonkwatkontahkwenhatye (We are Continuing in Mohawk) in Fall 2023. The online, two-year program includes 15 credit hours of Mohawk and general courses, and those who complete the program will receive a Certificate of Mohawk 1. “The Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre has had success with this particular program for the last two years and so what we are doing is certifying the language program,” said FNU President Jacqueline Ottmann. “We are committed to supporting that resurgence of Indigenous languages.”
Several schools and organizations marked National Indigenous Languages Day on March 31st. Mina Kerr-Lazenby penned an article for NS News about the history of the day and the resources available to readers interested in learning Indigenous languages. Lazenby also highlighted language programs and courses at Capilano University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of British Columbia. Upper Grand District School Board and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) published statements about the history of the day. HWDSB also acknowledged the colonial roots of the education system and the importance of working in partnership with Indigenous communities to make language learning accessible in schools. The University of Victoria shared a compilation of stories and information about Indigenous language revitalization at the institution. “As an Indigenous person who was systematically denied the opportunity to grow up with my language, I cannot stress enough the importance of National Indigenous Languages Day,” said Qwul’sih’yah’maht Robina Thomas, VP Indigenous at UVic.
A Cree instructor at the University of Manitoba is teaching an intermediate Cree class this semester with a single student in it. The class was nearly cancelled due to low enrolment, but instructor Ken Paupanekis insisted that it continue to be offered even though he would not be paid the full amount for the course. “It’s hard enough to get people to go beyond and be instructors of the language,” said Paupanekis. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m still here.” Student Samuel Robinson shared that he was inspired to take the class by his interest in teaching the language. Robinson is now in the second part of Paupanekis’s intermediate class and says there are advantages to being the only student in the class. “I would reach out to Ken when I needed to, if I didn’t really understand something,” said Robinson.
St Lawrence College, Queen’s University, and York University have each recently announced changes to their policies and procedures in order to support reconciliation and improve the experience of Indigenous community members. SLC has adopted Confederation College’s Indigenous Learning Outcomes to better incorporate Indigenous knowledge and understanding into its programs. The ILOs ensure that all students graduate with knowledge and understanding of seven key learning outcomes. Queen’s has announced a new interim Indigenous hiring policy that is based on best practices for verifying Indigenous identity. YorkU has announced that it will launch a fully autonomous Indigenous Research Ethics Board (IREB) this July, which it says is the first of its kind in Canada. The IREB will fully review and approve “all research ethics involving Indigenous Peoples” and will report to the Senate only, according to Sean Hillier, Co-Chair of the Indigenous Council at YorkU.
The First Nation School Board will be receiving $35M in funding from the Government of Yukon over the next 15 months. The funding will support operations, maintenance, and language and cultural educational program development, including the establishment of Yukon First Nations language and culture curricula. FNSB will also use the funds to support teacher training and professional development and undertake capital improvements to educational facilities. “This funding ensures that all students in our schools are provided an enriched learning environment that incorporates localized and Yukon First Nations worldview and sets them up for success in life,” said FNSB Chair Dana Tizya-Tramm.