Simon Fraser University has received a $5M contribution from the City of Burnaby to support the construction of the First Peoples’ Gathering House on the Burnaby campus. The project, which is expected to be complete in 2024, will serve as a culturally appropriate ceremonial space for Indigenous cultural events and foster connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The hall will have space for up to 300 people as well as a dressing room, Elders room, classroom, wellness room, and a multi-generational Indigenous peoples’ lounge and food service kitchen. “Longhouses are the centre of our Indigenous culture, as sacred places in our communities where teaching, learning, ceremony and protocols are upheld and practiced,” said SFU Director of the Office for Aboriginal Peoples Ron Johnston.
Educational leaders from all areas of Manitoba’s education system recently gathered to re-sign the Indigenous Education Blueprint. By signing the Blueprint, signatories commit to 10 concrete practices to support First Nations, Métis, and Inuit residents as they navigate each level of the education system. Educational partners from all levels of the province’s education system signed the Blueprint, including the Manitoba School Boards Association, Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, Manitoba Advanced Education and Training, and Manitoba Early Childhood learning, as well as MB’s six universities and three colleges. “When we look at First Nations people as some of the fastest growing populations in this country, it’s very important that every child in our country and in our First Nations are given every opportunity, and I believe this is a very good vehicle for that,” said MFNERC Executive Director Charles Cochrane. Turtle Island News reports that progress has been made in the years since the Blueprint was first signed in 2015.
The Government of Manitoba has launched the Mamàhtawisiwin Tools for Reflection, Planning and Reporting, a set of educational resources and guidelines to support Indigenous education and truth and reconciliation efforts that build on a provincial policy framework launched last year. The tool can be used by school divisions to support individual and group reflection, identify priority areas for professional development; and celebrate progress toward an Indigenous-inclusive education system. “As we continue along the path towards truth and reconciliation, it is more important than ever to empower educators with resources that reflect Indigenous languages, cultures and identities,” said MB Education and Early Childhood Learning Minister Wayne Ewasko. MB also plans to distribute six bilingual books—developed collaboratively by the Manitoba Museum, Poplar River First Nation, Pauingassi First Nation, Little Grand Rapids First Nation, and Bloodvein First Nation—to 37 school divisions and 71 First Nation schools.
Several postsecondary institutions and Indigenous communities have recently announced that they will be embarking on research projects together. Langara College, Musqueam First Nation, and YMCA BC’S Early Years and Family Development Branch will be embarking on an applied research project focused on early childhood learning, thanks to a recent $2.67M boost from the Government of Canada. The three-year funding will support a project exploring how virtual and immersive learning can prepare early childhood educators to work more inclusively with Indigenous, racialized, and diverse children and families. Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria, the First Nations Housing and Infrastructure Council, BC Housing, and Technical Safety BC have received $1M from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions to study climate solutions for BC’s rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. Several research projects involving researchers from postsecondary institutions and Indigenous community partners received substantive support from the announced Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to embark on projects related to green energy, climate action, arctic shipping, and more.
The Government of Nunavut has filed to appeal the Nunavut Court of Justice’s decision to allow the Inuktut Education Discrimination lawsuit to proceed to trial. The lawsuit, which was filed against NV by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc in October 2021, asserts that the territorial government is discriminating against Inuit by not providing fully Inuktut education in the curriculum. NV’s appeal reportedly argues that the section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms referenced in NTI’s lawsuit “does not include within its scope … language of instruction rights.” NTI has issued a statement asserting that it is “pursuing all avenues to end the discrimination of Inuit students” in the territory’s education system.
Champlain College Saint-Lambert’s English department recently offered its first Indigenous Literature class thanks to the contributions of the Kanien’kéhá:ka community of Kahnawà:ke. The class included a collaboration between Indigenous Pedagogy Consultant Diane Labelle, Indigenous Student Life Counsellor Jennifer Kanerahtorónkwas Paul, and instructor Emma Gerlach. Nearly a dozen members of the Kanien’kéhá:ka community were guest speakers for the class and shared their stories, experiences, and knowledge. Guest speakers spoke on a variety of topics, including sovereignty, the creation story, land expropriation, and the Oka Crisis. The wider Champlain community was invited to attend the events to learn alongside students in the class. “It’s not a class that can be recreated,” reflected Gerlach, who emphasized how the contributions of Paul and the guest speakers were essential to the unique learning experience offered by the course.
Dene High School in La Loche temporarily shut its doors in order to give space to a police investigation and develop a safety plan after a student and an educational assistant were stabbed. CKOM reports that the incident occurred during a fight between two students when an educational assistant intervened. Classes were temporarily canceled and the school building remained open to offer counselling services to those who were impacted. Dene High School worked with community agencies on a safety plan, which included discussions of options to boost safety including installing metal detectors. La Loche Mayor Georgina Jolibois said that the school also needs a permanent RCMP member. “We’re all asking questions and consulting staff, parents and students to gather information that will help inform how we proceed in a way that ensures the safety of staff and everyone,” said school division Director Jason Young.
Near North District School Board has announced that it is moving forward with a name change for Chippewa Secondary School in North Bay, Ontario. While many graduates of the school still feel attached to the school name, NNDSB stated that “not all former and current students feel the same sense of pride. For many, the name of the school, its mascot and affiliated activities represent an appropriation of culture.” Resident Stephen Brown began a petition to reverse the decision and keep the name of the school as-is. The Sault Star reports that Brown also made a presentation to town hall asserting that NNDSB’s claims are inaccurate and that changing the name of the school will “do nothing to change [the] behaviour that needs to be called out and changed.” Former student Mukwa wrote a letter to the editor of Bay Today encouraging the change of the name because of the way it has been used in the past. “Anyone can get 2,000 signatures and a few First Nations that agree with keeping the name. It still doesn’t change the truth. No ‘Chippewa’ people live here,” wrote Mukwa.
A new report from an advocacy group called People for Education highlights progress made and disappointments in Ontario’s Indigenous education. In terms of progress, the report noted marked increases between the 2012-13 and 2022-23 school years in the proportion of schools offering staff professional development on Indigenous education (increased to 82%), in the proportion of secondary schools that offer an Indigenous studies course (72%), and the proportion of elementary schools (13%) and secondary schools (20%) offering Indigenous language programs. Fourteen schools are also replacing their compulsory Grade 11 English course with a course centred on Indigenous voices. However, the report noted disappointments such as the removal of Indigenous influence on the science curriculum. The report includes a variety of recommendations, including mandating Indigenous-related courses, focusing on hiring Indigenous education workers, and creating a task force to support meeting the Calls to Action recommendations.
An Arctic snow school in Nunavut is providing a group of young scientists and students with a unique education on Arctic snow. The school was set up by Université de Sherbrooke Professor Alexandre Langlois and Université Laval Professor Florent Domine to bring Indigenous knowledge and western science together. The organisers explained that the purpose of the school “is to help train a new generation of scientists capable of solving the complex problems of a changing North.” The scientists are taking part in fieldwork and learning more about the Arctic through the lived experiences of elders, hunters, and knowledge-holders. This strengthens an understanding of snow and the Arctic environment to support research related to climate change. “Inuit have a lot of personal observations that may not be done in scientific ways, but they are useful to scientists,” said Manny Kudlak, an Inuk from Sachs Harbour in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. “We do live in a bubble in the Arctic, where our lack of communication with the outside world is one of our biggest hurdles[. …] Partnering like this means that the perspectives of the local communities are taken into account in the research, and the benefits can go to them too.”