GuysWork, a boys wellness program first launched in Nova Scotia in 2012, will be returning to Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni First Nation this fall. The program brings together male facilitators with boys to talk about issues such as health care, mental health resources, intimate partner violence, and healthy relationships. “It was like there was a shell that was removed and they were more vulnerable and they were more at peace and they could put themselves in your perspective,” said school principal Newell Johnson of the students who participated. “For the guys, I guess there’s not really a space for them to be able to talk freely about some of the things and some of the issues that they deal with.” GuysWork founder Morris Green stated that the program was started to address the issue that boys were not accessing health centres at the same rate as girls, despite having poorer health outcomes in a number of areas. “Then if you look at some specific groups of men under the umbrella of male identified, you have Indigenous and Black men who have even worse outcomes,” said Green. Johnson explained that she is working to have more in-house staff trained to facilitate the program.
The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division Board of Education held their first Indigenous Partners Gathering earlier this year. Representatives from Montreal Lake First Nation, Ahtahkakoop First Nation, Little Red River First Nation, and Western Region 2 of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan were among the partners in attendance. The partners discussed topics such as land-based learning, opportunities to support Indigenous languages, and ways that attendance could be improved. The school board also recently allocated two full-time staff positions who will help reconnect students with their schools. “We had really good conversations around some of the successes that we are having, either on First Nations schools or in provincial schools, and shared some common interests in improvements, enhancements, and things going forward,” said SRSD Education Director Robert Bratvold. Bratvold noted that the school division is looking forward to expanding the partnership in the future and holding more meetings. MBC Radio reports that the school board also recently changed its Land Acknowledgement process to move beyond a formal script and encourage trustees to include a personal commitment to Truth and Reconciliation in their acknowledgement.
Lakehead University faculty and students partnered with First Nations and Métis community members to excavate a 4,000-year-old archaeological site, positioned beside the McIntyre River. The dig–located on the traditional territory of the Fort William First Nation, who approved the project–revealed historic evidence of people quarrying and using local materials to make tools. The hands-on-training opportunity was the result of a collaboration between Lakehead’s Department of Anthropology, the Niijii Indigenous Mentorship Program, Woodland Heritage Northwest, the Ontario Archaeological Society, and Parks Canada. Alongside this project, an Indigenous Archaeological Technician training program took place, which was developed by the Woodland Heritage Northwest and the Ontario Archaeological Society for the Waasigan Transmission Line project.
In the most recent step toward its transition to British Columbia’s JK-12 curriculum, the Government of the Northwest Territories has released its 2023-2024 Educator Training Plans. The plans indicate that educators, support staff, new NWT educators, education bodies, and school principals will take part in dedicated training sessions throughout the 2023-24 school year to become familiar with the foundational parts of the curriculum and assessment tools. NWT states that “holistic, relational, spiral, and experiential Indigenous principles of learning” will be embedded in all government-led training sessions. During this time, NWT will also hold engagement sessions with Indigenous governments, the teachers’ association, and education bodies to gather feedback. The curriculum renewal process will be gradually implemented between the 2023-24 academic year and the 2027-28 academic year.
High school and postsecondary students at several institutions will soon have the opportunity to take part in courses and programs focused on Indigenous culture. Trent University has partnered with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation to launch an Indigenous Environmental Studies & Sciences diploma that is tailored for Dene students in the Northwest Territories. The curriculum blends Western sciences with Dene Indigenous Knowledge and students will earn credits toward their high school diploma that can be put toward a Trent postsecondary program. The Thames Valley District School Board has approved a compulsory Grade 11 English course on Indigenous authors and issues. English: Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices will focus on themes, forms, and styles of literary and informational texts of Indigenous authors in Canada. Western University has launched the Connecting for Climate Change Action course, which brings together Indigenous knowledge and Eurowestern science to teach students how they can take action to address climate change. The course is expected to be offered for free through Coursera this fall.
The Government of Canada, Government of Yukon, and Yukon First Nations Education Directorate (YFNED) have joined together to provide new early childhood educator training options. Federal and territorial funding will be provided to YFNED to support the design and delivery of a First Nations “Understanding the Early Years” course as part of a larger program. This course will be offered free of charge in Whitehorse and in rural communities to both Yukoners wanting to work in early childhood education and current ECE workers without a certificate level. “Early childhood educators are the very core of the Canada-wide system we are building with provinces and territories,” stated Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould. “The ‘Understanding the Early Years’ course will help ensure that early childhood educators in the Yukon are better equipped with the skills, training, and knowledge they need to successfully provide culturally appropriate services.”
The Government of Quebec has proposed an exemption for Indigenous students for Bill 96 that would eliminate the written French exam graduation requirement for cégeps. To be eligible, students must be studying at an English cégep; have lived or currently live in an Indigenous community; and have studied for at least one year of elementary or high school in English, an Indigenous language, or both. CBC reports that the announcement comes less than a month after a court challenge against Bill 96 was filed by two First Nations groups. The change will take effect in the near future.
The immersion classes offered at the Listuguj First Nation’s Alaqsite’w Gitpu School and adult education program are helping to revitalize the Mi’kmaw language and ensure families can learn and speak Mi’kmaw together. Fewer than 300 people in the First Nation are first-language Mi’kmaw speakers and CBC reports that the majority of those who are fluent are over 60 years old. Adult Mi’kmaw immersion teacher Carol Metallic shared that the adult program was initially designed for parents, but a wide range of students have been drawn to the course. The adult program has also reportedly helped to train new immersion teachers. Kindergarten Mi’kmaw immersion teacher Brenda Germain explained that she decided to learn the language after enrolling her children in the Mi’kmaw immersion stream at the school and noticing that “when I was helping my son even with his simple kindergarten homework that there was a definite disconnect.” Now, Germain teaches the school’s land-based Forest Kindergarten program where students develop their language skills and vocabulary while outdoors.
The University of Waterloo is offering to waive tuition for all qualifying students who are members of the Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. The university’s main campus is situated on the traditional territory of the two First Nations communities. “This landmark decision to increase access to education is in direct response to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its calls to action,” said UWaterloo AVP, Indigenous Relations Jean Becker. “I believe Waterloo is the first university in Canada to waive tuition in full for members of specific First Nations communities, and I hope this demonstrated leadership will inspire other post-secondary institutions to take similar action.” The university will also offer Ontario domestic tuition rates to Indigenous students from elsewhere in Canada and the United States and will continue to waive the application fee for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students.
The Awitgati Longhouse Cultural Centre will soon provide programming and services to the Indigenous community of Fredericton, NB, thanks to new government funding. The centre will offer a variety of programs in wellness, culture, Indigenous knowledge, and skills training. Patsy McKinney, executive director of Under One Sky, explained that the net-zero carbon facility will be “a place that provides a safe space that offers health, social, and cultural services for all ages.” “Our vision also involves creating spaces and opportunities for intercultural dialogue and relationship building,” stated McKinney. “Ultimately, this will be a space that brings people together to celebrate and build community.” The Government of Canada and Government of New Brunswick are each contributing $500K to the construction of the project.