First Nations in Ontario have been charting our own path forward in education and remain concerned with jurisdiction over our educational systems and the implementation of stable, predictable funding mechanisms. First Nations youth are the youngest and fastest growing segment of our citizens. Endless studies and reports have been completed to identify our education rights, needs, and recommendations, and yet the Treaty right to education has not been implemented.
Education funding is subject to cutbacks and a 2% funding cap that have resulted in the absence of basic educational services such as libraries, computers, connectivity, sports and recreation, languages, science labs, fewer teachers, little support for special needs students, and unsafe school structures. This inequity has also translated into First Nations citizens having lower educational attainment rates. These injustices have been decried by First Nation and non-First Nation youth, through the movement of Shannen’s Dream, who have demanded “safe and comfy schools and culturally-based and equitable education.”
The Education Coordination Unit (ECU) is a technical and advisory body operating under the umbrella of the Chiefs of Ontario to address educational priorities. It is comprised of the Education Directors of the four Provincial Territorial Organizations (PTOs) and one representative from the Independent First Nations. An additional four seats are reserved for established regional Aboriginal Education Organizations. Currently, these seats are held by the Anishinaabek, Mushkegowk and Onkwehon:we Language Commission of Oniatari’:io (AMO), the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium (AIC), and the Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council (OFNYPC). The ECU is supported and coordinated through the Chiefs of Ontario office by the Education Coordinator.
The Education Coordination Unit is currently engaged in a number of ongoing projects and initiatives related to early leaning, special education, elementary and secondary education, post-secondary education and languages revitalization. Throughout all our efforts, the primary objective is to identify and enact initiatives that will result in delivering sustainable, equitable First Nation education systems recognizing First Nations jurisdiction.