The newly unveiled Pays Plat First Nation flag. - Photo courtesy of Jesse Achneepineskum
In June 2009 the province released the report “With Our Best Future in Mind: Implementing Early Learning in Ontario.” The report supported proposals for the phased introduction of the initiative and identified four key components: full day learning for four and five year olds; before and after school and summer programs for school age children; quality programs for younger children; and, enhanced parental leave by 2020. Ontario’s goal is to have full-day kindergarten implemented in all provincially funded schools by 2015.
To date INAC has not mirrored these initiatives in First Nations communities, widening the gap in education needs for First Nations. The federal government has committed to funding full-time kindergarten if they are given one year notification, however there have been no additional funds provided for infrastructure needs that would be remotely comparable to the investment by the province. At this time we are uncertain how the funding of full-day kindergarten may affect other education programming given the 2% annual funding cap on First Nation education.
Upon review of the situation created by the provincial initiative, and the lack of a federal initiative, the Chiefs in Assembly mandated a regional working group that includes representation from the First Nations Child Care Advisory Committee to create a First Nations Early Learning Model.
Two Early Learning Forums were held in March 2011 to bring together Headstart, child care and education workers in an effort to both deliver information and gather information. These sessions facilitated the formation of an Early Learning Working Group that will serve to effectively sustain the terms of the mandate. An Early Learning Summit was held January 2012 in Toronto and the First Nations Early Learning Model is shaping up.