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Charting Our Own Path in Ontario

At the Chiefs of Ontario we continue to build on previous activities and initiatives so that nothing is lost and we keep moving forward to our goal of First Nations control of First Nations education that sees the Crown live up to the obligations agreed to on a government-to-government basis.

COO Education Coordination Unit    

In response to changes to the provincial school system implemented in 1997, First Nations leadership mandated in 1999 to strategize on a province-wide position with respect to education.  This effort resulted in the creation of the Chiefs of Ontario Education Coordination Unit in 2000.

The New Agenda: A Manifesto for First Nations Education in Ontario

In 2003 the Chiefs in Assembly resolved to develop a comprehensive compendium of education matters that would serve as a means of providing a foundation for change in First Nations education.  The resulting product was The New Agenda: A Manifesto for First Nations Education in Ontario; the culmination of a project that was managed and produced entirely by First Nations people.  The Manifesto was designed to be positive and forward-looking to include all aspects of the lifelong learning continuum and takes a holistic approach to First Nations education.  The Manifesto continues to inform and support the Charting of Our Own Path in Ontario.

The Education Coordination Unit undertakes information and research gathering exercises that support a made-in-Ontario approach to First Nations education.  First Nations view education and lifelong learning as a key priority for our future, and that First Nations in Ontario require an approach that meets the unique education, cultural, demographic and linguistic needs of our students”.  Canada must provide equitable funding and implement First Nations jurisdiction over education.  

At a Strategic Planning and Policy Forum in May 2010 the Chiefs of Ontario built on previous knowledge while exploring the changing dynamic of the education landscape of First Nations in Ontario.  The session ensured that a focus was maintained on the historic and longstanding challenges facing the First Nation education system in Ontario. Upon review of the unilateral approach that the federal government takes to improving First Nations education, forum participants reiterated that we must set out our own plan and our own vision for our students.

In 2010, INAC announced it would work with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to establish a national panel addressing First Nations education. The purpose of the panel would be to explore and advise on developing options, including legislation, to improve elementary and secondary education outcomes for First Nation children who live on reserve. The result of the process would be the issuance of a joint national report. However, following the path that had begun many years earlier First Nations in Ontario raised a number of concerns, particularly on the unilateral imposition of programming and legislation.
Our Children, Our Future, Our Vision - First Nation Jurisdiction Over First Nation Education in Ontario.

First Nations leadership rejected participation in the National Panel process and mandated the Education Coordination Unit to partner with Tribal Councils to produce a made-in-Ontario report that would be submitted to the National Chief and INAC to coincide with the report of the National Panel.

A New Agenda Working Group (NAWG) was established that includes representation from the ECU and the Tribal Councils.  The Working Group built on previous work in this area, such as the Manifesto, previous resolutions, and the Policy Forum.  The resulting report is a stand-alone initiative outside of the National Panel process that merely represents the efforts of First Nations in Ontario to chart our own path forward.  “Our Children, Our Future, Our Vision” is grounded in the fact that First Nations have a Treaty right to education and the inherent right to assert jurisdiction over First Nations education and that these rights must be recognized and implemented without delay. The report was completed in 2012 and submitted to INAC and the AFN.  The ECU continues to build on the elements of this report as they work on extensive analysis of the delivery of First Nations education in Ontario.