L-R: Julia Candlish, Regional Chief Beardy, Sally Hare
Charting Our Own Path: Education Symposium
In June 2002, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) received approval to establish a High Cost Special Education Program (SEP) that would cover the costs of special education services for First Nations students living on reserve with moderate to profound needs. However, in developing the program, the Department only drew on information from British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. This left First Nations in Ontario with no process to evaluate the effectiveness of the SEP, and raised immediate concerns as to the methodology INAC used to audit and evaluate the program.
As a result of these concerns the Ontario First Nation Special Education Working Group (OFNSEWG) was created in 2005 to act as a technical and advisory body responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of the SEP and making recommendations for political review and/or approval for action. In November 2006 the Ontario First Nation Special Education Strategy, developed by the OFNSEWG was presented to, and adopted by, leadership.
In response to lingering difficulties with the SEP the Chiefs in Assembly mandated the working group undertake a review and analysis of the High Cost Special Education Program within Ontario. Their 2009 report offered a relatively comprehensive overview of the historical pattern of special education funding in Ontario and captured how the High Cost SEP was being utilized in communities. A financial analysis was also presented to leadership in 2010 along with several revised funding formula options for their consideration. The working group will continue working until the 2013 All Ontario Chiefs Assembly (AOCC) with a communication and implementation plan for the new funding mechanism and continue analyzing, evaluating and recommending improvements.