Ratification vote begins in November
By Laura E. Young
SUDBURY- In an ideal world, Anishnaabe students will be prepared for post-secondary life secure in themselves and ready for the world beyond their communities.
That is also the reality the Anishinabek Nation is working to create with its education agreement with Canada. The Anishinabek Nation negotiators are on the road this year ahead of a ratification vote in the fall. They are touring the province to ensure that the 39 communities and members in urban centres are fully informed of the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement.
“It really is historical. We are really opening a new set of doors for Anishnabek education. This has been a dream. There’s been countless number of hours and a lot of heart and soul put into this effort,” said Lloyd Myke, chair of the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body (KEB).
It is work that is over 20 years in the making. Since 1995 the Anishinabek Nation has been engaged in negotiations with Canada to achieve control over Anishinabek education from JK to Grade 12.
Myke was part of the team that was in Sudbury on Feb 25 to speak with 20 local educators about the ratification process and the AES.
The ratification vote will take place November 28 to December 2, 2016.
“We are definitely on a path, we feel, is the right path for our children. I feel happy for our children. I believe we’ve put things in place so they can succeed in the outside world.”
That dream is up against a hard reality: only four in 10 First Nations students on-reserve graduate, according to C.D. Howe Institute Commentary No. 444 – Students in Jeopardy: An Agenda for Improving Results in Band– Operated Schools January 2016.
The agreement will affect the 4,500 students living on reserve, as well as students in urban centres.
“Learning their history, culture and language, indoors and outside on the land and on the water, will be part of the AES. That will ensure the students are completely prepared to step into post-secondary education and mainstream life”, he says.
“They know who they are culturally wise and they still are meeting the curriculum to Ontario standards. We’ve seen it working elsewhere. It should be no different for us,” he said, referencing the Mi’kmaq Education Act of 1998 and the way it has successfully guided First Nation youth in the Maritimes.
The Mi’kmaq enjoy a 90 per cent graduation rate, according to the AFN 2012 A Portrait of First Nations Education
In Ontario, the goal is to develop an education system that is separate yet parallel and publicly funded. A fiscal transfer agreement with Canada has also been negotiated and will provide financing for the AES.
The point is to improve the quality of education for Anishinabe students either in the provincial system or on reserve schools, and to improve student success, however it’s measured, said Andrew Arnott, fiscal relations analyst with the Union of Ontario Indians.
The AES will be created so it will not disturb any relationships currently in place in the schools; instead they seek to build upon and enhance what is currently available, Arnott said.
As well, it’s important to have a “seamless transition” for students who go to the provincial system from reserve schools, said Arnott. He acknowledged that most students will end up in the provincial school system at some point in their education careers.
The formal communications process involves four phases. Currently the team is providing an overview of the education landscape.
From March to June, they will review the actual agreements. Then over the summer and fall, the promotion of the vote will occur leading into the late fall opportunity to vote on the AES.