Fort William Chief Peter Collins and Councillor Michele Solomon with a Say Yes to AES bag at the Fort William Fall Pow Wow on Sept. 30. Collins looks forward to the creation of new education initiatives through AES.

Fort William Chief Peter Collins and Councillor Michele Solomon with a Say Yes to AES bag at the Fort William Fall Pow Wow on Sept. 30. Collins looks forward to the creation of new education initiatives through AES.

By Rick Garrick

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION—Fort William Chief Peter Collins says self determination is a key reason for his community to sign on with the Anishinabek Education System (AES).

“It’s all about creating our own destiny and our own education system for our community,” Collins says. “And to bring positive change to the education system itself.”

Collins says the AES has been a “long time in the making” and is a “good funding formula” for the communities.

“[It] will help guide and help create new education initiatives and push our students further in the education world,” Collins says. “What we want to do through this new initiative is to not only change the curriculum, but to give our children back the language and our culture and instill those values in them and bring that positive change so that they’re the future generation of our language and where we [have] to be as First Nations people.”

Collins says students in his community currently attend school board elementary and secondary schools in Thunder Bay.

“We want to build a school, but there are still a little bit of negotiations on the capital side,” Collins says. “Hopefully in the near future we can have our own school here in Fort William.”

Collins says the community is looking at the potential development of a Kindergarten to Grade 6 elementary school.

“We lose so many students in the Grade 10 and Grade 11 range,” Collins says. “We try to make sure they don’t lose their Grade 12. If you want to be in the work world, you need to get your Grade 12. We strive to accomplish that on a regular basis at Fort William, and I think the AES will help push that umbrella a little bit further.”

Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee encourages all communities to learn more about the Say Yes to AES campaign in order to make an informed decision on how to vote. He also encourages all community members to get out and vote during the Ratification Vote week, which takes place from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.

“This means more per-student funding,” Madahbee says. “This is for our children.”

The Anishinabek Nation has been running a Say Yes to AES campaign since November 2015, and are still conducting information sessions in various communities.

Information about the proposed agreement with Canada, fiscal arrangements, and the Anishinabek Education System can be found on the Say Yes to the AES website.

The benefits of ratifying the Education Agreement for communities without schools include secure, predictable funding to deliver education programs and services and purchase services from provincial school boards, the development of a new relationship with provincial school boards to enhance student success and well-being, and the opportunity to develop and implement curriculum changes in the provincial education system. Additional benefits are listed on the Say Yes to AES website.

The benefits of ratifying the Education Agreement for communities with schools include having full control over all aspects of education from JK to Grade 12, the opportunity to develop and implement Anishinabek curriculum and education standards, and have shared resources to support student success. Other benefits are also listed on the Say Yes to AES website.