Research and experience have demonstrated that early childhood development (ECD) is integral to future outcomes. Quality ECD programming contributes to healthy growth and development, as well as school readiness and success. Given the legacy of colonialism in Canada, access to culturally relevant ECD programs can play a key role in bridging gaps in life-chances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.
For children in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities across Canada, there is much to be positive about. Their communities are young: nearly a third of the total Indigenous population in Canada is under the age of 14, compared to 16.5% for the non-Indigenous population. Also, a characteristic of many Indigenous cultures is the centrality of children, which may be reflected in the active involvement of the community, and in support for families and parents. Youthfulness and a culture of respect for children are reasons for optimism and inspiration, but the effects of colonialism and the legacy of residential schools cannot be overlooked. These contribute to social and economic problems in many communities, impeding the ability of children to reach their potential as tomorrow’s leaders and decision makers. Statistics on virtually every measure of well-being such as family income, education, crowding and homelessness, poor water quality, and health outcomes
– reveal the serious disadvantages Indigenous children face compared to non-Indigenous children in Canada.
This book tells a painful story.
For over a century, generations of Aboriginal children were separated from their parents and raised in over- crowded, underfunded, and often unhealthy residential schools across Canada. They were commonly denied the right to speak their language and told their cultural beliefs were sinful. Some students did not see their parents for years. Others—the victims of scandalously high death rates—never made it back home. Even by the standards of the day, discipline often was excessive.
Lack of supervi- sion left students prey to sexual predators. To put it sim- ply: the needs of tens of thousands of Aboriginal children were neglected routinely. Far too many children were abused far too often.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s “Missing Children and Unmarked Burials Project” is a systematic effort to record and analyze the deaths at the schools, and the presence and condition of student cemeteries, within the regulatory context in which the schools were intended to operate. The proj-ect’s research supports the following conclusions:
• The Commission has identified 3,200 deaths on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Register of Confirmed Deaths of Named Residential School Students and the Register of Confirmed Deaths of Unnamed Residential School Students.
• For just under one-third of these deaths (32%), the government and the schools did not record the name of the student who died.
• For just under one-quarter of these deaths (23%), the government and the schools did not record the gender of the student who died.
• For just under one-half of these deaths (49%), the government and the schools did not record the cause of death.
• Aboriginal children in residential schools died at a far higher rate than school-aged children in the general population.
• For most of the history of the schools, the practice was not to send the bodies of students who died at schools to their home communities.
• For the most part, the cemeteries that the Commission documented are aban-doned, disused, and vulnerable to accidental disturbance.
• The federal government never established an adequate set of standards and reg-ulations to guarantee the health and safety of residential school students.
• The federal government never adequately enforced the minimal standards and regulations that it did establish.
• The failure to establish and enforce adequate regulations was largely a function of the government’s determination to keep residential school costs to a minimum.
To some people, “reconciliation” is the re-establishment of a conciliatory state. However, this is a state that many Aboriginal people assert has never existed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. To others, “reconciliation,” in the context of Indian residential schools, is similar to dealing with a situation of family violence. It is about coming to terms with events of the past in a manner that over-comes conflict and establishes a respectful and healthy relationship among people going forward. It is in the latter context that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (trc) has approached the question of reconciliation.
To the Commission, “reconciliation” is about establishing and maintaining a mutu-ally respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. For that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.
For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this pol- icy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.”
Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the
targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual lead- ers are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.
By the 1930's the federal government had come to the internal conclusion that iling to meet its goals. In 1936, R. A. Hoey,
ted as Indian Affairs’ an assessment of the residential schools. He noted that in 1935–36, spending on residen- tial
schools was $1,511,153.76. This amounted to 77.8% of the entire Indian Affairs edu- cation budget of $1,943,645. Enrolment was increasing at a rate of 250 pupils a year. To provide these students with residential school schooling would require an additional expenditure of $40,000 a year—a figure that did not include the cost of building new schools or paying interest on the capital outlay. However, day school education for an additional 250 students would cost only $7,000 a year. Not surprisingly, he opposed any further expansion of the residential school system, observing, “To continue to build educational institutions, particularly residential schools, while the money at our disposal is insufficient to keep the schools already erected in a proper state of repair, is, to me, very unsound and a practice difficult to justify.”
Residential schooling in Canada’s North deserves its own consideration for a number of reasons.
First, its history is more recent than that of residential schooling in the rest of the country. As late as 1900 there were only two residential schools north of the sixtieth parallel. By 1950 there were only six residential schools and one hostel in the North. This slow growth reflects the fact that while the overall goals of the Canadian govern-ment’s Aboriginal policy were to assimilate, civilize, and Christianize, this policy was not applied in a uniform manner. Where there was no pressing demand for Aboriginal lands, the federal government delayed taking on the obligations that Treaties created. This was particularly true in the North. As long as there was no prospect of economic development or of the arrival of large numbers of non-Aboriginal settlers, the federal government was not prepared to negotiate with northern Aboriginal peoples. Nor was it interested in establishing reserves or residential schools—or any sort of school, for that matter. Were it not for the work of Roman Catholic and Anglican missionaries, residential schooling would have no history north of the sixtieth parallel before 1950.
A second distinct feature of the situation in the North was the fact that, in the years after 1950, the Canadian government did not simply extend the existing southern res-idential school system into northern Canada. Instead the federal government created a system of day schools and hostels under the direction of Northern Affairs rather than Indian Affairs. This system was intended from the start to be integrated into, not separate from, the public school system of the day. Unlike the southern schools, the northern schools made no attempt to restrict admission to First Nations students, so Métis and Inuit, along with a number of non-Aboriginal students, also attended them. At the end of the 1960s, these schools were transferred from the federal government to the governments of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
The closing of residential schools did not bring their story to an end. The legacy of the schools continues to this day
day. It is reflected in the significant educational people and other nd more troubled lives. The legacy is also reflected in the intense racism some people harbour against Aboriginal people and the systemic and other forms of discrimination Aboriginal people regularly experience in Canada. Over a century of cultural genocide has left most Aboriginal languages on the verge of extinction. The disproportionate apprehension of Aboriginal children by child welfare agencies and the disproportion- ate imprisonment and victimization of Aboriginal people are all part of the legacy of the way that Aboriginal children were treated in residential schools.
The central goal of the Canadian residential school system was to ‘Christianize’ and ‘civilize’ Aboriginal people, a process intended to lead to their cultural assimilation into Euro-Canadian society. This policy goal was directed at all Aboriginal people and all Aboriginal cultures. It failed to take into account the devel-opment of new Aboriginal nations, and the implications of the Indian Act’s definition of who was and was not a “status Indian” and the British North America Act’s division of responsibility for “Indians.” In the government’s vision, there was no place for the Métis Nation that proclaimed itself in the Canadian Northwest in the nineteenth cen-tury. Neither was there any place for the large number of Aboriginal people who, for a variety of reasons, chose not to terminate their Treaty rights, or for those women, and their children, who lost their Indian Act status by marrying a person who did not have such status. These individuals were classed or identified alternately as “non-sta-tus Indians,” “half-breeds,” or “Métis.” In different times or different places, they might also identify themselves by these terms, but often they did not. Instead, they might view themselves to be members of specific First Nations, Inuit, or Euro-Canadian societies. For the sake of clarity, this chapter generally uses the term Métis to describe people of mixed descent who were not able, or chose not, to be registered as Indians under the Indian Act. It should be recognized that not all the people described by this term would have identified themselves as Métis during their lives, and that the histo-ries of these people varied considerably, depending on time and location.
The federal program that helps First Nations and Inuit people attend college or university has registered an 18.3 per cent decline in the number of students it funds since 1997, according to documents obtained by the NDP through Access to Information and shared with CBC News.
The slump is striking given the population growth in those communities over the same time period. (The First Nations population alone has grown 29 per cent since 1997.)
The ACCC 2009-2010 survey of Aboriginal programs and services demonstrated that most colleges and institutes across the country offer targeted programs and services for Aboriginal learners. Many are expanding their reach and working with Aboriginal communities to deliver tailored post-secondary programs.
The following case studies, collected in 2011-2012, show that colleges and institutes are creating partnerships for future generations by reaching out to Aboriginal youth through innovative recruitment activities and by supporting adults’ access to learning and employment opportunities. Based on a commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal learners, colleges and institutes operate as institutions of inclusion, and provide the support services needed for student success. Programs
delivered in partnership with Aboriginal institutions ensure the specific needs of Aboriginal communities are met. The promotion of Aboriginal culture, art and knowledge is achieved through awareness activities on campuses and specialized programs that teach and celebrate Aboriginal worldviews. Programs in Aboriginal governance prepare the leaders of tomorrow.
Current discussions about literacy often focus on how economic changes are raising expectations for literacy achievement. The emergence of a so-called knowledge economy or learning economy requires more people to do more things with print. Less attention has been given, however, to how the pressure to produce more literacy affects the contexts in which literacy
learning takes place. This article looks at the literacy learning experience of an autoworker turned union representative, a blind computer programmer, two bilingual autodidacts, and a former southern sharecropper raising children in a high-tech university town. It uses the concept of the literacy sponsor to explore their access to learning and their responses to economic and
technological change. Their experiences point to some directions for incorporating economic history into thinking about cultural diversity and for using resources in school to addresseconomic turbulence and inequality beyond the school.
The Supreme Court of Canada has revolutionized the jurisprudence of aborig-inal rights and title. Various decisions have overturned the doctrine of adverse occupancy, which at one time had been thought to have extinguished aborig-inal title in British Columbia (Delgamukkw); created a governmental duty to consult First Nations regarding use of land to which they have a claim of aboriginal rights or title (Haida Nation); approved a speciﬁc claim to aborig-inal title (Tsilhqot’in); and extended the duty of consultation to First Nations whose aboriginal title was previously thought to have been extinguished by treaty (Mikisew). These decisions have created a new range of property rights for First Nations, which they should be able to use to advance their prosper-ity. However, the new jurisprudence has also set up many barriers to volun-tary market transactions by multiplying the number of owners and claimants, and laying down opaque und unpredictable rules for making decisions about lands that are subject to claims of aboriginal title or to treaty rights such as hunting and ﬁshing.
Universities have a major role to play in closing Canada’s Indigenous educa tion gap and supporting the reconciliation process. The Indigenous community in Canada is young, full of potential and growing fast – but still underrepresented at universities across the country. Our shared challenge is to ensure that all First Nations, Métis and Inuit students can achieve their potential through education, which will bring meaningful change to their communities and to Canada as a whole.
Canada’s universities recently adopted a set of principles to improve Indigenous student success and strengthen Indigenous leadership throughout the university community.
Colleges Serving Aboriginal Learners and Communities 2010 Survey Highlights
Trends in post-secondary education participation in Canada continue to show that Aboriginal1 people rely significantly on
Canada’s publicly-funded colleges, institutes, polytechnics, cégeps, and universities with a college mandate (hereinafter
referred to as “colleges”). ACCC is the national voluntary membership association which serves Canada’s publicly-funded
colleges and informs and advises various levels of government, business, industry and labour. Aboriginal peoples’ access
to post-secondary education, inclusion and community development has been one of the Association’s strategic priorities
since its creation in 1972.
This report summarizes several phases of a multiphase science education
development project occurring between April, 2004 and November, 2009 in three Inuit
communities in the northern Qikiqtani (Baffin Island) Region of Nunavut, Canada.
Although the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) funding for this project is confined to
the development, implementation and evaluation of the influence of Inuktitut-language
place-based resources on Inuit students’ learning, it is believed by the participants of this
project that because of the dissemination forum provided by CCL, the contents in this
report should be a cumulative summary outlining the chronology of the project and its
overall findings. The project, in its entirety, is motivated to assist Inuit school communities
in achieving their aspirations for science education. The project overall focuses on (1)
establishing the current situation in science education in Kindergarten through to Grade 7
in the Qikiqtani communities, (2) identifying developmental aspirations for stakeholders
within the communities and potential contributors and constraints to these aspirations, (3)
implementing mechanisms for achieving identified aspirations, (4) evaluating the
effectiveness of such mechanisms and (5) providing suggestions for further development
projects established to assist Aboriginal, especially Inuit, communities in achieving their
goals for curriculum, in particular, science education. This project attempts to “combine the
views of both worlds” in science education for Qikiqtani students; that is, it combines the knowledge, practices, values, beliefs, and ways of knowing of both the community of scientists and Inuit culture. Equally, it also combines the views of both worlds in achieving these goals through two process development frameworks: Urie Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model (a model that identifies teacher attributes and the environment in which they work as determinants on development) and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ, Inuit ways of knowing and doing). This report focuses upon an evaluative overview of all phases of the
development project and the efficacy of this “two-way” model in fostering school development, especially in the area of science education.
At the University of British Columbia, Aboriginal students congregate in a First Nations Longhouse. At the University of Manitoba, senior managers now travel to Aboriginal communities to recruit students. The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Engineering runs outreach programs to engage Aboriginal youth well before they are of university age. At Lakehead University, the Native access program assists students in making a successful transition to university.
at the university of british columbia, Aboriginal students congregate in a First Nations Longhouse. At the University of Manitoba, senior managers now travel to Aboriginal communities to recruit students. The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Engineering runs outreach programs to engage Aboriginal youth well before they are of university age. At Lakehead University, the Native access program assists students in making a successful transition to university.
Canadian universities are increasingly creating resources and programs for Aboriginal students – including courses, outreach and financial assistance, as well as programs and physical spaces where Aboriginal students can find counselling, support and connection to their culture.