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Indigenous Education Month: OISE events, discussions, blogs create important dialogue

November 21, 2016 


The TRC Bentwood Box

Carved by Coast Salish artist Luke Marston, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Bentwood Box is a lasting tribute to all Indian Residential School survivors. The carved panels represent the unique cultures of former First Nations, Inuit and Métis students. (Photo by Fred Cattroll, courtesy of the University of Manitoba)

November is Indigenous Education Month, which means many schools across Ontario are celebrating the histories, contributions, sacrifices, and achievements of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. And non-Indigenous peoples are called upon to deal with the devastating consequences of residential schools, the effects of which remain today.

OISE and the University of Toronto, too, have been marking Indigenous Education Month in a big way.


#RockYourMocs, TRC Panel II, and more

For example, on November 15, Lewis Debassige held a Q&A called, “Indian Control of Indian Education.”

That same day, OISE and U of T celebrated with #RockYourMocs, an event to call attention to the need for meaningful engagement with Indigenous people, ideas, and knowledges within our University communities.  

On November 22, the first meeting of the Toronto Standing Rock Syllabus Reading Group is taking place at OISE, and on November 25, a panel discussion is being held regarding the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. Caitlyn Kasper of Aboriginal Legal Services will be participating as a guest speaker.

The celebration for the launch of the book, Indigenous Cultures and Mental Health Counselling: Four Directions for Integration with Counselling Psychology takes place November 29, complete with Elders’ ceremony, traditional drumming and singing. The book is edited by OISE’s own Suzanne L. Stewart, Roy Moodley and Ashley Hyatt. 

Rounding out the month, on November 30, OISE’s Indigenous Education Network is hosting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Panel II. Led by OISE experts, this panel discussion will contextualize the meaning of the TRC's final report and its recommendations for both higher education and teacher education. 

For more on Indigenous-related events at OISE/U of T click here.


Rock Your Mocs at OISE

Photo from OISE's Rock Your Mocs event on November 22.


Blog calls attention to the 20th Anniversary of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the ongoing gap between government intentions and reality

Also generating awareness of important issues facing Indigenous peoples in Canada is a blog by Charles Pascal, Professor of human development and applied psychology.

In the blog post below, Pascal calls attention the federal government’s need to match behaviour with good intentions.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples: 20 years later – So what?

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the report of The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP)The massive 4,000-page RCAP report provided clear notions about the need for fairness when it comes to funding the health, education, child welfare and economic opportunities for Aboriginal peoples. The report was clear that the recommended investment of several billion dollars would save much more downstream. Likely true, but we’ll never know because the report was largely ignored. Are there more hopeful signs today? Unequivocally maybe.

Spring forward twenty years. Last year’s tabling of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and its 94 calls to action was met with a good deal of enthusiasm that the time has finally come for genuinely owning the truth regarding the devastating consequences of the residential schools. Indeed, Prime Minister Trudeau stated he would implement all 94 TRC calls to action. He also took some symbolic actions like appointing an Indigenous person as Justice Minister and proclaimed unqualified support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous children. But the back-tracking began quickly as his Minister of Justice noted that implementing the Declaration is “unworkable.” Sure policy implementation is always a challenge, but her tone wasn’t hopeful.

Equally concerning is Canada’s failure to ensure First Nations children receive equitable government services. The federal government funds public services on reserves whereas the provinces/territories fund it for the rest of our children. Multiple reports dating back decades show the federal government funds these services to a lower standard than other Canadians receive.  Case in point is the Federal government’s very slow response to this year’s ruling from a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering Canada to end its discriminatory and inequitable child welfare funding on reserves (Jordan Principle). The Tribunal also ordered the federal government to ensure all First Nations children access government services on the same terms as other children. While it is disturbing that a legal case was even necessary to get the government to treat First Nations children fairly, it presented Prime Minister Trudeau with a historic opportunity to implement the TRC’s top call to action – ensuring culturally based equity in child welfare.  It was relatively easy to implement given the strong and clear course of action ordered by the Tribunal.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal was so unsatisfied with the federal government’s complacency with the January 2016 ruling, that it has issued two compliance orders since. The Federal Government has also failed to honour the Tribunal’s funding equity principle. Only First Nations children with disabilities and short-term illnesses can access government services on the same terms as other children. Why should other First Nations children continue to receive discriminatory government services?   Seems the government is suggesting that First Nations aren’t ready and able to spend the necessary resources.  If this is the case, the government should be clear that there is commitment for full equitable funding and need to co-determine with First Nations’ leaders, an implementation plan that will work.  The absence of clarity on the part of the Feds regarding their intent continues a recurrent and unhelpful narrative between the colonizers and the colonized.

If there is one thing Canada must get right in the awful wake of residential schools, it is treating this generation of First Nations children fairly. Given the remarkably important first 2000 days of a child’s life, the planned five- year roll-out of funds the Feds have committed for their narrow plan, will compound the life trajectories of too many First Nations’ children.  Not fair for them.  And not good for our own social and economic development as noted by the Royal Commission Report tabled 20 years ago today.  As Alice through the Looking Glass said, “Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never ever jam today.”