Three-Year Investment Prioritizes Indigenous Student Safety and Well-being

Fifty One Students - one of the largest classes ever graduated from Oshki Courses today.
Fifty One Students - one of the largest classes ever graduated from Oshki Courses today.

TORONTO –  Ontario Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce announced that the Ontario government is providing $17 million dollars over three years to support First Nation, Métis, Inuit, and urban Indigenous education partners. This funding will provide certainty for school boards while ensuring safe learning environments for Indigenous students – either in person, or through remote and alternative learning options.

The high impact programs being funded will include the following key efforts:

  • Focusing on safe transitions and well-being for First Nation students from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and Indigenous students from remote northern communities. This includes hiring dedicated transition staff like Education System Navigators, Transition Coordinators, Teacher Coaches, while providing more academic and tutoring supports.
  • Providing Land-Based and Elder Programming for First Nation students relocating to larger, urban centers to attend High School so they may access traditional and cultural supports while away from home to support their mental health and well-being.
  • Advancing recommendations from the Seven Youth Inquest including: training and supports for Boarding Home Parents to ensure students have a safe learning environment away from their home communities; culturally-safe learning to support students in completing their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
  • Creating/Promoting a culturally rich alternative learning program for Métis students through the “River Program,” in partnership with Limestone District School Board, where students participate in ceremonies and other cultural activities and are provided ongoing cultural teachings and support from local Elders and knowledge keepers.
  • Capacity building for the Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI) to increase access to culturally appropriate supports and resources for Inuit students by strengthening school board relationships, engagement with community members, and improving access to Inuit-specific curriculum resources for all learners. This program also supports Inuit language promotion and explores ways Inuktut can be implemented and strengthened within both the Ontario education system and through services in the Ottawa area.

“Our Government is committed to supporting the success, safety, and student well-being of First Nation, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous students,” said Minister Lecce. “Working closely with Indigenous partners, we know this investment will ensure access to meaningful support, improve overall outcomes and increase graduation rates.”

In addition to this investment, the Ontario government stated that First Nations partners have identified the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. As such, the province is providing First Nation schools with the PPE required to reopen in their communities safely at no cost to them.

“Through this investment and the collective efforts of our Indigenous education partners, we can work together in the best interests of Indigenous students to ensure their well-being and achievement,” adds the Minister.

“We appreciate the Government of Ontario’s continued support of the work done by our partners to assist our students who have to leave their communities and attend urban centers to achieve their high school diploma,” says Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox. “As we continue to address the long-standing systemic issues our students face, we look forward to a positive productive relationship with the province.”

“Our government is proud to provide First Nation educators with the resources they need so Indigenous students can safely and consistently engage in learning during this challenging time,” said Minister Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs. “We are committed to ensuring every First Nation, Metis, Inuit and Indigenous student across Ontario is supported with access to the culturally-safe learning opportunities they expect and deserve.”

QUICK FACTS

  • The first week of November is Treaties Recognition Week in Ontario. This annual event honours the importance of treaties and helps students and residents of Ontario learn more about treaty rights and relationships. Together, by learning more about our collective treaty rights and obligations, we can create greater understanding and nurture these relationships.
  • Ontario has established two First Nations’ Education Task Teams to work collaboratively with First Nation education leadership to identify gaps in service and develop options to address emerging priorities for First Nation students.
  • The COVID-19 Resilience stream will deliver an allocation-based program, bringing $250 million to municipalities to address critical local infrastructure needs, including $6.5 million that will be directed toward Indigenous and on-reserve education through the Ministry of Infrastructure, in collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Indigenous Affairs.
  • Ontario has provided First Nation education partners with access to online education resources and educator training and supported flexibility in funding to ensure education partners could purchase Chromebooks and iPads as well as encouraging school boards to work closely with local First Nations.