A generational project
The Centre for Public Dialogue has been bearing witness to Indigenous perspectives on transformation in education.
Lead Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Commissioner Murray Sinclair is known for speaking in memorable one-liners. Seven years after the TRC’s release, two of these have stuck with me: “education got us into this mess and education will get us out” and “reconciliation is a generational project.” Both of these zingers have inspired our long-term work in the CRC in Canada to advocate for the implementation of TRC Calls to Action seven, eight, nine and ten that focus on justice and equity in First Nation K-12 education.
When Parliament came back from its winter break on January 31, we communicated with legislators about the progress and challenges around achieving these four Calls to Action.
Generations of Indigenous communities have been calling for Indigenous leadership in education, community participation, provisions for culture and language learning, as well as stable and predictable funding.
In 2022, there was progress in the development of agreements that support education for-and-by Indigenous communities. Indigenous leadership for Indigenous education delivers excellent results in communities where these agreements are operating.
But there is more work to be done. In 2016, the government committed $2.6 billion to funding transformation in Indigenous education. But in 2018 the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General reported significant weaknesses in government information on the actual costs of First Nation education delivery and questioned the adequacy of funding for the fulfillment of Calls to Action seven and eight.
A key benchmark for Call to Action seven is Grade 12 graduation rates on reserve. The last three annual reports from Indigenous Services Canada show that graduation rates are slipping – from 40.5 percent in 2018-19 to 36.8 percent in 2020-21. This compares to a national average of 84 percent in 2019-20 (Statistics Canada).
Education, in the context of residential schools, was a tool for oppression. It denied the dignity of Indigenous children and their families, resulting in intergenerational trauma. Only Indigenous leadership, justice and equity can right these wrongs. For this reason the Centre for Public Dialogue has been bearing witness to Indigenous perspectives on transformation in Education for the last decade and we will continue to do so in this coming session of Parliament.
This page is made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.