All Posts Tagged With: "aboriginal"
Universities help first-year students with mentors and more
Shari-Ann Baker, who was born and raised in Jamaica, moved to Toronto in 2010 to attend York University. Her first assignment was an essay for a Canadian studies course. Baker got a B, a mark she was able to improve after learning about the school’s Writing Centre: Her next assignment, for a sociology course, received an A. York’s various facilities, programs and clubs, such as the Community of United Jamaicans, were invaluable in helping her get settled. “People say you’ll get worse grades than in high school,” says Baker, now 22, in her fourth year of a linguistics degree. “If you take advantage of resources on campus, I don’t think it’s a problem.”
First year is a precarious time, fraught with new challenges and responsibilities—both academic and personal. Suddenly, “the world sees you as an adult,” says Barry Townshend, manager of the Centre for New Students at the University of Guelph. “A lot of responsibility comes with that,” from getting to class on time to paying rent, not to mention choosing an academic direction that will help with a future career. It’s a lot of pressure, all at once. Universities are increasingly finding a way to support students through this transition with writing centres, advisers, academic coaches and mentors.
University wants participation in Truth and Reconciliation
Daniel Bourghardt, a third-year arts student, was overjoyed when he got an email from the University of British Columbia on Sept. 9 saying classes will be cancelled on Sept. 18.
In a grand gesture of solidarity with First Nations communities, the university has called off classes to encourage students to participate in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) national event at the Pacific National Exhibition across town from the Vancouver campus. It’s part of a Reconciliation Week that includes performances, survivor gatherings and a downtown march on Sunday with a keynote speech by Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King. Trinity Western University, a Christian school, is also suspending classes.
Four in 10 First Nations have post-secondary qualification
Steven Swan spent nine years jumping from job to job, where “nothing was stable, nothing was secure.” Then he decided enough was enough.
Swan, a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in northeast Saskatchewan, wanted security and something to be proud of, so he decided to go to university to become a teacher, like his mom.
“She’s been teaching for 30-odd years and I just see the profession as something pretty stable, pretty noble, pretty respectable, pretty honourable,” said Swan, 34, who recently finished his bachelor of education at Regina’s First Nations University of Canada.
Swan is convinced he’s not alone: more and more members of Canada’s First Nations are opting to embrace post-secondary education as a means to improve their lives, he said.
“Not just young people that are fresh out of high school, going to school and finishing in four years, but older people going back to school because they see the importance of getting an education and they see that in order to get what they need in life…that they need to do something about it and they go to school,” he said.
Thousands of Indigenous survivor stories to be archived
The University of Manitoba is set to become “Canada’s national memory” of the country’s residential schools and the experience of those who spent their childhood institutionalized there.
The university will house the national research centre for residential schools as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A signing ceremony between the university and commission establishing the archive was scheduled to take place Friday morning.
The archive will hold millions of documents collected by the commission including thousands of stories from residential school survivors.
Commission chairman Murray Sinclair said the research centre is an important part of the commission’s legacy.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that a government would have done what the government of Canada did to aboriginal people by taking away their children and institutionalizing them for all of their childhood and expecting that they would turn out to be normal, functioning human beings,” Sinclair said in an interview.
Money for skills training, education, counselling
Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says new funding will help aboriginals get off welfare.
Valcourt was in Saskatoon on Wednesday where he announced $241 million to help aboriginals achieve the same job opportunities as all Canadians.
Saskatchewan Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas says the money will help get welfare numbers down for aboriginals, a major issue for all First Nations across Canada.
He also says it will help improve quality of life for everyone in the province.
Aboriginals report racism and discomfort but also support
New journalism school graduate Frank Molley, of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec, recalls a humiliating experience while studying at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B.
“There were two Native journalists in the class [and] one of them did a story about a Native woman who was beaten up,” he says. When someone explained that the Native woman had been called a squaw, some students in the back of the class started laughing. He walked out.
He was also offended when a professor told him First Nation stories weren’t “newsy” enough.
Another time, he asked peers to help cover a story about the Assembly of First Nation Chiefs in New Brunswick’s plan to address poverty. No one showed up, he says, “as breaking and important as it was.” Molley says he felt ostracized, but he hasn’t given up on his chosen profession.
Despite challenges like accessibility and racism, Indigenous students are graduating and working as journalists. Exactly how many is unknown, but mediaINDIGENA.com, an online magazine, recently counted more than 60 working Indigenous journalists in Canada.
An interview with Michael DeGagne
Michael DeGagne, an Aboriginal Canadian, will become president of Nipissing University in January. The school is located in North Bay, the self-proclaimed Gateway to Northern Ontario, a region of vast mineral wealth that is also home to deep Aboriginal poverty. That poverty is concentrated in places like Attawapiskat, the James Bay reservation made famous by Chief Theresa Spence, who is now on the 18th day of a hunger strike—a protest she says will end only with a visit from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
DeGagne, who once worked for the federal government and was executive director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, has been watching closely. He spoke to Maclean’s On Campus about his plans for expanding access to education and offered his thoughts on the movement that made Chief Spence front-page news.
How did your work with the Healing Foundation prepare you for Nipissing?
The healing foundation had the good fortune to have a lot of resources to provide mental health healing supports to Aboriginal communities. Programs were directed to people who had been through the Indian residential schools, so we spent a lot of time in consultations asking survivors what they wanted, did a lot of professional development, community development and human resource development, so I think a lot of that work will lend itself to my work at Nipissing.
A photographic tour of the Prince George campus
This fall, Maclean’s photographed 24 of the 49 institutions featured in the 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings. Below, Simon Hayter shows you around the University of Northern British Columbia. Click on each photo to make it larger. Then check out the other 23 galleries here.
Jennifer Campeau balances motherhood, school and politics
Running for office isn’t easy. But how many politicians can say they won their seats while parenting and working on their PhDs?
Not many. But Jennifer Campeau, the newest member the Saskatchewan Legistlature can.
Campeau, 38, is pursuing her PhD in Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
The Yellow Quill First Nation members’ election in Saskatoon Fairview on on Nov. 7 marked only the second time a First Nations woman was elected to the Legislative Assembly in Saskatchewan and the first time an Aboriginal Canadian woman snagged a seat for the Saskatchewan Party, which cleaned up with 49 out of 58 ridings this month.
Despite the rigours of campaigning, Campeau chose not to take any time off from her studies.
“You’ve really got to be out there knocking on doors at least 3 hours a night, if not more,” she says. Still, Campeau doesn’t take the opportunity of post-secondary education for granted. A single mother, it took her a long time to earn her first degree. It was simply too difficult to study full-time while working to support her young daughter. ”It was just the two of us so I didn’t have the support that I could have had to do well in school; I had to work to support us both,” she says.
“[But] when I was 30 and she was old enough to be in school all day, I’d had enough of telling her that education was important when I didn’t have a degree myself,” she says. Sometimes she would bring her daughter to class, explaining “it instilled in her the value of post-secondary education.”
Campeau now has a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Saskatchewan.
She’s pursing her doctoral degree in Native Studies to learn more about aboriginal policy. She says the economic challenges facing Yellow Quill First Nation are part of the reason she chose her field of study.
As an MLA, Campeau hopes to provide a voice for both Aboriginal Canadians and newcomers alike. “The Saskatchewan economy and population is growing, so we have a lot of people new to Saskatchewan in Saskatoon Fairview,” she says. “I want to bring their concerns to the table.”
You’re forigiven if it all sounds tiring. ”In the last eight years, I haven’t really had a life of leisure, I’ve always been working and going to school,” jokes Campeau, “so I kind of got used to a fast pace.”
$90-billion possible for Saskatchewan: economist
A new report by University of Saskatchewan economist Eric Howe shows just how much Saskatchewan’s economy could gain by closing the Aboriginal education gap. Howe explains that higher education causes earnings to grow, so if Aboriginal Canadians were to become as highly-educated as non-Aboriginals, the province would increase its economic output by $90-billion. “To put this into context,” writes Howe. “The total production of potash in Saskatchewan back to the start of the industry is… four‐fifths of $90 billion.”
That said, academics often argue about how much education increases economic output. Some think gains in human capital (better skilled workers) have a large impact on economies. Others argue that credentials don’t increase employee performance much, but instead act mainly as “signals” to employers about who is likely to succeed. (To learn more see the book Academic Reform.)
How universities are embracing the Aboriginal baby boom
From the Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now. Story by Ken MacQueen.
It’s one of those small things that’s actually very big. The University of Manitoba has a policy on smudging: the Aboriginal tradition of burning sage, sweetgrass or cedar as a way of setting a positive tone and purifying the mind. Say a love affair goes sideways, or a professor is unimpressed with your political science presentation, or it’s autumn on the reserve and here you are in Winnipeg, lonely and blue; well, retreating to a quiet place to wash yourself in the smoke of a smudge is a way to turn the page, to gain strength and clarity. The policy on smudging and pipe ceremonies is the product of deep bureaucratic thought, legal consultation and many meetings, because, of course, there are no-smoking laws. So, it’s complicated.
Some are moved by the apology. Others ask questions.
The University of Manitoba’s President, David Barnard, has apologized for his institution’s indirect role in the residential schools that negatively impacted as many as 150,000 Aboriginal Canadians.
At a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing in Halifax, Barnard said that the U of M made a “grave mistake” by educating people who perpetuated the assimilation of Aboriginal Canadians.
The apology brought some Aboriginal Canadians in the audience on Thursday to tears. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, welcomed the words.
But some public relations experts and Native leaders questioned the motivations for the apology, because the University of Manitoba had no direct involvement in the residential schools.
Barnard responded on Thursday. “The university and other organizations in Canada stood by while this was happening, and we didn’t speak out against it early enough,” he told the National Post.
But why not apologize to other groups harmed indirectly by the inaction of the University? “It’s clear that this has been a significant, damaging, traumatic experience for people that are served by the University of Manitoba. This is something that has deep meaning to people in Winnipeg and in Manitoba,” he told the National Post, adding that it may help “bring more people to university.”
The University of Manitoba is already one of Canada’s biggest centres for Native Studies and drew more than 1,900 self-declared Aboriginal students to campus this year—more than most other schools.
Of course, the U of M isn’t the only university that’s working to make universities work better for Aboriginal Canadians. Read Ken MacQueen’s feature article Success, one student at at time in the 2011 Maclean’s University Rankings issue to find out what universities from Victoria to Nipissing are doing to help Native Canadians succeed. Pick up your copy on newsstands today.
How to use terms like Native, Indigenous and Aboriginal
After Deborah Young was appointed the Executive Lead, Aboriginal Achievement at the University of Manitoba in April, she quickly changed her title to Executive Lead, Indigenous Achievement.
That’s caused the school to explore in a podcast, “What do I say?” Local experts explain that there are important nuances in the terms we use to describe the decendents of those who lived in Canada first. Here are just a few of their ideas.
Young says that she chose the term Indigenous because it’s more uniting than Aboriginal. Indigenous is a term that crosses borders and recognizes a shared history. Indigenous is the word used by the United Nations. Aboriginal is not wrong. It’s simply an umbrella term used for First Nations, Metis and Inuit people in Canada. But, warns Young: “One of my pet peeves is that people don’t capitalize Aboriginal.”
Business expert to rebuild school after years of governance problems
Doyle Anderson, who holds an MBA from the University of Saskatchewan, will be the new president of First Nations University in Regina. The Red Pheasant First Nation member will take over from an interim president who was installed after Charles Pratt was fired for several years of financial irregularities, including unjustifiable travel and vacation expenses. Both Ottawa and Saskatchewan cancelled funding in the spring of 2010, but federal grants were restored in June after the board agreed to a restructuring process. Anderson is currently the director of both the Native American Business Administration Program and the Indigenous Nations Institute at Idaho State University.
Almost 700 Aboriginal students are enrolled at the University of Victoria
Increasingly it seems we must look to the University of Victoria for good ideas. This year’s Times Higher Education Supplement rankings put it sixth among Canadian universities and 130th in the world. UVic does well in our own rankings too, as you’ll see. Rankings were the first thing David Turpin, UVic’s president, wanted to talk about when he visited me in Ottawa last month. But his other story was more focused and may be more important: Victoria’s success in attracting, retaining and rewarding Aboriginal university students.
In 2006, only eight per cent of Canadians with Aboriginal ancestry had university degrees, compared with 23 per cent of non-Aboriginal Canadians. This is not merely too bad. There is a genuine economic and human cost, because the correlation between higher education and various social goods is exhaustively documented. Post-secondary education attainment is associated with better health, increased civic participation, lower crime rates, higher income, correspondingly higher tax payments, reduced dependence on social benefits, and more.
A February 2010 study by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards suggests that if the gap in educational attainment and labour-force participation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians vanished by 2026, total tax revenue would increase by $3.5 billion and government spending could decrease by $14.2 billion. Obviously that won’t happen, but any progress in that direction helps. Never even mind the human benefits.
The best results I’ve seen in promoting access and achievement for Aboriginal students are from the University of Victoria. Some of this is a long-term trend. The university counted fewer than 100 Aboriginal students in 1999; today it’s nearly 700. The number of graduate students has grown from fewer than 10 to nearly 150.
Since 2005, UVic has been working on programs to solidify and extend those trends. With money from the Liberal-created, now-defunct Millennium Scholarship Foundation, the university came up with seven programs under a blanket name, the LE,NONET Project. (LE,NONET is pronounced “le-non-git.” It’s a Straits Salish word referring to success after enduring many hardships.) Most of the programs are for students. There’s a straightforward bursary program, which paid recipients an average of about $3,500 a year. There was also an “emergency relief fund.” Turpin told me some students were going home to their communities, say for a relative’s funeral, and not returning. Simply covering travel costs helped fix that, and at a cost lower than $600 per student per school year.
Finally, there were programs to keep the whole university experience from becoming too weird and foreign, for students who might be the first in their family to pursue higher education: a peer mentor program that matched young Aboriginal students with older Aboriginal students; a 200-hour internship with an Aboriginal community group outside the university gates; and a 200-hour research apprenticeship with a UVic faculty member. The project also included online counselling and workshops for staff and faculty members.
Did all this help Aboriginal students? They sure thought it did. Seventy-eight per cent thought the peer mentor program contributed to their success. Every other element of LE,NONET scored even higher. Almost 99 per cent liked the bursaries. Clear majorities said the program helped them feel connected both to the broader university community and to “who I am as an Aboriginal person.” Sometimes people suggest being a member of the First Nations and being at university are contradictory. Most LE,NONET participants disagree.
Bottom line: does all this fuss keep Aboriginal students in school? Participants in the program were less than one-third as likely to drop out as Aboriginal students who weren’t selected for the pilot program. They were more than twice as likely to continue from one year to the next. Graduation rates were significantly higher. It’s a safe bet that over their lifetimes those graduates will repay the extra investment many times over.
David Turpin says he’ll share details of the LE,NONET program with any university that’s interested. Many will be. Across the country, there’s been a recent and overdue emphasis on promoting access and success—getting students into university, and ensuring they get out with a degree—among under-represented groups. That includes Aboriginals, but also some immigrant populations and even, by some definitions, young men, who are entering university markedly less often than young women.
It should be obvious why this is all a good idea. An aging population needs higher productivity so a smaller workforce can pay for the benefits of ever more retirees. The needed human capital could come from immigrants, and a lot of it will. But it’s dumb to import brains when there are plenty of good minds right here that can succeed if only they’re given a fair chance and, yes, some extra help where appropriate.
Higher educational attainment needn’t make First Nations students feel forced to deny their identities. The skills and knowledge they acquire can go right to work in their home communities, or they can become part of a network that makes it that much easier for the next cohort of students to follow their example. It’s no coincidence that one of the country’s fastest-rising universities is the one that has pushed all these considerations to the top of its agenda.
Only 49 per cent of aboriginals complete high school in B.C., compared to 79 per cent for the rest of the population
The B.C. government is promoting a record high school completion rate of 49 per cent for aboriginal students in the Class of 2009, but a First Nations group says that’s nothing to be proud of.
Provincial statistics released Thursday show two per cent more aboriginal students finished high school last spring, compared with 47 per cent in the 2007/08 school year. The figures compared with an overall completion rate in the province of 79 per cent for the 2008/09 school year.
The statistics are well below the province’s target of a 55 per cent completion rate by 2011/12. That compares with an overall target of 82 per cent. “We are pleased with the results and the gains that aboriginal students have made,” Education Minister Moira Stilwell said in a news release.
Stilwell said the increase is due in part to so-called “aboriginal education enhancement agreements,” which integrate aboriginal culture into schools. That includes special First Nations courses. Stilwell also cited work among school boards to “empower” aboriginal students to graduate.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said the province shouldn’t be happy with the results, especially given the huge gap between the overall student completion rate and aboriginals. “It really upsets me,” Philip said. “I am pleased that they are moving in the right direction but we are a long way from home.”
Of those aboriginal students who do graduate, he said some aren’t able to attend post-secondary school due to cuts to student-aid programs. Phillip said there are many obstacles for aboriginal students, all of which trace back to one issue: “crushing poverty.”
“At the community level it really makes it extremely difficult for our students to reach their full potential,” Philip said. “The vast majority of our people live far below the poverty line. Those conditions aren’t improving, they are getting worse.”
He cited a recent report showing British Columbia has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada for six years in a row and said aboriginal children make up a big portion of that group. “I don’t really believe the province has a lot to be proud of in terms of the aboriginal file,” Phillip said.
Completion rates are determined by tracking the number of students entering Grade 8 who graduate within six years. Over the last six years, the overall student completion rate was 79 per cent, except for 2006/07 when it was 80 per cent.
The completion rate for aboriginal students has swung back and forth between 47 and 48 per cent from the 2003/04 school year to 2007/08. In its service plan update released in September, the province noted the “achievement levels of aboriginal and non-aboriginal students continue to differ significantly.”
In June 2009, the province said there were 2,159 aboriginal students in the Vancouver school district, representing 3.6 per cent of the district’s total enrolment.
It also said it was investing an estimated $52.6 million a year—$1,014 per student—for aboriginal education in 2009/10, based on district-estimated enrolments. It said the money is used to support aboriginal language and culture, education and support service programs.
The Canadian Press
Both province and feds are withholding funding from beleaguered university
Officials from the First Nations University of Canada are accusing the federal and provincial governments of being uncooperative and unnecessarily negative in their attempts to address alleged governance problems at the Saskatoon school, according to The StarPhoenix.
“The government should just get off its pot and start doing something more positive,” said faculty member Sharon Acoose in a speech to a gathered crowd of about 100 at Thursday’s open house. “Work with us. We have a beautiful university. Open your eyes and see that.”
In 2005, Morley Watson, chair of the university’s board of governors, suspended several senior administrators and allegedly seized the university’s central computers, copied the hard drive with all faculty and student records, and ordered administrative staff out of their offices.
Since that time, two different studies by both the provincial government and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations have recommended changes to the university’s board structure in an effort to improve transparency and good governance. Enrolment at the school has plunged, and many of the faculty and administrative staff have left.
In November 2008, the Canadian Association of University teachers imposed censure on the university, which meant that most of the Canada’s university teachers have been told to refuse appointments at the university, decline invitations to speak or participate in academic conferences hosted by the university, and turn down any distinctions.
Last March, the province suspended $200,000 of funding to the school, saying that “fundamental changes” needed to be made, and the federal department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is withholding more than $2 million for the same reason.
Those reactions are not sitting well with many of Thursday’s speakers, reports The StarPhoenix.
According to Acoose, the university is being “picked on.” She praised the work of university president Charles Pratt and vice-president of finance Al Ducharme. “Let us do our jobs. Quit holding the purse strings above our heads. We are not puppets.”
The university’s vice-president of academics Herman Michell said he agrees with Acoose.
“Sharon Acoose mentioned the struggles our university has gone through in the past four or five years. She’s right. As far as I’m concerned, we should have 50 of these First Nations universities across Canada. A lot of institutions across Canada are facing the same challenges we are,” he said.
“I call on the federal and provincial government to step up to the plate and help us do our work.”
A spokesman for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada says his department is “not going to address the comments made at the open house.” He said the funding conditions will remain, along with their late-November deadline.
Feds aren’t tracking $300 million per year in aboriginal funding, says report
The Harper government flunks accountability, says a new audit that blasts lax controls over almost $300 million meant to help native students get to college or university.The bruising report calls for tighter tracking of that cash and says funding has not kept pace with tuition hikes.
Ottawa does not trace how many native kids beat staggering odds to make it through high school only to be denied help to go on.
It spent $292 million last year to help 23,000 students — that’s down from a high of 27,000 funding recipients a decade ago.
“No analysis has been conducted by program management at headquarters on the impact these factors are having” on the Post-secondary Education Program, the audit says.
Instead, it has been left to the national Assembly of First Nations to estimate that more than 10,000 qualified students are on waiting lists.
“It is important that clear and appropriate performance measures, results indicators and targets be developed,” the internal Indian Affairs audit concludes.
“Sound performance measures allow management to track progress, measure results and make ongoing program adjustments to improve results and achieve objectives.”
Conservatives hail higher education as a top priority in their efforts to ultimately raise native living standards.
But auditors found the post-secondary program is hobbled by lax reporting, growing education costs and haphazard disbursement. The result is glaring gaps across the country.
In 2007-2008, the audit says, per capita amounts disbursed to First Nations ranged from $1,609 for each individual aged 18 to 34 in Ontario compared with $941 in the Atlantic region.
“No rationale was found to support the different allocation methods used in the different regions,” it says.
Moreover, the per capita amounts do not reflect fluctuating needs on reserves and are considered “flexible.” Auditors found surplus post-secondary funds in some communities are then spent on other needs — while students in other parts of the country go without.
- The Canadian Press
New documents suggest feds downplayed risks and hired PR firm for damage control
Internal documents suggest the Harper government downplayed health risks and hired a PR firm for damage control after halting plans for new schools on native reserves.
The papers discuss the hiring of Hill & Knowlton to help the government handle what one official described as “not a good story.”
The government stopped plans in 2007 for new schools and major renovations that weren’t considered health and safety priorities.
But internal documents obtained by the NDP suggest some of those projects were put off despite health and safety issues flagged by Indian Affairs.
New Democrat MP Charlie Angus says the government paid spin doctors while neglecting urgent education needs.
The Conservatives have announced $50 million for five new schools and seven renovation projects, but critics say much more is needed to lower native dropout rates.
- The Canadian Press
Mi’kmaq and aboriginal students to get liaison office
Nova Scotia is moving to close what it sees as an educational gap for the province’s Mi’kmaq and aboriginal students. Education Minister Karen Casey has accepted the key recommendations from a review of her department’s Mi’kmaq Services Division.A new Mi’kmaq Liaison Office will be set up and given a stronger voice at the department’s senior management table, Casey said in a release Thursday. “I recognize that the department needs to continue to respond to the changing needs of the community,” said Casey. “It is clear to me that we need to improve the level of service we provide Mi’kmaq and other aboriginal students.”
The review, which concluded in October, recommended improvements in five key areas, including communications, structure, policy, service delivery and curriculum. The liason office’s responsibilities will expand beyond supporting students in public schools to include post-secondary education and skills training.
It will also help identify educational needs for aboriginal students and develop programs to address them.
The minister’s response calls for the development of a provincewide Mi’kmaq Student Support Worker Network and provides opportunity for more direct community involvement in development of language curriculum.
Daniel Paul, chair of the Council on Mi’kmaq Education, said he was pleased with the minister’s response.
“It is a very positive move,” he said. “The Mi’kmaq community will now have a stronger role in the educational decision-making process for our students, he said.
Representatives from Nova Scotia’s 13 First Nations bands, the Native Council of Nova Scotia, the Council on Mi’kmaq Education and the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre were all consulted.
-with a report from CP