How the Government of Canada has been responding to the TRC’s Calls to Action on education
The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, began in 2007. One of the elements of the agreement was the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) to facilitate reconciliation among former students, their families, communities and all Canadians.
Between 2007 and 2015, the Government of Canada provided about $72 million to support the TRC’s work. The TRC spent six years travelling to all parts of Canada and heard from more than 6,500 witnesses. The TRC also hosted seven national events across Canada to engage the Canadian public, educate people about the history and legacy of the residential schools system, and share and honour the experiences of former students and their families.
In June 2015, the TRC held its closing event in Ottawa and presented the executive summary of the findings contained in its multi-volume final report, including 94 “calls to action” to further reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples.
But how has the Government of Canada been delivering on these recommendations? Let’s take a look at what’s being done under Education (Calls to Action 6 to 12).
Call to Action 6: Repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada
All children have the right to be protected from violence. The Criminal Code and provincial and territorial welfare laws protect children from all forms of violence, including abusive and harmful conduct. Section 43 of the Criminal Code provides a limited defence to parents, caregivers and teachers who use reasonable force toward a child. The issue of whether or not section 43 of the Criminal Code should be repealed raises differing and strongly held views across Canada.
In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada found that section 43 was constitutional in a case called Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General). However, the court’s decision, which included guidelines, significantly narrowed the application of section 43 to reasonable, corrective force that is minor or transitory and trifling in nature. The court also made clear that teachers cannot use corporal punishment under any circumstances.Since 1987, the Government of Canada has been supporting parenting education programs, such as the Nobody’s perfect program, and develops publications that discourage physical discipline and provides caregivers with positive parenting skills.
Call to Action 7: Develop joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians
Budget 2016 provided new investments in primary and secondary education on reserve, totalling $2.6 billion over five years. This includes funding to address immediate pressures and to keep pace with rising costs in the medium term, as well as provide for additional investments in literacy and numeracy programs and special needs education.
Building on this investment, on April 1, 2019, Indigenous Services Canada began implementing a new approach to First Nations elementary and secondary education, which was co-developed with First Nations education leaders and experts from across the country. This approach includes new formula-based regional models for First Nations education that will ensure that students attending First Nations schools are supported by predictable and sustained base funding that is more directly comparable to what students enrolled in provincial systems receive. On top of this base funding, this new approach will provide additional funding to on-reserve schools for language and culture programming and full-time kindergarten for children aged 4 and 5.
Budget 2016 invested $969.4 million over five years for the construction, repair and maintenance of First Nations education facilities. With respect to post-secondary education,
Budget 2016 provided $1.53 billion over five years to increase amounts of the Canada Student Grants and $329 million per year after that. Budget 2016 also announced that funding provided by the Post-Secondary Student Support Program will no longer impact eligibility for the Canada Student Loans Program’s non-repayable grants and loans support. As a result, Indigenous students can access both student funding programs as long as they meet eligibility criteria. This measure will increase the amount of non-repayable Canada Student Grants and Canada Student Loans that Indigenous students may receive.
Call to Action 8: Eliminate discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves
To help address the education attainment gap, the Government of Canada has made significant investments, totalling $2.6 billion over five years for primary and secondary education on reserve. This includes funding to address immediate needs and to keep pace with cost growth over the medium term, as well as investments in language and cultural programming and literacy and numeracy.
The Government of Canada has worked closely with various First Nations partners to implement an inclusive and comprehensive engagement process on First Nations kindergarten to grade 12 education on reserve, including investing $3.6 million to support community-level discussions. The engagements were led by First Nations organizations and provided community members with the opportunity to share their views on how to improve First Nations student success.
On January 21, 2019, a new co-developed policy and improved funding approach to better support the needs of First Nations students on-reserve was announced.
Call to Action 9: Publish annual reports comparing funding for the education of First Nations children on and off reserves
Indigenous Services Canada is continuing to produce reports on education funding. The most recent public report is from the 2016 to 2017 school year.
Call to Action 10: Draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples
Based on the policy proposal for transforming the Government of Canada’s support for First Nations elementary and secondary education that was co-developed with First Nations, Indigenous Services Canada has established a new policy framework for First Nations elementary and secondary education.
Call to Action 11: Provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education
Budget 2016 provided $1.53 billion over five years to increase amounts of the Canada Student Grants and $329 million per year after that. It also announced that any funding provided by the Post-Secondary Student Support Program will no longer be treated as a student resource, meaning those funds will no longer impact eligibility for the Canada Student Loans Program’s non-repayable grants and loans support.
As a result, Indigenous students will continue to be able to access both programs, as long as they meet eligibility criteria. This measure will increase the amount of non-repayable Canada Student Grants and Canada Student Loans that Indigenous students may receive.
Call to Action 12: Develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families.
In September 2018, a new distinctions-based Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care framework co-developed with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council was announced.
This transformative framework reflects the unique cultures and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and families across Canada. It is a guide for all actors in the early learning and child care sphere to work towards achieving the shared vision that Indigenous children have the opportunity to experience high-quality, culturally strong early learning and child care.
The framework complements the Multilateral Framework on Early Learning and Child Care released in June 2017 by federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for early learning and child care.