Indigenous Education in Ontario

The Ministry of Education is committed to working with Indigenous and education partners to continue improving Indigenous student achievement and well-being in Ontario, and increasing all students' knowledge and understanding of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit histories, cultures, contributions and perspectives.

Ontario's Indigenous Education Strategy – (formerly known as the Aboriginal Education Strategy)

Ontario's Indigenous Education Strategy sets the foundation for improving achievement among Indigenous students in provincially funded schools. The strategy supports life-long learning beginning in the early years and continuing through postsecondary, training or workplace opportunities. In addition, it raises awareness about First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultures, histories, perspectives and contributions among all students.

The government is also committed to continuing to build positive relationships with Ontario First Nation, Métis and Inuit partners and working in a spirit of mutual respect through all interactions. Strong partnerships between the ministry, school boards, schools, educators, families, students, community organizations and Indigenous partners are essential.

To reach the goals of the strategy, Ontario has taken important steps in making system-wide changes, including targeted funding, professional development and the integration of First Nation, Métis and Inuit perspectives into the curriculum.

Examples of current initiatives:

  • Board Action Plan: Since 2014-15, school boards, in collaboration with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit parents, community members, organizations and Indigenous Education Advisory Councils, have been developing education programs and initiatives that align with the strategy and meet the needs of their local communities.
  • Indigenous Education Leads: As of fall 2016, each school board in Ontario has a full-time position dedicated to supporting the implementation of the Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework. Leads work closely with senior board administration, including the superintendent with responsibility for Indigenous education, staff and Indigenous Education Advisory Councils, to support improved Indigenous student achievement and well-being and enhance the knowledge and awareness of all students about First Nation, Métis and Inuit cultures, histories and perspectives.
  • Indigenous Education Advisory Councils (IEACs): In 2014, through the Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework Implementation Plan, the ministry indicated that all school boards would establish formalized processes, such as establishing IEACs to support local implementation of the framework. The IEACs guide school boards and schools in building stronger relationships with their communities, sharing information, identifying promising practices, and enhancing collaborative work to support First Nation, Métis, and Inuit student achievement and well-being.
  • Voluntary and Confidential Indigenous Student Self-Identification: This data is used to enable the ministry, school boards and schools to understand the demographics of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit learners and to implement targeted strategies to build on the strengths and meet the specific needs of those students.
  • Increased Partnerships:
    • In 2009, Ontario and the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) entered into a memorandum of understanding, which made a commitment to ongoing collaboration aimed at improving educational outcomes for Métis students in the province. The memorandum supports collaborative relationships between Métis communities, school boards, and education partners; this includes recognizing and preserving the distinct history, identity and culture of the Métis people and their contributions to Ontario. On December 15, 2015, the MNO signed a new memorandum with the Ministry of Education.
    • A memorandum of understanding signed in 2013 between Ontario, Canada and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation made a commitment to working together to improve educational outcomes for First Nation students in First Nation-operated and provincially funded schools. This was the first tripartite education agreement to be signed in Ontario. Key priority areas of the memorandum of understanding include:
      • Student support services
      • Curriculum enhancements
      • Governance and administration
      • Human resources
      • Parental participation.
    • On February 27, 2017, Canada, Ontario, and the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians signed a memorandum of understanding on First Nation Education – the second tripartite education agreement signed in Ontario – through the Education Partnership Program. The memorandum was designed to enhance:
      • Educational outcomes of students in participating First Nation communities
      • Existing education resources and professional capacity
      • Collaboration of knowledge and practices
      • Awareness of Indigenous knowledge and learning ways.
    • In August 2017, the Minister of Education joined participating First Nations in signing the Master Education Agreement. The historic agreement describes the relationship between the Anishinabek Education System and Ontario's provincially funded education system and sets out commitments between the parties. It also supports:
      • Transition of students between Anishinabek First Nations' schools and schools in the provincially-funded education system
      • Advancement of Anishinabek language and culture, and the knowledge of Anishinabek First Nations' histories, perspectives and contributions within Anishinabek First Nations' schools and provincially funded schools
      • Engagement and participation of students, parents, families and communities t realize the goal of improved student achievement and well-being.
    • As of November 27, 2017, the Ministry of Education has formalized its working relationship with Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI) through a memorandum of understanding – the first of its kind between the province and the Inuit community. The memorandum supports:
      • Collaborative relationships between Inuit communities, school boards and education partners to promote student success
      • The inclusion of Inuit culture, values and traditions in the development of provincial education initiatives.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

On May 30, 2016, Ontario released The Journey Together – Ontario's Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. As part of Ontario's response to the Truth and Reconciliation Report, the province made the following new commitments:

Classification of First Nation Schools within the Education Act

Ontario will explore the possibility of creating a new classification for First Nation/federally operated schools. This could enhance collaboration between the provincially funded education system and First Nation schools to help build greater capacity (e.g. professional development and learning resources) in First Nation schools.

Support for Indigenous Languages

Language is the foundation of culture. Indigenous peoples have a strong tradition of oral histories that must be supported by a new respect for, and understanding of, Indigenous languages.

From May 29 to June 1, 2017, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development co-hosted the Gidinwewininaanan, No Lang Indigenous Languages Symposium with Indigenous partners and education stakeholders. The symposium was an opportunity to review current programs, determine gaps, and identify community priorities and supports needed to promote Indigenous languages.

The Gidinwewininaanan, No Lang Indigenous Languages Symposium was the first step in a multiyear, ongoing strategy to engage, co-develop and co-implement Ontario's plan to support the revitalization of Indigenous languages.

In response to needs identified at the symposium, the Learning Ministries issued the Indigenous Languages Fund call for proposals in December 2017 to support short-term, community-led language projects. Available funding is $10 million over two years. The call for proposals closed on January 22, 2018. Projects were evaluated by a committee comprised of ministry representatives and Indigenous partners. The province is funding over 40 successful projects that will support the promotion and revitalization of Indigenous languages.

The Indigenous Languages Fund is designed to support a wide range of language activities and priorities, as identified by our partners. These activities include research, community engagement and long-term planning, the development of tools and resources to support language acquisition, and making sure that we are increasing access to language programming across the province for people of all ages.

Curriculum

The province continues to work in collaboration with Indigenous partners to enhance the Ontario curriculum in order to support mandatory learning of residential schools, treaties, the legacy of colonialism, and the rights and responsibilities we all have to each other as treaty people.

Curriculum revisions occurred in the summer of 2016 and the winter of 2017. These revisions were guided by residential school survivors, First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners as well as education stakeholders. The revised curriculum includes: Social Studies (Grades 4 to 6) and History (Grades 7, 8 and 10). This revised curriculum will be implemented in all schools in September 2018.

Ontario has also committed to continue to work in collaboration with Indigenous partners to revise Social Studies (Grades 1 to 3), Geography (Grade 9), Civics and Citizenship (Grade 10) and select senior courses from the Canadian and World Studies (Grades 11 to 12), along with Social Sciences and Humanities (Grades 11 to 12).

In June 2017, a call for resource proposals was sent out to ensure that across the province, teachers and students have access to authentic, quality resources to support a greater understanding of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit individuals, communities, and nations in Ontario. The Ministry of Education was seeking resources that:

  • Are consistent with the intentions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action
  • Represent the diversity of Indigenous peoples across Ontario
  • Provide locally and regionally specific content
  • Indigenous people are authentically and directly involved in the development of the resource, including engagement with relevant communities, leaders, and elders
  • Are grade-level appropriate and support delivery of the revised curriculum in Ontario classrooms.

These resources will be available for educators and students in fall 2018.

The First Nations, Métis and Inuit Studies curriculum has been revised in order to strengthen content relating to contemporary and traditional First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures, histories, perspectives, and worldviews. This includes the legacy of the residential school system, treaties, legislation, and policies that directly impacts First Nations, Métis, and Inuit individuals, communities, and nations. These revisions were conducted in collaboration with Indigenous teachers, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, senators, Indigenous community representatives, and residential school survivors. The revised Indigenous Studies curriculum is expected to be released in spring 2018.

In 2014, Ontario sent First Nations and Treaties maps to every elementary and secondary school in the province to help raise awareness about treaties. These maps and the accompanying teaching resources are helping students to learn about the significance of the treaties and the shared history of First Nations and non-Indigenous Ontarians. Our province has also designated the first week of November as Treaties Recognition Week to promote public education and awareness about treaties and treaty relationships.

Early Years

The Ministry of Education is investing up to $93.5M in new funding over the next two years to support early years commitments in urban and rural settings, as well as on-reserve:

  • Up to $70M over the next two years (including capital investments) will help expand access to culturally relevant child care and child and family programs delivered by Indigenous-led organizations through 58 projects in urban and rural communities.
  • Ontario is expanding on-reserve child and family programs for more than 1800 children and their families in over 40 First Nation communities across the province. Child and family programs provide culturally relevant support, advice and personal connections, as well as a network of resources and play- and inquiry-based programs for young children and families.