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Deb helps enable First Nation post-secondary institutes' independence

Allowing Indigenous post-secondary institutes to grant students degrees and diplomas independently welcome news for Shingwauk, says board chair Lyle Sayers
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TORONTO – Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, and David Zimmer, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation – joined by the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium, Chiefs, and Leaders of Indigenous Institutes – made the announcement.

Ontario is moving toward allowing Indigenous post-secondary institutes to grant students degrees and diplomas independently.

The province’s nine Indigenous governed and operated post-secondary institutions currently offer programs in partnership with colleges and universities, but legislation would allow for the creation of an Indigenous council, which would approve Indigenous institutes to award degrees, certificates and diplomas.

Lyle Sayers, former Garden River First Nation Chief and Chair of the Board of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig (Shingwauk Teaching Lodge) which delivers Indigenous courses in partnership with Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie welcomed Minister Mathews’ announcement.

“This legislation will assist Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig to continue to grow and to design and provide programs and services that reflect First Nations’ ways of knowing,” Mr. Sayers said.

“Indigenous students need educational environments grounded in their languages, cultures and values to reach their potentials. This will enable them to become productive members of their communities, to fulfill their dreams.”

A legislative change that would allow for the first step in that process was contained in the Liberal government’s fall economic update bill, but the advanced education and Indigenous relations ministers highlighted it in an announcement Thursday.

“These vitally important centres of learning provide students with the opportunity to start their post- secondary education in an environment that is close to home, that is focused on student and community well-being and reflects Indigenous identity and culture,” said Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews.

“This is an important step – a step on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

The government is putting $56 million over three years toward expanding the capacity of Indigenous institutes.

Rosie Mosquito, Chair of the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium in Ontario, said the changes will empower more Indigenous students to learn in culturally and linguistically responsive First Nation environments.

Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig is a member of the consortium of nine post-secondary institutes.

Former premier Bob Rae, who advises that Aboriginal Institute Consortium and co-chaired a policy table that led to this announcement, said the tradition of education within First Nations goes back a long time.

“It’s a tradition of passing on first of all knowledge, facts, information, but is also a tradition of passing on wisdom and learning and understanding,” he said. “Indigenous institutes have so much to offer to students and what we’re doing now is just tapping the surface of the potential that’s there.”