- Access to and opportunities in education are key to readying the Indigenous youth population for the future economy.
- Canada needs to focus our efforts on educators to help them be better guides to Indigenous children, as many educators still lack the resources to be able to cater to Indigenous students.
- A skills development strategy for Indigenous people in Canada needs to start with the government’s commitments to reconciliation.
The government of Canada has a responsibility to revisit their commitments to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It is only through this that the government can adequately identify ways of action to help bring the Indigenous community up to level footing with other Canadians.
How would you describe the current approach to skills development and training in Canada’s Indigenous and northern communities?
There is an estimated 350,000 Indigenous youth that have turned or will turn 15 between the years 2016 and 2026. These are potential members of the workforce and future economy and according to federal government, there is more than 70% of jobs created in the coming decade that will require post-secondary education. It is really important when we focus on education as we move people through into the economy sectors. Indigenous people, and particularly youth workers, must be afforded the chance to participate in this prosperity as well.
“An estimated 350,000 Indigenous youth that have turned or will turn 15 between the years 2016 and 2026.”
When it comes to Right to Play, one of the areas that we have embarked on is a partnership with the Future Skills Centre and the Chang School at Ryerson University. This funding that we have received from Employment and Social Development Canada is meant to create opportunities for Indigenous community mentors that we work with through our programming, and to create a certification program in child and youth. We are in the consultation stages of developing that and Ryerson and Chang have been working with Indigenous education stakeholders who are participating in the development of that resource and program so it is culturally applicable and relevant to the community mentors that we are working with who will be embarking on that.
What is the value of storytelling in Indigenous and non-Indigenous education?
Through storytelling we are able to learn a lot about who we are, where we come from, and why we do the things that we do. Storytelling helps collective thinking, collective learning, and collectively moving forward together. When storytelling is applied, it brings in a multitude of knowledge and that is the piece that we have to look at in terms of creating things in education that are relevant to and inclusive of the people that we are serving. The best way to pull that information out is through storytelling but before we get to storytelling, there has to be partnerships and relationships built with Indigenous peoples.
What are the unique challenges and opportunities in skills training and development for remote and Indigenous communities?
Accessibility is probably one of the biggest areas that may pose a challenge in many Indigenous communities, and this could be accessibility to internet, or materials and resources in the areas of education and employment. This also includes accessibility to support services within the community that will support Indigenous learners in their economic or their education journey as well as access to basic needs. In Canada, in many urban centres, we have access to clean drinking water and there are communities that do not have access to that. There is a whole array of challenges that exist within Indigenous communities that many Canadians do not have to worry about when they are embarking on an education or an economic journey.
“Accessibility is probably one of the biggest areas that may pose a challenge in many Indigenous communities.”
Also looking at programing, meeting the needs of literacy and diverse literacy levels within community mentors have to be taken into consideration when looking at designing or developing an education program, and looking at ways that those literacy needs could be met. We need to identify and create a multi-stream of opportunities that will meet the diverse levels of learners. Parenting responsibilities is a really big one and we need to be flexible in programming to ensure that everyone can participate and not have to leave their community to attend to learning or training opportunities.
How do we prepare educators to train Indigenous learners for the future economy?
That is another great question. In my area of education and my experience in working with classroom teachers, the area of focus that I have always started from was identifying what they know or what they think about Indigenous people. A lot of the time, many adults in Canada have a misconception of Indigenous people; that we are all the same, that we all speak one language, that we might even possibly still live in wigwams or igloos. We need to identify where they are and what they know, and then start to introduce to them information that was not provided to them in their learning experience, and that could include talking about history, looking at residential schools and the impacts of that system and how education has grown from that, where we are at now, and whose standards we are trying to uphold when it comes to education.
“Education is really key to educator learning and understanding how those past and current relationships impact the current realities of Indigenous people today.”
We also need to look at policies and important documents that relate to relationships between Canada and Indigenous peoples like treaties, the Indian Act and different policies that really impact Indigenous people that might not impact the majority of Canadians. Education is really key to educator learning and understanding how those past and current relationships impact the current realities of Indigenous people today. We need to look at ways that we can change that thinking and how we can be more inclusive and respectful in providing culturally appropriate material in our education and instructional practices.
What would be your skills development strategy for Canada’s Indigenous communities and workforces?
One of the areas would be to make it accessible for Indigenous people, make it culturally relevant, and include Indigenous community partners in the initial development, design, delivery, and post-delivery. Including Indigenous people in that process is a sign of reconciliation as well, meeting the needs of Indigenous people. Making content more culturally relevant and applicable to learners and where they come from allows for opportunities for people to make connections and correlations between what they are learning and their personal lives, worldviews, and day-to-day life.
If you have to pitch someone to improve skills development for Indigenous learners, what would you say?
For me, I think of the Prime Minister and my pitch would be that there needs to be a revisit to the commitments that were made to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We need to act on the commitments that were made and identify ways that these commitments can become a part of action. That is the piece for me, is that there was a commitment that was made and I do not know what the follow-through has been. Revisiting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the commitment that the government has made is the first step that needs to happen. It is part of action and relationship building, and we need to restore the relationship.