The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board is asking aboriginal families to "self identify" as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit.

"We are encouraging families to self-identify because it will enable us to determine programming and supports to increase First Nation, Métis and Inuit student success and achievement," said Sharon Stephanian, Superintendent of Leadership & Learning in a press release. The board will keep the information collected confidential.

"The information will only be used for the purpose of developing relevant support programs, services and resources".

The board has sent out notices to parents and caregivers of children under the age of 18 and directly to students over 18.

HWDSB already offers programs such as Native as a Second Language, Native Arts courses, and summer literacy initiatives. The staff will also take part in learning initiatives through a training program that will increase their awareness, understanding, and appreciation of Aboriginal peoples and communities.

The Aboriginal Community Liaison for the school board, Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis, is taking on the initiative for self-identification.

"It came initially from the Ministry of Education, it was back in 2007, and is part of a larger Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit aboriginal education framework," says Dupuis. "There was a recommendation put forward about self identifying the Aboriginal students, First Nation or Métis students."

Josh Dockstator, owner of The Big Chief food truck, and previous employee of the school board as an Aboriginal Youth Advisor, knows first hand about the benefits of programs being put into place, and the first step on how to get there and supports the self-identification.

"The province has to see the need before they’ll inject money into the programming."