'It's time' Ontario regional chief says of establishing a First Nations university

It's time for the provincial government to seriously start considering a full, First Nations-led university in Ontario, according to the province's regional chief.

Isadore Day says institution would have Ontario's First Nations languages, cultures at its core

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says it's time for the province to have a First Nations-led university. (CBC)

It's time for the provincial government to seriously start considering a full, First Nations-led university in Ontario, according to the province's regional chief.

Isadore Day says it's something that's "a long time coming," adding that he'd like to see a post-secondary institution that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees but where the languages and cultures of Ontario's many Indigenous communities are at the core.

"We're now at an impasse, I believe, where all of what mainstream universities can offer our First Nations has pretty much run its course," he told CBC News.

"We have seen issues of racism, discrimination and systemic barriers that I believe will continue to occur because the foundation of mainstream education is not founded in Indigenous value systems and worldviews."

Day's comments come while post-secondary institutions are under increasing scrutiny over how Indigenous people are treated and how the schools reflect First Nations language, culture and history.

"It's time," he said.

"We definitely see language and culture as being a delineated separation from mainstream to our own First Nation university in Ontario."

Day pointed to the First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan — which offers a number of diploma and degree programs within an environment where Indigenous culture and values are at the core — as a loose comparison of what he'd like to see in Ontario, but tailored to the province's First Nations.

Day acknowledged that establishing one institution that reflects the over-100 First Nations in Ontario will be challenging but said it won't be impossible. Day added it would allow specific educational initiatives being developed by tribal councils to be incorporated.

Discussions have been taking place about this among Indigenous communities for some time, he said.

"The only way to close the education gap and to increase those outcomes is to make sure that the university level systems can accommodate and are conducive to First Nation and Indigenous cultures and languages," Day said.

"It's going to be a benefit to the mainstream and governments to endorse, support and finally open up that space where there is full jurisdictional recognition of First Nations university programs in Ontario."

Last year, Ontario announced a plan to open a French-language university in Ontario, something Day noted.

"We certainly don't have a shortage of our own people that are prepared to put some of their shoulders behind this ... people that have the greatest grey matter across this country live right here in our First Nations in Ontario."