Hamilton

Six Nations of the Grand River closer to taking control of its education system

For years Six Nations of the Grand River has wanted complete control over its education system — and now they say they’re closer to achieving the goal with a new vision.

Deloitte study prices out $2.2 billion needed over 10 years

A look inside the Emily C. General Elementary School. (Hailey Thomas Wilson)

For years Six Nations of the Grand River has wanted complete control over its education system — and now they say they're closer than ever to making it happen.

At the beginning of the month the community was presented with two reports — one based off of information gathered from the community, and another from Deloitte, detailing where the funding gaps are.

Recommendations from both reports say that there's a lack of community control over the system that is led by both the federal and provincial governments, says education manager of Six Nations, Julia Candlish.

"It's a patchwork system where we're putting pieces together from all over the place to try and create this holistic learning environment for students," said Candlish.

"There's a lot of challenges, so what the reports talks about is addressing those challenges through Six Nations recovering full control over the development, establishment and ongoing management of a lifelong education system."

(Deloitte)

Candlish says a task force of 30 people — all stakeholders in the community's education system, banded together in early 2018.

The group has been mandated to look at the current system and ways to improve it moving forward.

Lifelong learning

The goal, Candlish says, is to focus on lifelong learning, meaning everything between daycare and adult schooling, not just from kindergarten to grade 12.

According to the Deloitte report, the study had two key aims.

The first was to identify an education system that would meet the current and future needs for Six Nations. The second goal was to provide a high level costing analysis which would identify potential funding needs.

"It's to support all the way from daycare up to post secondary and then adult education, language, acquisition — all of those types of things," said Candlish.

According to the report, $2.2 billion is the recommended amount needed over a decade.

It doesn't forecast needs beyond the next 10 years.

(Deloitte)

"But what we're looking for is funding in perpetuity," said Candlish.

Candlish says the figure outlines a lot of funding designated for capital and infrastructure.

"Because of the chronic underfunding for education, virtually all of the buildings need to be replaced," said Candlish.

The education manager says there are currently approximately 1,400 students ranging from kindergarten to grade 12, but the goal of the system is to serve all members of the community, providing a structure of lifelong learning.

Next steps

Six Nations of the Grand River is located in southern Ontario, near Brantford, and about 25 kilometres southwest of Hamilton. It's the largest First Nations reserve in Canada.

According to the Six Nations lands/membership population, as of December 2017, the total band membership is 27,276 people, with a total of 12,848 living on the reserve.

With the new information, Candlish says the next step is developing a transition plan for all of the work that needs to be done to develop the system within the community, by the community.

"It would be very challenging for us at this particular time to flip a switch and assume control over education when it's been the federal and provincial governments that have been doing it for so long," she said.

Julia Candlish, education manager, Six Nations of the Grand River. (Submitted by Julia Candlish)

Candlish says she feels hopeful about the funding needed from the federal government and says there's ongoing discussions with Ottawa.

"Definitely feel very hopeful that we will get some results out of theses discussions this time," said Candlish.

According to Candlish, Six Nation has tried this to take control of its education systems in the past. 

"We see what broke down each time in those particular initiatives," she said. "Everything is going to be established by the community."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Clementson is a journalist with CBC News. She can be reached at laura.clementson@cbc.ca. Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraClementson.

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