SHESHEGWANING – An announcement made by the provincial government earlier this week may help a Sheshegwaning woman who was lobbying to have her grandson attend an off-reserve elementary school (Charles C. McLean Public School in Gore Bay).
On Tuesday, the province announced it was helping First Nations students by removing barriers to quality education. Stephen Lecce, minister of Education, and Greg Rickford, minister of Indigenous Affairs and minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, were joined by Catherine Pawis, chair of the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body, at its office in Nipissing First Nation to announce the creation of a transparent process that will allow all First Nations students to seamlessly access educational pursuits without delay, which came into effect September 1, 2019.
Minister Lecce announced the new reciprocal education approach (REA) to ensure eligible First Nations students and their families are supported by a consistent and transparent process when they choose to study at a publicly funded school or a First Nation-operated school.
“It sounds very positive, and is good news,” said Amelia Sampson of Sheshegwaning. She noted, “my daughter had registered her child in school in Gore Bay (C.C. McLean) last week and this sounds like what I have been waiting for.” She is hopeful her grandson will be entered in C.C. McLean next week.
“I am fully committed to creating a seamless and successful learning experience for First Nations students to enable both graduation and access to good-paying jobs,” said Minister Lecce. “The actions we are taking will reduce barriers for First Nations students and their parents, and ultimately provide more seamless educational pathways that will encourage First Nations students to continue higher learning.”
The REA is the result of collaboration between Ontario First Nation partners, school board associations and the Ministry of Education. The REA framework was developed in collaboration with these partners to help meet the unique needs of First Nations students, particularly those from Northern and remote communities.
Under the previous approach, formal agreements on base fees were required for First Nations students wishing to attend a provincially funded school or First Nation-operated school. Negotiating these agreements often meant delays for students and their families, Minister Lecce said.
Facing a lower graduation rate for First Nations students, the government acted swiftly to cut red tape for First Nations and school boards. Under this new approach, there is no longer a requirement to negotiate formal agreements for the base fees for students attending a provincially funded school or First Nation-operated school.
“No matter where in Ontario an Indigenous student lives, they should be able to choose a school where they can thrive. Our government is proud to support the REA as a part of our commitment to put people first and support lasting prosperity for Indigenous communities,” said Minister Rickford.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare told the North Bay Nugget in its September 17 edition that First Nations leaders, educators and families have long advocated for this type of arrangement, which will allow parents to determine where their child can go to school without any undue delay.
“The one thing that really gets me that’s so awesome, I think, is that today we now have a choice,” Grand Council Chief Hare told the Nugget.
As was reported earlier this spring, Ms. Sampson had been seeking to allow for her grandson to attend an off-reserve elementary school (Charles C. McLean Public School in Gore Bay), in part to be able to learn French. She said at the time a Sheshegwaning band council resolution (BCR) prevented on-reserve children from attending off-reserve schools other than the community school.