Good morning, everybody.
We're at the indigenous and northern affairs committee, on a lovely spring day. You can feel it outside, that it will turn. I think it's actually warmer back home in the west than it is here.
Before we start, I want to recognize that Canada is in a process of truth and reconciliation. It's very important for us to think about that, especially in our committee, but also for all of government, and the fact that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people here in Ottawa.
I want to thank the guests for coming. We are in the process of hearing witnesses in a study on community capacity, on the ability to get an education, on training and on job opportunities. We're very anxious to hear from our witnesses. The diversity of opportunities often depends on your ability for economic development, for access to your reserves or coming into the city.
The committee will, I'm sure, ask you many relevant questions, and you have the opportunity to present for up to 10 minutes.
I see that we have two groups. We have the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association....
You may have us all to yourselves, because so far Ontario First Nations has not arrived; but they may.
Let's get started. You have 10 minutes, and then we'll get into the question period.
It's over to you.
Thank you very much, Madame.
My name is Theodore John Merasty. I am from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, in northeastern Saskatchewan. Our territory encompasses 32,000 square kilometres, eight communities, and over 11,000 band members, and it is a vast untapped territory. It's been tapped a little bit but not as much as it could be.
Good morning. I am a land manager and I am also on the board of directors for the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association, NALMA. I'm also the chair of the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Lands Technicians, SALT, which I've been with for a number of years. I'm here today with my colleague Albert Marshall Jr. from the east to speak on behalf of our associations, specifically with regard to community capacity-building and the retention of talent in the delivery of essential services on reserve lands.
I'm going to say a few words in my first language.
[Witness spoke in Cree]
We would like to thank the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs for the invitation to speak today. We look upon this opportunity to promote awareness of raising professional standards in first nation land management and to draw attention to the need to build capacity in first nations across the country.
The National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association was officially formed in 2000 as a not-for-profit, non-political organization. NALMA is a technical organization driven by first nations land management professionals across Canada. Our association is composed of eight regional lands associations with 195 first nations and Inuit communities represented, namely in the regions of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Labrador, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Nunavut and British Columbia.
Our members operate under various land programs or regimes. The RLEMP program is the reserve land and environment management program, which manages reserves under the Indian Act. The second one is the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, which is managing lands under a sectoral self-government arrangement. Third is self-government for full control of administration, land and resources.
NALMA and our regional lands associations work towards providing opportunities in professional development, networking and technical support that will meet the existing, emerging and future needs of first nations land managers to efficiently and effectively manage their lands.
In the 2017-18 fiscal year, NALMA provided land management training to 800 first nations participants. In addition, we engaged and provided technical support to approximately 2,000. For more information regarding our association, visit nalma.ca and coemrp.ca.
A central pillar of NALMA's mandate is to raise professional standards and promote a code of ethics among practitioners in the field of land management on reserve. As the national certifying body for professional lands managers working on reserves across the country, NALMA holds expertise in the development and retention of professional capacity in first nations. Since the inception of our professional lands management certification program, NALMA has graduated 175 certified land managers across the country. There were only a couple in Alberta.
With respect to retention of professional capacity, NALMA has observed a number of challenges for indigenous nations. Not surprisingly, one of the central issues is a lack of funding to retain qualified staff. Oftentimes, what the nation can afford in compensation is substantially less than what a person with equivalent qualifications could earn off reserve. In the field of land management, we have seen certified land managers leave their home community to work for another first nation or government or industry. There are multiple elements that contribute to the decision to relocate, and without a doubt, compensation is one of them.
Other obstacles to retention can include unrealistic expectations about the workload of the individual and job descriptions that include too many disparate responsibilities. As well, there is the lack of job security or a secure funding source for long-term positions, and the need for more trained staff—for example, more than one qualified person working in that capacity. Peter Ballantyne is a large band, one of the largest in western Canada, and I'm the only land manager in the whole department, as an example. There is also wage stagnation, lack of support from leadership, and difficulty in accessing training close to home, which can be a barrier to career growth, especially for women.
[Witness spoke in Cree]
Good morning, everyone. My name is Albert Marshall Jr. I am from the Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia, Mi'kmaq territory. I’m also a board member for the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association, and I am the chair for the Atlantic Region Aboriginal Lands Association, ARALA, in the Atlantic.
I'd like to say a few words in Mi'kmaq too.
[Witness spoke in Mi'kmaq]
I would like to honour and acknowledge the ancestral lands of the Algonquin peoples. We ask the Creator and the spirit of our ancestors to grant us wisdom and speak for the benefit of our peoples.
Managing reserve land can be very complicated and demanding. Working under the legal framework of the Indian Act or sectoral self-government land codes requires specialized knowledge and skills. Typically, a land manager is responsible for managing the lands, environment and natural resources. This can be very challenging and overwhelming for staff who do not have sufficient support and training.
In the 2017-18 fiscal year, NALMA, in partnership with Indigenous Services Canada, conducted 15 national engagement sessions involving 300 first nation representatives with respect to the reserve land and environment management program, RLEMP, and the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, FHRMIRA.
A common theme that surfaced in all the engagement sessions was the need for stable, multi-year funding to support core staff at appropriate salary levels equivalent with the public service of Canada. The need for professional development and capacity was another key area of consideration. Final reports of the engagement sessions can be found on the ISC website.
We find ourselves at an unprecedented time in Canadian history, where indigenous nations are being affirmed as governments in their own right and the nation-to-nation relationship between the Crown and indigenous nations is being actively cultivated. As part of this relationship-building process, it is imperative for the Canadian government to recognize and support the needs and to contribute to first nation success in reaching greater autonomy.
Thank you again for the invitation to speak.
Speaking only for my community, I am five hours north of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, so accessing educational institutes was a big factor in my having to leave my community to go out to get an education.
Also, I come from a family of 11 brothers and sisters, all of whom had to leave their reserve to go out to get an education, and most of them haven't come back because there are not enough jobs in the communities and there are just not enough resources within each first nation to retain a lot of the people who go out and get an education.
A lot of us would like to go back and serve our communities, right in our home communities, but because where I am in Prince Albert is a centralized location, and I have to be where the position is.
Also, with regard to the lack of resources available to a lot of reserve communities, a lot of them would succeed more if there were, for example, more university education courses or even trade schools within our communities. For example, Pelican Narrows is a community of over 3,000 people, but there is only high school there.
Sometimes we have programs that come in from time to time, but there's nothing solid, concrete, and nothing long-term like a two-year diploma program or a four-year college education. We all have to leave for that.
If you think maybe it's easy to leave, I would just ask if any one of you would go to one of our reserves for four years to go to school. The culture shock would be quite a bit different and stark.
I think it is very important that we expand education in all communities going forward. The more educated a population you have, the better it is for everybody.
I just want to throw this out there. I know that oftentimes dollars are a factor in educating people, but think about it this way. If you provide four years of university education to any one person, the Government of Canada gets back over 40 years of a tax-paying, productive member of society, so that's a good investment, not just in first nations but in all of Canada.
First of all, thank you.
I would like to begin by acknowledging, again, the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg people. I also want to thank the committee for the opportunity to participate in this study pertaining to community capacity development and the retention of talent in the delivery of essential services on reserve.
My name is Melanie Debassige and I'm from M’Chigeeng First Nation. I'm the executive director at the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation. The OFNTSC has been around for 25 years, and I am the first indigenous female they've hired in this 25-year period. The organization is very proud of that.
The OFNTSC welcomes the opportunity to contribute. We were mandated by the Ontario first nations' chiefs in assembly in 1992-93. We're the largest technical advisory services organization here in Ontario. We provide technical advisory services in the areas of capital project planning, development, quality assurance, training and operations, fire protection, architectural support services, housing inspections and the housing program. Our underlying objectives are fostering greater first nation autonomy and the acquisition of capital facilities and infrastructure and development. We also promote the development of modern community health and safety practices.
The OFNTSC envisions self-sufficient and sustainable first nations capacity to deliver self-reliant technical services for future generations. As we move forward, OFNTSC is building on our engagement capacity to work effectively with the indigenous communities we service and to advance reconciliations, informed and guided by the TRC calls to action.
OFNTSC is working with all staff to provide cultural support. One of the things we like to pride ourselves on is that we are a first nations organization but we cannot just be a first nations organization. We also have to bring those practices in and learn about our people at the same time from things that we've lost over the last 150 years.
OFNTSC will continue to rely on the advice and support of indigenous people to improve our hiring and retention strategies. We will better incorporate the advice and support of elders and seek to increase indigenous representation in our leadership and governance structures.
OFNTSC continually seeks ways to connect, receive feedback and exchange information with the indigenous people we work with. We are committed to trying new things and working closely with our people to innovate, adapt and adopt best practices. Ideally, we will be part of a made-in-Canada effort to design and demonstrate these best practices.
Our work with indigenous engagement is ongoing, and it's a long-term effort, but we are not there yet. We still strive and we will keep working hard to advance reconciliation with indigenous people within OFNTSC's mandate by investing in meaningful and enduring relationships with the people we work with.
Thank you again for hearing from OFNTSC today.
The field that I work in is very specific. We're looking for people with specific technical backgrounds. Most of the time we're looking for engineers or people who are in the water operator industry.
The difficultly we have is that there aren't a lot of internship or co-operative programs to foster indigenous students to go to school, and then also to support them while they're doing their hours working toward their P.Eng. A lot of them have young families to support, but at the same time they want to have a professional career. The people who go into these professional careers are going to go back into their communities. They're going to work. They're going to provide services. They're going to be building water treatment centres, building infrastructure—schools, roads. They're going to be providing oversight on all of those projects.
I feel that's one of the biggest challenges we have, the lack of continued support throughout that process. Through the funding that we get through Indigenous Services Canada, we do the best we can to spread that money so that we can support youth programs. At the same time, we have to take one piece from here so that we can deliver over here, and there is not a lot of wiggle room.
That's one of the largest challenges we have, to get people into those technical careers. Becoming an engineer is not an easy task. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work, and it takes the support of a community to do that.
Within OFNTSC, we provide a scholarship and bursaries to first nation students, but how far will $2,500 go? You can't stretch that dollar too far. I find that in the role I'm in right now, that's one of the biggest challenges.
We all know what the water crisis is here in Ontario. OFNTSC prides itself on removing boil water advisories. We removed one last week from Windigo First Nation. We do that work and we pride ourselves.... That's what we build the organization on, that we can deliver these services.
Again, we have people who are retiring, and we don't have people moving into those fields of work because they are very technically advanced. You have to have a specific skill set to do that work. You can't just put somebody into that kind of work, because it's not only scientific, but also technical.
Well, that's part of it, because if my first nation pools its funding for other things, then I am dealt a $2,000 annual budget from Indigenous Services Canada, and that is basically just enough to keep the heat on. That doesn't pay for salaries, travel to all the communities and what have you.
Yes, with regard to job security, a lot of it also has to do with the fact that, just as in white society, if you have mayors and councils, or if you have provincial elections or federal elections, they all have consequences. What happens when there is a new government in town? They wipe the slate clean, and that happens in a lot of our first nations communities as well. If you have somebody in that capacity who is from a different clan, for example, and then a new clan takes over, basically they're in charge of the whole first nation. They decide who gets the jobs, who gets the positions and what have you.
You know, I am only there at the pleasure of the chief and council, and if they don't like me for whatever reason, I could be gone after the next election, and with me the capacity. Indigenous Services Canada will fund a position only if there is a certified land manager in that position. If there isn't, it goes to heck in a handbasket.
I'll give you one example. Back home, in one of the first nations—I won't name it—my friend was employed as a professional certified land manager. A new chief and council came in and he was gone. He waited until the next election, when some other people were back in office, and he got his job back. In the meantime, they had lost several years of capacity-building and improvement and whatnot.
The more land managers are certified in each community, the better, even if they're not working specifically in that capacity, because a lot of times you need the resources to fund those positions. If the money is not there, you're looking at one member of staff. Some communities have six or seven, and I commend them. Most of us are all by our lonesome in the office.
[Witness spoke in Kwakwala]
I'm Jessie Hemphill. I'm from the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations, located on the north bend of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I'm coming to you today from Nanaimo, B.C., in Snuneymuxw territory, and I'm really happy to have been invited. I also want to acknowledge MP Blaney, whom I see at the side of the room there.
And yes, it is very early here.
I want to keep my comments brief this morning and make a couple of key points. I believe I've been invited to speak to the role of planning, particularly indigenous planning, in capacity-building and talent retention. The first key point I would make is that planning, in particular a style of planning called comprehensive community planning, which I'll describe in a moment, is key to capacity-building beyond economic development. We often think of economic development as the key initiative when it comes to capacity-building, but I'd argue that planning has its role as well, because if it's done properly, it builds capacity at all levels within indigenous communities—in leadership, administration and within the community itself.
I'll share a tiny bit of my background on this topic with you. I have been working in indigenous planning for more than a decade, beginning with my own community, Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations. I have since gone on to lead planning workshops and have worked with hundreds of communities across Canada. I've probably worked directly as a mentor planner with a couple of dozen first nations in Canada, from coast to coast to coast, on their community planning initiatives, and I've been the facilitator for indigenous planning workshops in many of the provinces and in both of the national comprehensive community planning workshops, one held in Charlottetown and one held in Winnipeg in previous years.
I am a trained planner, and last year I was also recognized at the Canadian Institute of Planners with the young planners award for Canada.
There hasn't been a large-scale study to date on the role of planning in capacity-building, so I'm speaking anecdotally and from personal experience, but I'd just like to convey that it's a pretty extensive personal experience in a field where there are not a lot of people working nationally.
In terms of comprehensive community planning, as I said, this is one of the keys to building up capacity and the structural integrity to do economic development and job training, education, health and all of these things. Comprehensive community planning is a form of planning that was named and developed by indigenous communities in British Columbia in the mid-2000s. It is a form of planning that is long-range. Typically, these plans are for 50 to 100 years, maybe 25 years on the short-term end, and they encompass everything.
You could almost compare it to official community planning for local government, but the scope is even broader than that. Typically, in CCPs we see economic development, lands and resources management, governance, health, culture, social issues, education, infrastructure, housing—all of these things are included in this type of planning.
Another key feature of CCPs is that they are developed by the community according to a process that the community itself determines. The previous speaker, Mr. Marshall Jr., I believe, spoke to challenges around the lack of continuity between the elected leadership. This form of planning, because it's long-range and is created by the community itself, has really done wonders in communities to address this challenge and help ensure some continuity of vision and action.
These plans do not necessarily resemble one another. Another one of the previous speakers, whose name I missed, was asking about best practices and the efficacy of nations building on each other's successes. The response was that our nations have such different needs and contexts that we need flexible solutions. In my opinion, planning, particularly when the community is allowed to define the parameters of the planning process and outcome on its own terms, enables that kind of flexibility.
I would also agree with the previous speaker that balancing that out with mentorship—networks or communities of practice at provincial and national levels—really helps to bring ideas together from various communities and to create those support networks, and it also allows each community to pursue the planning process in its own unique way.
That's just a tiny bit of background. Just for your information, there is a website called comprehensivecommunityplanning.org, if any members of the committee would like to read more about that style of planning.
I think that is the key point.
I wanted to leave most of the time for questions today. I'm happy to take any questions now, through the chair.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
I'm Roger Strasser, dean and CEO of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. It is my pleasure to share with you NOSM's experience in improving the recruitment and retention of health care professionals in rural, remote and indigenous communities.
With me today are Dr. Catherine Cervin, vice-dean, academic, and Dr. Sarita Verma, who will take over from me as the dean and CEO on July 1, so she's dean and CEO designate for the school.
I'm going to read the prepared remarks, but I also have some slides to show. The prepared remarks are not completely in sync with the slides, so I'm going to refer to the slides quickly as we go through.
Let me say that since its inception, NOSM has proudly defied traditional health professional education. The school was born of a grassroots movement. First of all, I have a slide to show you of Ontario's population distribution. As you can see, northern Ontario is geographically vast and very sparsely populated, with many indigenous communities, first nations and Métis communities.
Northern Ontario School of Medicine opened officially in 2005. It serves as the faculty of medicine at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and Laurentian University in Sudbury, 1,000 kilometres apart. We have a social accountability mandate, which is a commitment to be responsive to the health needs of the people and the communities of northern Ontario, with a focus on improving the health of the people of northern Ontario.
In sum, I would say that the Northern Ontario School of Medicine is an Ontario government strategy to address the health needs of northern Ontarians, improve access to quality care and contribute to the economic development of northern Ontario.
Essentially, the school was founded on this research evidence, that is, the three factors most strongly associated with going into rural practice after education and training. First is a rural upbringing: having grown up in a rural area. The second factor is positive clinical and educational experiences at the undergraduate level—that's the basic training—in the rural setting: learning in rural clinical settings and community settings. Then, after graduation, the third is the training that prepares the graduates to practise in the rural setting. That's really the evidence base for all activities of the school.
I'll go through the slides quickly.
First, distributed community-engaged learning is our distinctive model of medical education and health research, and this slide shows what it looks like, with over 90 sites in northern Ontario where our students, residents and other learners may undertake part of their clinical learning. Next is community engagement, the centrepiece—that is, the interdependent partnerships that we have with communities right across northern Ontario.
In relation to indigenous communities, we regularly hold what we call indigenous community partnership gatherings. We've had five of them. In the top left-hand corner of this slide you can see that “Follow Your Dreams” was held at Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation in June 2003, and in September 2018, so just recently, we were back at the same first nation for the number five, “Gathering Together for Life and Well-being”.
Also, the bottom left-hand side of that slide shows a series of gatherings that were held specifically with a focus on research, the first one in 2008 in Thunder Bay on partnership opportunities in research gathering, and then, in 2016, an indigenous health research gathering that led into the 2017 “Pathways to Well-being” workshop, which was really about involving indigenous youth and looking to a future that doesn't include suicide.
At NOSM, several measures are in place to support physician recruitment and retention. High school students are encouraged to see a future for themselves that might include a health career and studying medicine. The next slide shows that every year at Lakehead University and at Laurentian University we have a week-long health careers camp, which we now call “Camp Med”. Then, three times in first nations, we had the “Walking in Two Worlds” health science camps, specifically for first nations young people, with our own indigenous physician graduates as the keynote speakers in each of the three first nations.
We have also been working in Nunavut, and I'll say more about this shortly. We held a health careers camp in February of last year with federal government support, and we're planning another one in May of this year, which brings together high school students from the communities across Nunavut, similar to the camps in northern Ontario. It's really about making the connection between what they're learning in high school and health careers.
These are some pictures from the health careers camp in Nunavut in February of last year.
We also have a partnership with Matawa First Nations Management and Eabametoong First Nation, so we have a remote first nation residency stream in our family medicine residency program. We are also active in a partnership with other agencies in northern Ontario and have developed a physician resource action plan for northern Ontario.
We have this international dimension, which I'm going to dwell on momentarily. Before I do, this slide shows some of the outcomes from the school. These are quotes from our students. I think the one that's highlighted, “you don't know it until you live it”, really sums up the value of our program.
With regard to this slide on career directions that are chosen by our graduates from our MD program, it's 62% family medicine—mostly rural. That's almost double the national average for Canada for those going into family medicine. You can see that 12% of our graduates are indigenous physicians. When you look at the graduates from the MD program who did their residency in northern Ontario, 94% are practising in northern Ontario, including about a third in the small or remote rural communities.
On this slide, you see that recruiting and retaining health care professionals for rural, remote and indigenous communities is an ongoing challenge in many parts of the world. The school has garnered an international reputation for its success in improving northern Ontario's ability to recruit and retain health professionals.
Since 2011, we've been partnering with countries in the north of Europe for European Union-funded projects. The most recent one started in 2015. It's the Recruit and Retain 2: Making it Work project, which is putting into practice in different jurisdictions in the northern periphery and Arctic region what we learned from the first project. NOSM is part of this because of our success, expertise and experience in transforming the northern Ontario health care landscape. As I said, most recently we've been working in Nunavut, as well, with the Government of Nunavut Department of Health and others in Nunavut.
In January of this year, we had a big forum—multi-site, multi-country video forum—where we presented the framework for remote rural stability. That's what's on the screen. I'm going to speak quite a bit more about that now. It's the result of that seven-year partnership, and the lead partners are now Sweden, Scotland, Norway, Iceland and us, for Canada. It's about stakeholders getting together and drawing on the evidence and lived experience of what works, what's successful in recruiting and retaining health and other public sectors in remote rural communities.
Let me quickly take you through this framework. You'll see that there are three components, and each of them has three elements.
There's planning. It's really important to start by looking at the health needs of the population, and then design a service model that meets the needs of that population and is attractive to physicians and other health care providers. Then it's targeting where you're going to find those particular providers to recruit them. That's the planning.
Recruiting, then, is about sharing the information and active community participation, community engagement, supporting and recognizing that when you recruit a physician or other health workforce into a community, it's a whole family. The family has to feel at home and wanting to be in the community.
Retaining is equally important. It's a workplace that's supportive, with continuous professional development and training the next generation. That's the retaining part.
This is the very last slide. In the centre of that circle are the essentials for success, recognizing that remote, rural, indigenous communities are each unique. They have their own perspective. The service models that work best in those communities are designed in those communities, for those communities.
That means active community participation. That means real investment, real money and resources to actually make this happen, to make this work, as well as having an annual cycle of activities, not just doing it once but on a regular basis, and ensuring that you're continuing to monitor that.
In summary, you have to set your goals and your vision, keep your eyes on the prize and stick to it, because there are plenty of naysayers, plenty of doubters. What I've learned is to smile and nod to them, and then just get on and do what I was planning to do in the first place, challenge conventional wisdom.
In a very short way, I've told you about the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, about our success in the recruitment and retention of our health workforce in northern Ontario and supporting work in Nunavut, in partnership with international partners—
Good morning to each and every one of you, and to our colleagues with whom we're sharing the table. I'd like to recognize the traditional territory of the Algonquin.
My name is Delbert Wapass. I'm from Thunderchild First Nation, which is an independent band within the province of Saskatchewan. Our population is 2,850. We have a K-to-12 school. We don't get second- and third-level service funding. We have to find creative and innovative ways and partnerships, and go out and seek those positive relationships and find someone to partner with.
The challenge of the 21st century centres around skills. This is where, as a former chief of Thunderchild First Nation, as a former vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, and as a former chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, First Nations University of Canada, and the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre, I have come to realize that it all comes back to the community. When we look at what we can do in our community and how we can get it right, we see that we can't have success at the post-secondary level if we're not going to have success at the elementary and secondary levels.
We've always lacked capacity because we've never been given enough money. When you look at what we get versus what others get in terms of nominal roll dollars, the operations and maintenance of the school, the capacity and so on, we never get enough, yet we're always compared. We are 13 kilometres from Turtleford School in the town of Turtleford, and we're always compared by our membership: “Why is Turtleford able to do this or that, and you're not?” As a result, we lose students to Turtleford School.
When we looked at the dollars they get versus the dollars we get, we said, “Okay, fine. We know the issue. We know the story,” and so on and so forth. How can we turn that around and provide quality to start building the building blocks, our teachers, to suit the needs of our community? If we build a solid program, what helps us build that solid program? How do we come together to ensure that the program we're building is what our community believes in, so that they turn around and start sending their students to the school on our reserve, the Piyesiw Awasis School?
To my left here is Peter Istvanffy, and he represents the Calgary Academy. The Calgary Academy is a private school. We felt that we didn't want to partner up with the public school division or the Catholic school division in Saskatoon, and so on and so forth, because they're unionized. As a private school in Thunderchild, we are not able to get them to move in regard to our needs within our respective communities. However, the Calgary Academy, being what it is, was able to move together, and through research identify what is needed, where it's needed and so on and so forth.
We went through an extensive process to finally win over the Calgary Academy as a legitimate partner. It's not a franchise. We were accused: “You guys went and partnered up with a franchise that will come in....” No, it's not that, and you'll hear the story.
To my right is George Lafond. George Lafond has been instrumental in advising and helping us build the education system that we feel, at the end of the day, will be a model for other first nations to build on.
There's a lot of money going out, but we want to use it to help shape the system and ensure we're getting a big enough bang for the dollar. We don't get enough, but it doesn't mean we can't provide what we need in our community, to the best of our ability, on behalf of our students and our community.
Education: If you don't have it, you ain't getting jobs. We know the unemployment rates. We know the housing rates. We know the health rates in our community, and everything is geared towards prevention.
With that, Madam Chair, I'd like to turn things over to Peter, and then to George.
I have just a few things, to put it into context.
Calgary Academy is a private school, for sure. We deal with LD kids, learning-disabled students. Typically, in the community school system, about 14% of LD kids graduate from high school. Our claim to fame is that we have the enviable record of a 100% graduation rate and 88% of the kids going on to post-secondary, so we have a track record there.
The other side of it is that we have two other organizations. One is called Headwater Learning Solutions, which is the group that actually works with the Thunderchild First Nation. We have a foundation called the Calgary Academy Education and Research Foundation, which raises the money to do the work that we do so there's no dollar expenditure to the first nation, although Indigenous Services Canada is a partner in this. We're quite pleased that way.
Basically, the way this project came about was that we were approached by a group of Canadian philanthropists who were aware of the work we had done in inner city communities in the United States, where we had achieved extraordinary results, and some of the work we had done in developing nations. They asked us if we had ever done anything with first nations. We said no, that we'd never really been approached. They funded a two-year study, and we spent two years investigating first nations education in Canada.
Part of that two years was reviewing all the research and what the research said. Another part of the process was to go out and talk to people involved in first nations education across Canada. We started on the west coast, in Victoria, and we went across to the east coast into the Maritimes. We basically talked to chiefs, education directors, teachers, principals, etc. We were trying to get a good feel for what they saw as being the needs in the community. The final piece was to visit. I visited more than 100 different first nations communities to find out what they were actually doing. That's where Delbert and I, and George, came across each other.
One of the reasons for selecting the Thunderchild First Nation was having a chief and council unconditionally committed to excellence in first nations education. I could tell, having visited the school on more than one occasion, that the community embraced education. Although the results weren't there, there was certainly an enthusiasm for it.
The goal of the project is pretty straightforward. It's to develop an educational exemplar that's sustainable in the first nation's community—in Thunderchild, by Thunderchild First Nation—and the capacity, should they so choose or should other first nation communities be interested, to replicate it in other places.
We use the research-led, evidence-based approach to develop the capacity. Certainly, one of the key things is teacher retention. Our claim to fame at the Calgary Academy was having 90% of the original teachers who had started with us still there after 25 years. We've developed mechanisms for making this such an engaging and rewarding experience for teachers that they don't leave.
I could keep going on, but I'll just say that we're 18 months into it, and we've already seen some impressive results in terms of the growth in some of the key metrics.
The metrics we're looking at have three dimensions to them. The first one is educational: reading, writing and arithmetic, of course. The second one is teacher capacity to deal with the social, emotional and mental health issues of the students, and how we develop teacher capacity to do that. The third one is how we develop teacher capacity to deal with the cultural aspects of education.
That's where we are at this particular point in time.
George, go ahead.
Thank you very much, Peter.
Thank you very much, Delbert.
Good morning, Madam Chair and everybody.
Jessie, welcome to Ottawa. There's a lot of snow here.
I've been involved in public service for about 40 years. I came out of high school, went to university and became a high school teacher. I taught at Bedford Road Collegiate, in Saskatoon. One of my most recent assignments was to work with the University of Saskatchewan. I'm quite familiar with what the northern Ontario medical team is doing here.
All my life, my public service has been in the field of education in some way or another. When I was looking at issues in terms of how I would capstone my career, Delbert came to me and asked me if I could assist in his community because he was the chief on this education file. We were looking at ways to become more engaged in K to 12 and post-secondary. I thought this would be a capstone opportunity for me to get one project, because I was part of the national panel that went across Canada to take a look at first nations education.
We had Bill fail in the Harper government, where we would've had education out of the Indian Act and the opportunity for indigenous communities to have control over this. That failed, so I felt this was an opportunity for me to be part of a stand-alone band that had an opportunity to take on something very special and dear to all of us in the first nations community, which is the education of our children.
I had an opportunity to meet with Peter and his associates and saw that they wanted to have a true partnership where we had to work together. This agreement was signed. It's good to see our friend Don Rusnak, who is from Treaty No. 3 territory in Ontario, I believe. He came out and signed that partnership on behalf of the federal government. We're a year and a half into it. We have another year and a half.
What we're looking for.... You'll understand this if you understand how indigenous community schools are funded. We're not looking for funding per capita; we're looking for funding per success. We believe that in the next number of years we will show—and we will show you through your questions—that by doing it right and having the right capacity inside a school system we can have success.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
That's a good question.
Quickly, again, everything is based on nominal roll. We get audited: these students qualify and those students don't qualify. You shake your head. You scratch your head. You figure out, okay, why are these students not qualifying? Here's what you get, and here's what you don't get, and so on and so forth.
When it comes to teacher capacity, you're balancing your budget based on years of experience of your teachers. Once they get to a certain year of experience, you have no choice but to say, “See you later. As good as you are, we'd like to retain you, but our budget doesn't allow that.” So you're constantly disrupting your program, and as a result....
When we look at the investment the Calgary Academy makes within the program, where's that investment going when we don't have the money to retain these teachers beyond the training they just received from the Calgary Academy? We are finding out that in some instances, the teachers, not realizing it—and this happens in every other school—are teaching 15 minutes out of a 50-minute program. Why is that? Do they recognize that? We also understand that they are dealing with a lot of social issues, and so on and so forth.
When our kids are struggling with suicide and so on and so forth, we come back to the very basis, and a very big part of our program is “Who am I as a Thunderchild citizen?”, and understanding their customs, their traditions and their ceremony. This is where the Calgary Academy comes in.