First off, thank you very much for the opportunity not only to speak to the standing committee, but also to share and engage in the process of reconciliation, and to get that clarity and understanding from both sides. We from Sandy Bay thank you very much for the opportunity to allow us to be part of this unique discussion, but also to share exactly what Sandy Bay is encountering and how the decisions from today can make a difference not only for our community, but for many other first nations communities across Canada.
I'll give a briefing on capacity in terms of what Sandy Bay has gone through. The realm of capacity is consistently evolving, and it has a set of skills to achieve not only employment, but also growth along the evolution of any person or any first nations child.
Sandy Bay has been successful in achieving the means of capacity development throughout its existence. This is directly attributed to the growing population and the demand for specialized services.
A prime example of a successful community capacity-building model would be the Sandy Bay First Nation implementation in the 1970s. The chief at the time, the late Howard Starr, clearly reiterated to the community that it was time to move in a different direction in order to train our own people to teach our own people. A lot of this was really directed at the education realm.
From there on, into the 1990s, Sandy Bay First Nation was able to train quite a few of our own local members to not only become certified teachers, but also to assist with the development of our children, taking a unique cultural approach, having a sui generis nature. These individuals graduated with degrees in education, and took a first nations approach. More people followed in the path in the following years, and today the majority of teachers in the school are first nations community members.
The barriers of the current capacity models within Sandy Bay have been met with many desired outcomes, and many not. One thing remains: the ability to overcome the funding parameters on specific or engaged projects that reflect continued service that is guaranteed. This has been a focal point in the intended area of capacity-building of Sandy Bay.
The Sandy Bay ASETS program has served the community in the areas of capacity development from the late 1980s to the current time. To date the program, known previously as the AHRD initiative, has been semi-successful in achieving its goals in many areas and designed targets. These targets have been community-driven and -centred.
The following training programs have been offered to the community, some in conjunction with the province, Service Canada, education and other program departments, and with ISC. I'll just name a few: the “Mature 12” program and the partnership that we have with many other organizations such as ACC, and so forth; the community access program, which is IT; the summer youth employment strategy; and special education, SETA, with manpower and providing that training so that they begin to step into the realm of education.
A good key focus within the program specifically has been in the areas of trades and apprenticeship, journeyman plumbing, electrical and carpentry; nurse practitioners; home care; certified heavy equipment operators; class 1 licence training; tower assembly training; and meat cutting and processing plant training.
Once again, I thank Ms. Mihychuk for her collaboration in making that program become not only a reality, but a successful project that we've been going about throughout the years. We are on our seventh cohort, starting next week, so thank you very much for that opportunity.
As well, just to name a few of the projects that we have done through the ASETS program, there are various first aid courses; work hazard informational sessions and systems; driver safety; partnering with medical transportation through health; safety and skills; survival skills, partnering with education; and gun safety.
There are benefits to training our own people; however, the reality is that many first nations have limited employment opportunities, especially for people who have successfully completed the programs. It does speak to a larger issue in many of our first nations communities, as they have to go off reserve.
As a result of these projects, there has been a complement of services that include non-negotiated contribution agreements and self-imposed policies. These imposed guidelines restrict a true community-driven approach to a needs-based model. Regional administration and non-negotiated areas of service delivery are also restricted. Secondary services are a good prime example of the flow-through mechanisms from government to secondary service level providers.
It's understood that those secondary supports require specialized professionals in attaining assessment tools and getting a more centred approach, from identifying the developmental stages of a child to understanding the learning parameters of any individual, whether they be a visual, auditory or tactile learner.
One of the things we had noticed at Sandy Bay was that the flow-through mechanisms, such as FPDI, AMC, SCO and MKO—and no rudeness intended to those organizations—impede a true grassroots impact from the funds that are provided from the federal or the provincial side, and they don't speak to the true intent of a community needs-based model.
When considering community capacity development, we are consistently met with barriers: underfunded agreements; agreements that are usually signed under duress without any means of negotiation; agreements that are awarded to tribal councils without considering the needs of the individual; and the authorities, due to the inability of ISC to meet the needs of the funding in question.
In Sandy Bay's case, it was centred directly on the set contributions, whereas there was no means of negotiating for additional funding set out on the actual needs versus perceived needs of any first nation by its funders, but more so, the fact that any community matter under a subagreement will meet failure.
This is a direct result of the non-community-driven initiative, but also indicates non-funded community-based program costs as dictated by funders and many non-consulted regions, which is usually the case, once again alluding to the fact that the funding models that come down to secondary service providers don't hit the targets.
In closing, I pointed, to a degree, on what specifics to identify during a process of self-sufficiency and through general understanding of parameters that are set in place to govern the areas of service delivery, based on the perceived model of development. It contradicts itself, as no need is more in demand than another. It is rather a priority based on urgency.
Whether we are a politician, an advocate or a service provider, one thing remains, and it is how the decisions from today will improve the access to many needed services and programming that truly reflect a first nations or community-driven model. To ensure progress within the community, it is important to note that there is a clear and concise method of gauging the desired outcomes and processes on community-driven programming, as well as transferable skills to meet the needs of each successful participant. These types of programs and initiatives should be fully funded and specific to community demographics and location. The reason I express this is that unfunded areas don't reflect the needs of Sandy Bay and other first nations communities.
With that opening statement, I say thank you.
I'm not too sure how much time we have left. I would like to have Virginia make a few other statements.
I'll just add to the chief's comments in relation to the barriers. The funding normally flows to the secondary organization rather than straight to the community, and this decreases the chances of our people within our community to access that training.
For example, another organization that receives money through the education system on behalf of our community is the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. They train their people to come and provide the services at the community level, which we feel is the opposite of what we'd like to see. We would like to see our people being trained. That would help with retention within the community because people would live there.
It would also help with the economy within the community because these people live there. It's not somebody else coming from the outside who doesn't understand what our culture is within our community and may not be able to speak our language. I'm proud to say that probably 80% of our community members are strong speakers of our language. Eventually we want to see in our education system that nursery to grade 12 is taught in our language. We feel that's very important in our identity as first nations people.
I think it's really important to note that there are a lot of services we're not receiving at the community level that would help with the education of our people. They are programs such as the maternal child health program, which benefits the parent and the child in that early learning, as well as the aboriginal head start program. We do not have that in our community and that would help to support children in their early years, so that they do have a better start to their education system as they grow older, and hopefully we would see higher numbers of grade 12 graduates.
I also think it's really important to note that we would like to see these relationships with the post-secondary educational organizations coming to our community to deliver the education that's required with the new health transformation call-out. We are one of the communities that are looking at developing a health model within our community based on geographic population. That's never happened before. We have one of the largest communities in Manitoba, yet provincially we are not identified as a huge geographic population where other services are provided to other non-first nations populations. We want to see that come to a more even scale.
Yes, I could add to that.
As has been clearly reiterated, there are specialized services that we require, and they're not being met. I'd like to put in a personal experience.
My daughter has not received the assessment tools that are required for her or the school in order to understand exactly what her learning disabilities are. She is now 16 and is going into grade 7. She was basically passed on and put into the next grade without the actual assessment tools, which hindered her ability to comprehend some of the information, but also, not only that, her hearing disabilities were not recognized until recently, when I got an assessment done on her.
There were a lot of things that we failed to do, not only as parents but also as educators. It really broke the spirit down in me to be saying that I should have been more proactive in the issue of advocacy, but also, the tools and the funds that go to another program hinder us in identifying what learning disabilities our kids have. She is one of many.
It's great that you brought up that question, because we need to ensure this if we're going to give the best quality of education. We require these tools, and we require this specialized training even if we have to train our own to do it.