June 20, 2019
The Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) says “enough is enough” in response to the Government of Yukon’s failing grade in educating First Nations students.
The Education Department’s poor performance is documented and criticized in a report by Canada’s Auditor General. Audit Principal Jo Ann Schwartz released the report, “Kindergarten Through Grade 12 Education in Yukon—Department of Education,” at a news conference Tuesday in Whitehorse.
The report only confirms what Yukon First Nations already know, say members of the CCOE.
“Yukon First Nations have waited a very long time to engage with the Government of Yukon in a meaningful way regarding the education of our children,” said CCOE Chair Bob Dickson, Chief of Kluane First Nation. “We know what First Nations students need to be successful and we have brought that to the table. Enough is enough; it’s time for a true partnership”.
“As Yukon First Nations, we have consistently proposed options and solutions,” said CCOE Co-chair Kristina Kane, Chief of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council. “However, despite many, many efforts on the part of Yukon First Nations our voice has not been included in actions to create systemic change. It is time to work collaboratively to implement tangible actions with built-in mechanisms for measuring success.”
“We are in this critical situation as a result of lack of accountability on the part of the Yukon Territorial Government to First Nations,” said Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph. “For too long our children have not been receiving an equitable education as other students in the Yukon. Equity does not mean equal, it means accessing opportunities tailored to support learners to be successful.”
“I am deeply concerned that without immediate action, including accountabilities, Yukon First Nations learners, cultures and languages will be lost,” said Na-cho Nyäk Dun First Nation Chief Simon Mervyn.
“The Department has responsibilities and commitments to provide education programs that reflect Yukon First Nations culture and languages,” the report states. “Despite this, we found that the Department did not do enough to create a partnership with Yukon First Nations that would allow it to fully develop and deliver such programs. We also found that the Department did not provide enough direction, oversight, and support to help schools deliver culturally inclusive programming.”
The report states repeatedly the Education department’s lack of oversight into its own programs and policies, such as its “school growth plans” which are intended to help individual students by “involving parents, students, teachers and First Nations.”
There appears to have been no effort made in the last 10 years to investigate the underlying causes of long-standing gaps in student outcomes between First Nations and non-First Nations students, it states. In fact, the Education department did not track whether learning assessments were from rural or First Nations students so “it could not analyze the demographics.”
The Government of Yukon, which had access to the report and was able to craft a response before Tuesday’s public release, said it agrees with the Auditor General’s criticisms and has plans to address them. The CCOE says it’s ready to collaborate now, as there is a lot of work to do before schools resume in August.
The Auditor General’s report can be found here:
Chiefs Committee on Education
The Chief’s Committee on Education (CCOE) was established in 2018 by the Council of Yukon First Nations’ Leadership, which resolved to take charge of First Nations education directly and cooperatively with the Governments of Yukon and Canada.