Indigenous Education Protocol
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Background and Context

For First Nations, Metis, and Inuit families and communities, education has always been an integral part of the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. The knowledge and cultures of Indigenous peoples was often marginalized with the establishment of formal education. Historically, the right to education was recognized by Indigenous leaders and the Government of Canada. First Nations leaders signed treaties promising an equitable system of education providing the skills to participate fully in the economy. These treaties also ensured continuity for Indigenous knowledge, languages, cultures and traditions.

The 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recognized education as a treaty right:

The government of Canada recognize and fulfill its obligations to treaty nations by supporting a full range of education services including post-secondary education, for members of treaty nations where a promise of education appears in treaty texts, related documents or oral histories of the parties involved.

The Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples highlighted the need for the federal government to support lifelong learning and identified the barriers Indigenous learners face – and these still ring true today:

  • Too few programs are accessible in or near their often remote communities.
  • Courses lack relevance to their lives and circumstances.
  • Entry requirements are insensitive to their backgrounds and cultures.
  • Programs offer few of the personal supports they need, especially child care for adult women students.3

Since its 1972 inception, Colleges and Institutes Canada has made a priority of Indigenous people’s access to post-secondary education. It has promoted learner success, inclusion, and community development.

CICan has developed the Indigenous Education Protocol for Colleges and Institutes to support our members’ commitment to improving and better serving Indigenous education. Highlighting the exemplary practices of colleges and institutes and underscoring the importance of Indigenous people’s learning needs, while supporting the self-determination and socio-economic development of Indigenous communities, will achieve this. The spirit of the Protocol is to support colleges’ and institutes’ commitment to Indigenous education and provide a vision of how they can strive to improve and better serve Indigenous peoples.

Colleges and institutes meet the needs of Indigenous learners in different ways. Although the Protocol is a national document it needs to acknowledge community needs. Members of CICan will thus be invited to share the protocol with First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities that they have partnered with. They can do so by going to the institutional partnerships signature page.

The Indigenous Education Protocol was developed by the Indigenous Education Committee. It evolved through consultations held at the Serving Indigenous Learners and Communities Symposium in December 2013 at the CICan annual conferences in 2013-2014.

CICan has addressed Indigenous post-secondary education access through submissions to Parliamentary and Senate Committees and has showcased college / institute exemplary practices in serving Indigenous learners and communities through publications, national symposia and conferences. The Association also collaborates with national Indigenous organizations and the Indigenous Education Protocol will be instrumental in supporting joint positions to advocate to the federal government on the importance of increasing access to post-secondary education for Indigenous peoples.

1 For the purposes of this Protocol, the term “Indigenous” includes First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, the three distinct Indigenous peoples of Canada.”
2 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996b, vol. 3, pg. 689.
3 Highlights from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996. pg. 47.

Committee Members

The Colleges and Institutes Canada Indigenous Education Committee was established to provide leadership and guidance for the development of an Indigenous Education Protocol for Colleges and Institutes. The Committee has regional representation, as well as urban, rural, First Nations institutes and the Assembly of First Nations. The Committee includes Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Deans and Directors responsible for Indigenous programs, services and communications to provide different institutional perspectives.

  • Ken Tourand – Committee Chair, President, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology
  • Angela Acott-Smith, Associate Vice-President, Student Development, New Brunswick Community College
  • Karen Barnes, President, Yukon College
  • Paula Burns, President & CEO, Lethbridge College
  • Eric Corneau, Nunatta Campus Dean, Nunavut Arctic College
  • Kim Fraser-Saddleback, Vice-President Academics & Student Services, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies
  • Diane Gauvin, Dean, Social Science and Business Technologies, Dawson College
  • Carolyn Hepburn, Director, Native Education, Sault College
  • Wayne Poirier, Vice-President, Student Services, Mohawk College
  • Larry Rosia, President & CEO, SIAST
  • Brenda Small, Vice-President, Centre for Policy in Aboriginal Learning, Confederation College
  • Laureen Styles, Vice President, Academic, Justice Institute of British Columbia
  • Kory Wilson, Director, Aboriginal Education & Services, Vancouver Community College
  • Colleges and Institutes Canada liaison is Anna Toneguzzo; committee reports through Terry Anne Boyles, Vice-President, Public Policy and Canadian Partnerships