White: Conference opens door for dialogue, solutions

By Jerry White
October 03, 2012

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It’s an important first step – one of which I am quite proud to be a part.

Western’s Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium (International) has teamed up with Academica to organize a national Aboriginal Education Summit. As I said, this is an important step in a long road to improving the educational attainment of First Nation, Métis and Inuit  (FNMI) peoples of Canada.

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Running Oct. 4-5 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the summit brings together universities, colleges, school boards, think tanks and researchers. The working conference will host only 215 people to ensure the dialogue is concrete and produces results.

The conference is a hands-on working conference. The participants are coming because they have experience and expertise to share. We all have an understanding that educational attainment levels are too low for FNMI students.

That said, we are seeing improvement because so many people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal are working on issues. The conference will look at what is working and, therefore, spread those positive models.

Aboriginal high school completion is approximately 50 per cent of the rates seen in the non-Aboriginal population. Research indicates improving transitions from public school to high school, high school to postsecondary and on to employment is key to improving attainment.

The conference participants have been engaged with Indigenous students and communities, developing better strategies to aid in the transitions through high school to postsecondary and on to work. They will share this with the other participants and build networks across the country to make improvements.

Twenty presenters were chosen from more than 100 submissions. It was difficult to choose whose ideas to put in front of the delegates. The quality of proposals was excellent. In the end, we balanced regions of the country, levels in the education system (high school, college, university and employment) and Indigenous and non-Indigenous speakers.

Some of the key issues the conference will focus on include: parent and community  engagement; postsecondary bridging; education-to-employment transitions; First Nation, Métis and Inuit curriculum; and mentorship and role models.

We are very excited leaders from the Aboriginal organizations have supported this conference and will attend. Shawn A-in-chute Atleo, National Chief to the Assembly of First Nations, will deliver closing remarks and share his vision for supporting and enabling the success of every First Nation on the basis of their rights and responsibilities. Mary Simon, former National President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami - Canada's National Inuit Organization, will also present. We are also fortunate to have Gary Lipinski, president of the Metis Nation of Ontario, in attendance.

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Canada's 21st Prime Minister, will deliver the opening remarks at the Indigenous Education Summit.

Our Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium and Academica have two participant organizations – the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative and Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian, both of which will bring their understanding and knowledge.

This is proud moment for Western and shows how the university, through its partners, research initiatives and its programs and services, is seeking to make real improvements for FNMI learners in Canada.

 Jerry White, Faculty of Social Science associate dean, is the director of the Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium.























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