Looking to the Future - Building on the Past: 1995 Education Equity Seminar
Compiled and Edited by Denise Kouri (1996)
SSTA Research Centre Report #96-01: 22 pages, $11
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The Education Equity Seminar

1995 marked the 10th year of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commissionís Education Equity Report for Saskatchewan. A seminar was held at Watrous on November 1-2, 1995 to look back at the past and to the future to determine new directions for Education Equity in Saskatchewan. This report was compiled and edited by Denise Kouri, Kouri Research, for the SSTA Research Centre as a summary of the presentations and discussions from the 1995 Education Equity Seminar held at Watrous. 

A Review of Ten Years of Education Equity in Saskatchewan
By A Former Commissioner
By A Former Director of Education
By the Executive Director of the SHRC
Are We Making Progress? What is your Criteria?
A Teacher Educator
A Director of Education
A School Administrator
A Teacher
A School Trustee
From the Talking Circles
Creating a New Path: New Systems and Relationships for Educational Governance
Diversity in the Classroom
Leadership for Community Development
What Teachers and In-School Administrators Said
What Trustees and Community Organizations Said
What Directors and Systems Personnel Said
  Back to: Education Equity

The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.

Education Equity Seminar

Each year the Education Equity Seminar is jointly sponsored to present a review of Saskatchewan school board education equity plans and as a forum for learning about strategies and approaches to enhancing equity in education. The seminar is open to all interested members of the education community and the public.

The 1995 Education Equity Seminar was a special session because 1995 marked the 10-year anniversary of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission issuing its 1985 report on education equity and initiating the current processes.

To mark the 10-year anniversary, the theme of the seminar was Looking to the Future - Building on the Past. Participants were asked to reflect on what had transpired over the decade, to assess and analyze the progress made, and to use this information in making plans and suggestions for the future. There were 95 participants at the seminar, representing the major stakeholders in education in Saskatchewan.

This report presents the highlights of the 1995 Education Equity Seminar. It is not intended as a complete report but rather to present the flavour and major themes that emerged from the presenters and discussions.

Education Equity Plans

Education equity plans are established within the framework of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. They are designed and implemented by Saskatchewan school divisions with the express purpose of improving the educational experience and achievement of students of Aboriginal ancestry. Plans typically include a series of initiatives such as encouraging the hiring and retention of Aboriginal teachers, increasing links with local Aboriginal communities, providing cross-cultural training for non-Aboriginal teachers, promoting increased curriculum content about Aboriginal peoples, and focusing on school and classroom strategies which might better address the needs of Aboriginal students.

In Saskatchewan, education equity plans are legally mandated in school divisions where the percentage of Aboriginal students is higher than 5%. Of the 114 school divisions in the provincial school system, there are 20 with equity plans. In past years, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission held an annual set of hearings to monitor the progress of the plans. Since 1993, the Commission has combined the annual monitoring with an annual seminar, designed as a learning event, organized jointly with the main agencies responsible for education in the province.

The Past to the Present

A Review of Ten Years of Education Equity in Saskatchewan

The opening panel was a retrospective by three persons who have played an instrumental role in education equity over the last decade: Ron Kruzeniski, Former Chief Commissioner of the SHRC, Terry Fortin, former Director of Education of the Prince Albert Catholic School Board, and Donalda Ford, current Executive Director of the SHRC. The panel was chaired by Donna Greschner, Chief Commissioner of the SHRC. The panelists were asked to speak from their experience of education equity in the last decade.

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Ron Kruzeniski

Ron Kruzeniski contributed significantly to the development of the SHRC's framework of education equity. He was the Chief Commissioner when the program was initiated and is now a school trustee with the Regina Separate School Board.

Ron began his remarks by stating that he was "pleased with what we were able to do - but more importantly, we should be thinking about tomorrow. We need to think about the future more than the past." The key question is have we made any progress?

He used the metaphor of a sports show to describe the SHRC's education equity initiative:


In the mid-eighties, the SHRC was concerned about the school drop-out rate of Aboriginal students - indications were that it was as high as 90%. The SHRC was involved in affirmative action in employment - the workforce participation of Aboriginals was low. International and national documents talked about entitlement to no discrimination on the basis of race and the right to equality.

Equality was an evolving concept. At first, it was viewed as equality of opportunity; "let all into the system, treat all the same, but don't care what happens". The new concept - equality of results - took into account previous discrimination.

In the education system, although equal opportunity is good, it won't achieve equality of results.

"If you are not educated, you won't share in power." How can we break that circle so everyone has opportunities all the way down the line? The entry point to breaking the cycle is the education system.

The Education Equity document included the Charter of Rights; it included statistics about the situation of Aboriginal students; it reported what people had said during the Commission's hearings; finally, the report included the Commission's recommendations.

The recommendations were intended to reduce the drop-out rate from the school system - they were directed at the curriculum as well as at the school environment. They recommended that the school environment become more friendly and inviting to Aboriginal students. Recommendations were also intended to produce more Aboriginal role models by increased recruiting and hiring of Aboriginal teachers.

Ron emphasized the importance of role models. He asked the audience, "When you walk into a room - have you ever been the only person like you? When Aboriginal students see Aboriginal teachers in the hallway, they say that person did it, I can do it too. I know this and feel this from my own experience as a blind lawyer."

The game begins:

The report was released in the fall of 1985. Its release coincided with school board elections in October 1985. The report therefore became an election issue. There was a need to respond, as some people were misrepresenting the report. The SHRC had to react to the report's response while not getting involved in elections. This gave the report more publicity and more impact.

Ron described the February 1986 North-South seminar, attended by all school trustees in the province. "About half the trustees there were opposed to the SHRC report. I went and spoke, knowing I would get a rough time, but there was a need to clarify. One person, a lawyer, was particularly concerned. 'If we are discriminating,' he said, 'take us to court.' He thought everything was unfair - he gave the other side. As time went on, boards started to take a look at the recommendations. The SHRC discovered that certain boards were prepared to take it on and received requests for approval of plans. In the September 1986 newsletter, the SHRC announced three divisions - Saskatoon Catholic, Wilkie, and Indian Head - were granted preliminary approval to proceed."

Post-game show:

"The post-game show is this conference, in which we analyze the last decade.

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Terry Fortin

Terry Fortin was director of the Prince Albert Catholic School Division until one year ago, when he became the director of the Edmonton Catholic School Board. He was key in the design and implementation of the Prince Albert School Board equity program.

Terry's remarks focused on what he learned through implementing the program:

Education equity & change

Terry used a quotation by Michael Fullan in which he points out the existing education system is designed for the status quo. Moral purpose is not sufficient to create change, change needs an engine - it needs change agents to form a critical mass.

Terry noted that those seeking to create change, including himself, will make personal errors. He provided some examples:

Terry described some of the steps they had taken on the way to increased understanding of the equity program: Terry emphasized that community schools are an asset, "They are a diamond in Saskatchewan."

He noted that there were equity problems for other designated groups - for example there are few disabled people hired in schools. "Yet as teachers who have worked with these same people as kids, we know better than most how gifted they are."

There is also discrimination against women.

Looking to the future

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Donalda Ford

Donalda presented some highlights of the SHRC annual report on equity plans, as prepared by the Commission based on reports from school divisions.

She reported that school division equity activities covered the range - there were no predominant ones.

Student support:

This included a set of activities that were intended to support Aboriginal students, to encourage them to stay in the system:

Tracking students:

Three different methods used by school divisions were described in the report. Donalda emphasized the need for statistics on student retention and drop-out.

Hiring Aboriginal teachers:

Varied activities included:

Donalda reported statistics to show the change in the number and proportion of Aboriginal students and teachers (see below).
                        1989            1995            Percent Change
                                                        1989 to 1995

Aboriginal teachers     170             229             34.7%

All teachers            4,070           4,108           0.9%

Percentage Aboriginal
        teachers        4.2%            5.6%    
Aboriginal students     12,419          14,171          14.1%

All students            74,780          74,677          -0.1%

Percentage Aboriginal
        students                16.6%           19.0%

Are We Making Progress? What is Your Criteria?

The second panel was a five-person panel composed of persons with key roles to play in the education system - a parent, a teacher, a system administrator, a principal and a teacher educator. The panel was chaired by Rita Bouvier of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation. These panelists addressed the question: Are we making progress - What is your criteria?

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Donna Scarfe

I am pleased to be part of this panel today; It has been my good fortune to have been an instructor in SUNTEP (Regina) since Fall, 1982

Our program was involved in several levels of discussion in the mid-80s as presentations were made to the SHRC, involving education incentives for Indian and Metis students. The processes set in motion by those hearings and subsequent recommendations were a little like a roller coaster ride.

Our program has not drawn its student population from an affluent segment of society or from a segment that has been well served by the education system. Many Aboriginal university students experienced hardship in the school system, as did their parents, and in some cases it has continued for their children. So it was with a great deal of excitement that the recommendations of the Commission were regarded. We were not aware that there would be many bumps along the way.

I have chosen to look at some of the recommendations and discuss them briefly:

Increased hiring of Aboriginal teachers:

In SUNTEP (Regina) we have had 80 graduates, more than 90% of them employed, most in schools as teachers, some administrators and consultants. Most of our graduates are employed in Saskatchewan.

One of the criteria for evaluation of equity hiring was numbers and percentages - we have some distance to go here, I think. Has any Board in the province reached its target of proportional hiring?

The teacher shortage predicted in the 80s has not yet taken place - hiring has become less likely in the city, and graduates are travelling farther to find employment.

Boards to recruit actively with TEPs:

Some Boards have recruited actively with our program, when there were vacancies to be filled, in particular the Public and Separate Boards in Regina. It has not always been possible to get interviews with some Boards, even when the applicant fit the position advertised.

Working with administrators and teacher associations to design and implement education equity programs:

These initiatives are extremely difficult in an environment of cutbacks, job insecurity and general low morale. It seems as though it is easier to support these initiatives when there is no personal cost. Hiring Aboriginal teachers when administrators/teachers/board members/ children/ nephews/ nieces are still employed really tests commitment to those principles.

Cross cultural training on a regular basis for employees of school divisions:

There are many such initiatives, evidence of strong commitment by individuals and groups. Every year we see evidence of increased understanding, reaching out to broaden experiences, integration of Aboriginal content in the curriculum. We are impressed and encouraged by the commitment shown by whole schools as well as individuals. But not a semester goes by that our students in placement and our grads don't experience incidents that serve to remind us how far we still have to go in this area.

Funding support for TEPs :

In SUNTEP (Regina) faculty size is the same as when program began in 1980 with one group of students and when faculty taught one or two classes. In Regina, we now deliver more than two and one half years of the program in our centre, supervise all our student placements, do our own academic counselling, and outdoor education modules with the same number of faculty. Although SETE and the education community have provided moral and practical support, especially in difficult times, our budget has not increased in spite of several program evaluations that call for increased financial support.

Financial support to Aboriginal students:

Financial support to Metis and Non Status students is very limited. When the SUNTEP program began, a bursary was provided to students, based on a means test. Now all Metis and Non Status students apply for and receive student loans as a way of financing their education. The effect of this has been a change in the demographics of our centre. More SUNTEP students are young, high school graduates who still live at home, and who work part time. Last year more than half of the students in SUNTEP (Regina) had part time jobs. The presence of these students is positive and they have much to contribute. But there has been a decline in what used to be the typical SUNTEP student - a mature student, often a single parent, with experience in community organizations, strong cultural and community connections and a solid commitment to educational change. That potential student is more likely to remain underemployed than to incur a debt of around $20,000 or more to get a degree.

To think about:

While many Aboriginal teachers have been hired, no school board has achieved its goal of proportional hiring. It remains true that having an education equity (affirmative action) hiring policy may not necessarily result in jobs, or even interviews for people of Aboriginal ancestry, even in divisions where there is a high proportion of Aboriginal students in the school.

Generally schools were very supportive of student teacher placements, right from the beginning.

We did not realize that the jump to hiring graduates was a big one, not necessarily related to being able to welcome students in placements. Graduates tend to face more barriers than student teachers.

It is ironic that when obvious change is taking place (e.g. affirmative action policies are being developed, design and implementation of education equity policies for a division), the stress on Aboriginal teachers and student teachers in that system and nearby ones, can be extremely high. They often catch the brunt of the earliest and most negative reactions. First year student teachers have been called to the principal's office on the first day of placement and asked point blank for their position on "hiring qualified teachers versus hiring people just because they're Aboriginal."

Being the only Aboriginal teacher on a school staff can be extremely stressful. In general, it's good to have two or more First Nations or Metis teachers on the same staff.

Having an education equity policy in a division does not necessarily mean that racist comments or incidents will be dealt with as such and not trivialized or explained away (as personality differences, stress, imagined, distorted, a mistaken perception, a bad day).

I have wondered how to arrive at criteria that would address the climate of a workplace, that could suggest ways to make school a safe, welcoming place for all teachers and students.

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Cam Gosjund

The five SHRC initiatives were wisely chosen. I will organize my remarks by commenting on them.

Providing cross-cultural training:

There is a cumulative effect to these efforts. It is time to involve new people in education equity committees. There should be a compulsory university course in Saskatchewan.

The training has been needs driven, as teachers have requested it. Much has been done.

Policies and procedures:

We have focused on the drop-in-drop-out problem - how to facilitate success. We now have more modules and competency based learning so students can get some credits.

With regard to school leavers, we try to ease the move out, and remove the negative impact. We facilitate re-entry.

Hiring Aboriginal teachers:

This area certainly needs continued attention. We should keep it in the spotlight. Definite gains have been made. However, as a caution, don't expect a profound impact.

We are not crusaders. It's enough to do a good job of a hard job.


Most new curriculums are resource based, therefore providing ample opportunity to include appropriate cultural content. Most new curricula have Aboriginal content and themes. Cree language and Native studies are growing. A great deal has happened in this area.

Increasing parent involvement:

This is the most important initiative. Research and experience have shown the positive effect of parental involvement. Issues of political control are part of this. Student success depends on consistency and continuity. Children need to be at school daily and in the same school. At times we feel like we're wrestling with a problem with one arm tied behind us. Education is a joint responsibility.


In closing - there has been a change - albeit not enough.

Despite these gains we still have a long way to go.

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Victor Fines

Lestock School has an enrolment of 250 students, 45% of whom are bussed in from neighbouring First Nations communities. The school has 3 Aboriginal teachers and 3 Aboriginal paraprofessionals.

The school has a breakfast program, a staff cultural committee and a thriving Native Studies Program. We use a Saulteaux language booklet developed from IMEAC and SETE. In future plans, we want to bring Elders into the school, start cultural dancing, increase the extra-curricular activities and encourage the community to come into the school.

We support the Integrated School-Linked Services and the concept of Community Schools, wishing only the program extended to rural areas. In fact, we want to be the first rural community school, as Lestock fulfils the criteria. We support alternative programs for students. We should remember that when we focus on students at risk, we need to heal them before we teach them.

When I was in school 23 years ago, there was no education equity committee, no TEPS. It was not always wise to admit you were Aboriginal.

I remember a lesson we had about the 1885 Resistance. We watched a movie in class in which Riel and Dumont were portrayed as drunken fools. The teacher didn't ask how many of us were Indian, Metis, etc. This negative experience made me decide to be a teacher - and do a better job. Things are much better today.

I offer my insights as a principal of Aboriginal ancestry. Before I took this job, I was told, "At least no-one can say you're racist." But it happened anyway. I was told by a First Nations parent that I was racist against First Nations children. I was also told by a non-Aboriginal parent that I am favouring Aboriginal children.

As principal one faces many difficult situations. For example, one teacher ripped down another's Thanksgiving poster because she thought it was racist.

We ask, how do we staff the school with Aboriginal teachers if the existing staff is stable and are doing a good job? There are also good reasons for Aboriginal teachers leaving.

We have found that our staff will go to many workshops, and cross-cultural training activities, but they do balk at some things. For example, home visits make some staff uncomfortable.

We need to have First Nations and Metis teachers hired at a faster rate. We also need more Aboriginal administrators - both male and female. Women and Elders feel bypassed in the traditional role of providing support.

When hiring First Nations and Metis teachers, we should make sure they are not getting the feeling that they are there to fill quotas. Also it's better not to hire them one at a time. And finally, it's important that they realize they will be challenged.

I believe we are moving ahead, but we should not become complacent. What I see is many people gathered here who care.

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Sheila Pocha

Many of my students do not speak Cree; many speak broken English, and there are lots of language combinations. It's important for us to remember that these children of the future are going to be looking after us when we are in old folks' homes.

I believe in alternate programs, such as at Princess Alexandria or Joe Duquette; but we need to move away from the term alternate, because these programs are so wonderful they should be part of the regular system. I also believe we should teach Core Curriculum through Aboriginal values rather than vice versa.

I tell my students about my background. My father didn't want us to speak Cree at home. He wanted us to assimilate. One thing I always remember about going to school every day is that crack in the sidewalk, because I felt so bad about going there.

In my class we have sharing circles in the morning. We talk about what it feels like... We do greetings in Cree, tell stories. We try to get kids to feel better about themselves.

At Pleasant Hill there are Elder programs, and counselling sessions with kids; some non-Aboriginal kids also participate.

I support the concept of Community Schools.

We need :

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Carol Lafond

In looking back over the past years of schooling for Indian children, there have been changes. I am a product of joint schooling as my children are. When I attended school, I learned much of the academic stuff we still need, like math and reading. But the social aspect, such as the values and beliefs of my background were not acknowledged. This began to change as time progressed. My children had the experience to learn some of the language their mooshum and kokum spoke. There was positive value put to it. They are also beginning to know more of the history of Canada as it relates to them. This is a big step. But, I caution those who are in positions of power - who decide what the children will learn - you cannot teach culture and values without the support of those who have these children outside the school.

As an example, I will relate to you an incident of what happened last year. A school newspaper came out with a student's opinion on Indians and their funding. It was a fairly negative perspective. The Indian students were enraged and so were some of the Indian parents. I asked my son why he felt it was not a good article. He told me because it was wrong, but could not pinpoint his perception. The school curriculum had not covered the issues in the article. I took this as a positive learning experience and went to the teacher in charge of the paper and asked her if Harry Lafond could speak on some of the issues raised. She was most co-operative. Harry and I spoke to the Division IV students explaining the history as it relates to us and to the Indian and non-Indian student. This is when I realized if we as Indian people want changes in local curriculum, who does it? Do we wait for somebody in Regina to do this for us? No, we do it ourselves. Change must be a partnership. I did not encounter any hurdles with the school division board or the director. The principal is also an important partner.

Recently some of the parents of the reserve felt their children were not being treated fairly. They met with the local Indian school committee and principal. The issue was addressed and the principal scheduled another meeting with the parents and brought out his staff! The response was positive. The parents came away from the meeting feeling they have a hand in the education of their children. That feeling is now at a point where the parents want to come in the school and volunteer. This is a big change. Our original school was closed four years ago, with bitterness on our part, so we are at a "new" school. There are positives happening.

I have to acknowledge the school's administration. The support for Indian curriculum and Indian participation rests with individuals. This would not have happened three years ago. When parents see efforts committed on their behalf, they take that as a sign of respect. When we have our Treaty Days, our students are not marked absent. The Native Studies teacher has used Harry and I as resource people. I remarked in passing, when asked if I could do a talk on self-government, that perhaps Chief Blaine Favel could address this issue. The administrator suggested such a talk should be for all Division IV students. With that one suggestion, he acknowledged and validated our political structure. We are not being treated as foreigners in our own country.

I believe the past failures of boards to respond to the challenges of educating Indian students has resulted in the growth of band-controlled schools. Amalgamation of school divisions provides us an opportunity to spell out what we want. We want the best for educating our children, and we want to have a hand in it.

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Creating a New Path

New Systems and Relationships for Educational Governance

This workshop session focused on current and possible future administrative and governance structures. Representatives of the provincial government, Status Indians, urban and rural boards of education explored issues that have arisen and may arise in the future around the topic of educational governance. There were four presentations followed by discussion of issues and topics raised in the presentations.

Cupar School Division and Muskowekwan First Nation - ;

Victor Janz & Wayne Dahlgren;

Victor: The Cupar student population is 60% Aboriginal. A few years ago, we wanted to work more closely with the Muskowekwan Band. We had to deal with the federal government through Indian Affairs, with the Band as facilitators. We first tried to set up a joint board, but couldn't because of legislation. We then looked at the purchase of Lestock School (by the band) but we then would have to go through all the Education Act's "school closure" procedures. Also, a referendum of local ratepayers said no to selling the school. If the school were closed, questions came up such as the whether the band would hire existing staff, who would pay redundancy costs for certain teachers, etc.

Changes to the Education Act now allows for joint boards. It makes no economic sense to have facilities like we have in Lestock that can accommodate a great number of students and then have another one just down the road.

Wayne: The division has now sent a letter to the band to reopen negotiations. The band school is opening to one additional grade each year, at the expense of Lestock School enrolment. We're waiting for a reply. We've taken that initiative. The key major issues are:

This should be a community school in all senses of the word, including such things as adult basic education. Why are local people taking adult basic education in poor facilities in Lestock? They could be in our school.

School to Work Initiative

Jeff Ahenakew & Audrey Roadhouse;

Jeff: There are four sites in this Division IV pilot: Regina Scott Collegiate; Meadow Lake, Waterhen Lake Reserve, and Buffalo River Dene School.

The program's purpose is to increase the number of students graduating, the numbers going into post-secondary education and the numbers going into the labour force. The program is doing so in a number of ways; it's very flexible. It takes the provincial curriculum and is adapting it to be more culturally relevant. It is exposing students to different environments and work places. There is job shadowing for Grade 9. Training modules are being developed and next year there will be work placements for Grade 10.

There are a number of different committees to manage and advise the project.

Audrey: The goal is to help students have a full Grade 12 and exposure to the workplace. The program fits nicely into the division's strategic plan.

The partners in the initiative are the FSIN, HRDC, Touchwood Hills, Regina Public School Division, SETE, CEIC and the MLTC.

The project began in May 1995. It has a site co-ordinator at Scott Collegiate. One thing that helped a lot was that the division had a good prior relationship with the FSIN, HRDC and others. A lot of excellent people got involved - Aboriginal people, industry, etc.

There were lots of open and frank discussions about how and why we do things. Everyone gave a little to make the final plan and the processes for this project. You have to let go a bit.

The FSIN Point of View

Kevin Tootoosis;

There are two key things happening in our communities: respect and empowerment. Our position is that we have the inherent right to govern ourselves and there is a fiduciary responsibility of the federal government.

There are two tracks: the band system and the provincial system.

There will be a symposium later this month to develop terms of reference and elect an executive for a new association of FSIN school authorities - kind of a parallel to the SSTA. The move is being driven by Aboriginal school board members. The main objective is to have consistency in our relationships - First Nation to First Nation and First Nation to school board. It's inconsistent across the province now and that's as much our fault as anybody's. This movement is part of the reawakening that's taking place today in our communities. I see one school where 20% of the enrolment is Aboriginal, where First Nations language is being cut. You have an obligation to provide programs and services appropriate to those being served. When you're looking for solutions to issues with First Nations, the process is as important as the product. Without involvement, there's no ownership.

We had our first administrators' short course this past summer. This development was driven by administrators. It's a sign of the empowerment of these people.

The upcoming formal political accord with the province is important. We're very happy with the process; to come to the table and resolve issues, not just on education, but on all issues. We're expecting it to be signed soon, to establish an ongoing process between us.

On-reserve matters are our jurisdiction. When you're out there in other provinces and working with the federal level, you really appreciate what we're doing here. Saskatchewan is acknowledged as a leader in First Nations education, and it's moving forward fast.

The SETE Point of View

Ken Horsman;

The governance question is part of a larger issue - the K-12 side of the department has Indian and Metis education as one of its priorities this year (for example in teacher education programs, curriculum initiatives, in-service and governance development).

I think we have made progress. We should celebrate the successes we've had. We've had phenomenal successes. We have to remember the school board resistance in 1985. We have had a big change in feelings over the 10 years since the introduction of Education Equity. We have managed to create interest in solution.

Donalda Ford said that in 1989 there were 170 Aboriginal teachers and by 1995 there were 230, and while that's a small percentage-point increase, it is an increase of 60 teachers over an initial 170 - a 35% increase.

But we're barely keeping even with the demand and the need. After 10 years, we're relatively just keeping at the same place. I believe we have had great success, but basically we have only not permitted the situation from getting worse.

I believe that it's important not to assign blame, but to build on a positive outlook. We have to be realistic in today's economy; we can no longer be building schools beside each other.

Equity does not mean equal treatment - there's only one objective here - and that's to have the children of our province do better; and clearly Aboriginal children are not and we don't just treat them equal, but treat them how they need to be treated in order to succeed.

If there's going to be a solution here, there's got to be a sharing of power. We in the education system are not going to improve the situation for Aboriginal children if we think we're going to do it for them. We have to get rid of the we-they outlook.

There are some alternative ways of governance that will help, and I'm very optimistic - but the situation is urgent. There is no one solution; we have to be open, to problem-solve.

There are two principles we in the department look at - we want to fundamentally support the public education system and support the principle of self-determination for Aboriginal people. So we have to see where those two principles are shared. There are going to be schools on reserves - that's Aboriginal people's decision.

Over the last 10-15 years there have been governance changes. Today what are the 4-5 options?

So there are a wide range of alternatives available. The sharing of power is important and we support it in the furtherance of public education and self-determination.

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Diversity in the Classroom;

Definition: Diversity is the variation and differences among people related to their cultural heritages, racial and ethnic identities, gender and class experiences and mental and physical abilities.

Diversity in the Classroom is a new series of teacher resources to support the diverse needs of Saskatchewan students. The series is being developed by the Saskatchewan Instructional Development and Research Unit (SIDRU) and the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit (SPDU). The workshop explored how the series will strive to promote equitable educational opportunities while celebrating and respecting all learners.

Ailsa Watkinson & Caroline Krentz

The Instructional Strategies series developed by SPDU and SIDRU was very successful. The series was linked to Core Curriculum. It was valuable and used, as confirmed by the evaluation done of it. However, the series did not meet all needs. Still to be addressed were teachers' issues around diversity and support systems to deal with diversity. Resources and networks were needed.

The process to create the new resources included a steering committee composed of teachers, and representatives of SETE, the STF, SIDRU and SPDU. The foundation document and series are centered in the belief that in order for students to develop a healthy sense of themselves on their journey to adulthood they need to be accepted for who they are. They need to feel that they belong and are important members of the school community. To do this, the educational environment emulates an environment that sincerely values all students of all cultural heritages, racial and ethnic identities, gender and class experiences and mental and physical abilities.

The traditional paradigm expected children to adapt or fit within the school environment. By contrast, the evolving paradigm asks teachers and all those involved in the education system to adapt their programs, instruction and the learning environment to accommodate the developmental levels and learning needs of all students of the classroom.

The shifting from a traditional paradigm to the inclusion of an evolving paradigm is fuelled by a new understanding of students:

Accepting diversity by adjusting educational practices is an ethical matter. Education is influenced by legal obligation found in statutes, constitutional documents and international covenants which ask educators to take diversity in the classroom seriously.

Reflective ingredients

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Leadership for Community Development

This session was intended to explore approaches to leadership for achieving equity in organizations. Inspector Darrel Madill shared the story of the RCMP Aboriginal Policing Project. Ron Jaimeson, Vice-President of Aboriginal Banking shared the story of changes within the Bank of Montreal in making links to the community. Participants were asked to make connections to education in Saskatchewan.


Darrel Madill;

The RCMP's historic relationship with Aboriginal people has not been positive. Yet the Force has worked hard during recent years to build a good relationship, to build trust. Although the RCMP is not under any requirement to have employment equity hiring practices, we feel that one cannot police a community that is not reflected in RCMP staff.

Aboriginals and women are under-represented in the RCMP but we are now actively recruiting them. Promotion is an issue - most minorities are currently at the bottom rung of the organization. However, the RCMP have recently promoted two Aboriginal officers to the rank of corporal in Saskatchewan.

One issue is that RCMP policy requires recruitment for national criteria. However, this means we can't respond to local needs. For example, French might be a requirement rather than Dene. On the other hand, there is a positive aspect to having to meet national standards. Our members want to be "national".

To resolve this issue, we have a special stream for those who don't meet the national standards right now. We partner up with young people, have a relationship with the FSIN and Tribal Councils, try to create positive interaction with the community, and recruit Aboriginal people. Our Aboriginal recruiter goes out to First Nations events and communities to promote the RCMP. She also assists people to meet the standards.

The recruitment program is based on hand picking candidates with cultural/language qualifications. The RCMP provides training to meet standards. Academic upgrading is provided as necessary.

The RCMP want to eliminate the stigma of special constable status. This person should be seen as equal to other officers. Initially special efforts were required to attract Aboriginal persons, but this was just a transition phase.

About the number of female recruits - it's up to each First Nation as much as possible - our ratio is now 35:65. We would like it to be more equal.


The RCMP summer program is an example of a success story. It has been in operation for 7 years. There are two streams of recruiting: direct entry and special cadet entry. The funding is through the government and the FSIN. The RCMP invited Aboriginal communities to name Grade 12 students for orientation, as a gateway to the RCMP training program. We achieved good success.

The RCMP has cross-cultural training for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members; we have sweats, for example and work with Elders. One Elder works out of our office for 20 hours per week.

Bank of Montreal

Ron Jamieson;

The Bank of Montreal is Canada's first chartered bank yet it has not reached out to Canada's Aboriginal people until recently. In 1989 there was a conscious effort to diversify as a sound business strategy. There are 1.2M Aboriginal people in Canada. There is a recognition of Aboriginal people in terms of growing population and financial influence.

The bank is linking hiring to the profit motive as students are future customers. There is value added for education - the public and private sectors both benefit by developing partnerships. It is a win-win relationship - and the customer benefits as well. The bank has also grown in understanding and sensitivity.


Interest-Alike Discussions

In the last part of the seminar, participants grouped themselves by interest and role: (1) teachers and in-school administrators; (2) trustees and community organizations; and (3) directors and systems staff.

Table of Contents

Teachers & In School Administrators

At future meetings like this we need: With respect to equity plans, we need: Table of Contents

Trustees & Community Organizations

Participants raised a number of issues, including: Table of Contents

Talking Circles cont'd: Are We Making Progress? Yes!!! But ...

If you go back to 1985 there has been some progress, if you go back to 1975 the progress has been phenomenal.

We are making progress. It's all relative as to how success is defined. As a Metis person, I am frustrated by how slow things are going. We have only scratched the surface in all areas. We shouldn't be complacent even though the Commission has been less confrontational. The hiring of Aboriginal teachers should be set as a high priority.

Education equity isn't working in our area. There is resentment in the community.

As a counsellor, I work with many single parents. They face poverty and racism. I go in with a student to have her baby; I go to court with them. Their problems are real. I just try to keep them in school, fight for funding, use talking circles, resolve problems with teachers, not to be afraid to speak. I talk to students a lot. The drop-out rate is still occurring. They are having children and need daycare. They are so young. They don't want to stay home; they still want their education.

I'm changing my attitude to go with equity. I've gone on the premise of hiring the best qualified person, but now I am thinking of changing.

I want to go back to my school and deliberately hire an Aboriginal person, but the staff already in place will probably be there for some time.

Kids seem to be more integrated (racially) until they become teenagers. Why? Kids start to have problems then.

There is a need for in-service for teachers about Aboriginal teaching. There is a role for Elders here. Elders are being brought in at Miller for students and teachers.

There is a lot being done at the grassroots level but changes are not evident in statistics.

Progress is too slow. Although there is some progress, there is still racism.

Bring into the curriculum the CORE of Aboriginal philosophy.

Help teachers and support them in their own spiritual growth. How do we address systemic racism? I agree you come from the heart but perhaps we need the facts and figures to get the ball rolling.

The environment has improved. There has been a drastic change compared to the experience I had in schools.

Communities and society have changed so much. First Nations are working toward self-government ... it is trying to measure a moving target. It is hard to measure. Land entitlement has changed the situation, the relationship and the environment

There are more questions than answers. I hope our relationship matures and it becomes more stable.

It's a start. What is clear is that we want the same thing. What is the best thing for the kids... We can't understand the norms, the way we think and the way we feel. The commission can help facilitate better understanding so we can communicate.

Positive , but also some rifts and cracks; the changes politically (land entitlements, etc.) have strained relationships. Positives: parental involvement, curriculum. We need to do something to address the cracks, the rifts.

Part of the problem regarding land entitlements is caused by lack of knowledge and information about treaties. The school/education system has a role to play - so we do not continue as in the past.

Education is key, history, treaties, how other people came from other lands to find a new way of life. I use a variety of methods, anti-racist, multi-cultural strategies.

It's important our children form the relationship at the beginning - from kindergarten with one another. Our separate systems concern me.

A strong foothold and sense of self is important. Perhaps it is necessary to be separate and then we may form a relationship when we finally meet.

The issue is often one of power - economic power.

Divisions should celebrate with the Aboriginal community; celebrate mutually; celebrate success and parent participation.

Yes, we are making progress, but not making fast progress. There are lots of attitude barriers, of parents, and staff.

Progress has been made, but there is a way to go yet.

I have been involved in Education Equity since day one. The first rural plan was in my division. We have made progress From none, we now have 4% of our staff as Aboriginal. We are beginning to see attitude changes.

I am encouraged by our (Aboriginal) vice-principal. He is a role model for everyone in the system. As more First Nations teachers are in the school, the "not qualified" argument will be shown not to be true. They add a whole new dimension to the school.

Speaking as a parent, I have seen significant growth in Education Equity at our school. My children are all Status. My son has spoken of Elders coming into the school and other positive role models. We still have a long way to go, but it's a small step in a long road.

There is pressure to go "back to basics."

Integration and separation: both strategies are likely in the future.

Unfortunately the province is not funding any more community schools.

If you want to see if people are walking the talk, watch their feet.

We are targeting positions for Aboriginal teachers. It seems to work better that way.

We encourage teachers to transfer to make a place for Aboriginal teachers.

Initially there were calls of reverse discrimination when the Education Equity plan began, but that doesn't happen anymore.

Perhaps a ten-year window is not long enough to determine success or failure of education equity, it should be viewed as a longer-term process.

I see it as a big step to have Aboriginal content in the curriculum. In the last 5 years, teachers have been exposed to more Aboriginal content.

A change has been made in rural Saskatchewan since the early days - progress in terms of awareness.

Over 10 years, our school grew in ways of recognizing other cultures. We brought parents in as speakers.

There is a broken front in terms of equity. The gap is widening between those on the leading edge of equity and those behind.

Community schools have helped to make changes. Indian Metis associates are role models. More curriculum is available now. Cross-cultural training is making an impact.

Band schools have taken students away from town schools. I would like to see more interaction between band and town schools.

A large workload is being placed on Aboriginal staff. There is a need for more staff (in all capacities) to share the workload - at least 2 in each school.

We have begun some things, but we still have a long way to go.

Racism goes both ways. Lack of respect goes both ways. We need bridging programs between First Nations schools and provincial levels.

The evolution the Commission has gone through could help in taking discussions such as these beyond equity meetings.

There is a need for discussion to go on in the community. There is a need for greater support from the community as a whole.

The feeling is better, more willingness to talk about issues, resources are there for curricula and cultural training.

Ten years ago, we had only one Aboriginal teacher. Now the school has 10. Equation Equity has made a major impact.

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