By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An agreement originally signed in 2015 to improve educational services and outcomes for Indigenous people was re-signed on Friday, and leaders of this province’s major educational institutions and organizations pledged to continue to work to help Indigenous people succeed in all areas of Manitoba’s education system.
A ceremony held Friday morning at the RRC Polytech campus in downtown Winnipeg, saw representatives from Manitoba’s major universities and colleges join with Indigenous education leaders, political leaders, and Manitoba school board representatives to re-sign the Manitoba Collaborative Indigenous Education Blueprint (the Blueprint), and to recommit to the recommendations made in the Blueprint.
When it was first signed in 2015, the Blueprint was touted as an “official partnership agreeing to advance commitments informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action,” and it was intended to help support First Nations, Inuit and Metis residents navigate through all levels of the education system, through 10 key commitments.
In a Friday media release, officials involved with the Blueprint said there has been progress made in the years since it was signed.
“Since the initial signing, each partner has made considerable progress in fulfilling the Blueprint commitments through increasing access to services, programs and supports for Indigenous students, and bringing Indigenous knowledge, culture and approaches into curriculum and pedagogy,” the statement read.
Education officials say the Blueprint is also focused on educating Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and residents of Manitoba on the history of what the education system, and specifically the former **>residential<** school system and other systems put many Indigenous people and communities through for decades, and the intergenerational harms and ongoing traumas that some of those institutions have caused.
Officials say they are doing that by offering “more opportunities for everyone to understand the history of colonization, Treaties, Residential Schools, and the contemporary realities that Indigenous Peoples in Canada experience.”
While speaking during Friday’s ceremony, Charles Conchrane, the executive director of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, one of the signatories of the Blueprint on Friday, said although he has seen progress since 2015 in educational outcomes and services because of the Blueprint, he still believes far more can and should be done to move its recommendations forward.
“When we look at First Nations people as some of the fastest growing populations in this country, it’s very important that every child in our country and in our First Nations are given every opportunity, and I believe this is a very good vehicle for that,”
“But what we also have to keep in mind when we look back at some of the struggles our people have had in institutions such as this, is that we have to keep opening those doors for people.”
Conchrane added he believes the Blueprint is and will continue to be valuable because of the many institutions that it brings together to work towards the same goals.
“We are going to continue down that path, and it’s all about working together to get to where we want to go, and to what we want to achieve,” he said.
“It’s about bringing together all of these institutions for the betterment of our children.”
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.