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Ontario government will allow Indigenous post-secondary institutions to independently grant post-secondary degrees and diplomas

Credit: JEN DOEDE

The Ontario government will allow Indigenous post-secondary institutions to independently grant post-secondary diplomas and degrees. This has been a long time coming for the community.


Christopher Walker | Interrobang | News | December 11th, 2017




After a long time of negotiations between the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium and the government of Ontario, the move to allow Indigenous post-secondary institutions to independently grant post-secondary degrees and diplomas is finally in motion.

If passed, this legislation would enable the Ontario government to recognize, in regulation, an Indigenous-controlled and governed Council to oversee the Indigenous Institutes sector in various respects, including approving quality-assured post-secondary credentials (diplomas, and degrees) offered by Indigenous Institutes.

In addition to this, the Ontario government is investing $56 million to expand Indigenous institutions, over the next three years.

“Over the next three years, our government is investing $56 million for Aboriginal Institutes to expand their capacity and strengthen their role as an important and unique pillar in Ontario’s post-secondary education system. This investment of $56 million will provide increased educational access and opportunity while providing certainty for Indigenous learners in Ontario,” Tanya Blazina, communications spokesperson for the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Deb Matthews, said in an email interview.

“With this additional investment, we will have quadrupled funding for Aboriginal Institutes since 2014- 2015,” Tanya said.

Rosie Mosquito, Chair of the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium, shared her story on how the new legislation became possible.

“The decision was made in response to our message to the Ontario government. As aboriginal institutes, it’s been difficult to operate on shoestring budgets,” Mosquito said in a phone interview.

“From year to year, we were always in precarious situations, so we couldn’t provide programs with guaranteed income certainty, because year-to-year we were operating on shoestring budgets,” Mosquito said.

“Going forward, we will be able to grow the educational level of our people, and in doing so, close the education gap, and enable our students to be able to meaningfully participate in community development,” Mosquito concluded.

Blazina shared her perspective of why this decision is being made as well.

“Working together with Indigenous partners and recognizing Indigenous Institutes as a part of the post-secondary education system is an important step on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Further, Ontario is home to the largest population of Indigenous people in Canada. The quality of life and participation of Indigenous people in all spheres of society, including the labour market, is essential to their well-being and to a healthy and prosperous Ontario. Education is key to achieving successful outcomes,” Blazina shared.

“The province is committed to ensuring that Indigenous students of all ages have access to the post-secondary education and training support they need to develop the skills required for success as individuals, as members of their communities, and as full participants in Ontario’s 21st century knowledge economy,” Blazina explained.

“Ontario values the role that Indigenous Institutes play in supporting Indigenous students in the post-secondary education and training landscape. They are important partners in attracting and retaining Indigenous students in post-secondary education and training for a variety of reasons, such as location, teaching styles and special services for their students. Indigenous Institutes need to have a more defined role in the postsecondary education and training sector. The legislation would help institutes support students by providing sustainable funding, independent credential-granting authority and recognition as an integral component of Ontario’s postsecondary education and training system,” Blazina continued.

“The legislation is ground-breaking in Canada,” Blazina concluded. Rosie Mosquito described how, through much effort and time, the new legislation was put into motion.

“All our work has been very strategic. Starting with the participation of the review of the Ontario post-secondary education system in 2004 by Bob Rae, we were able to advance our positions, and we were very pleased that our institutes were mentioned in the reports,” Mosquito said.

“Ten years later, we weren’t making much progress, and there wasn’t any response to [our] recommendations, so we hired Bob Rae to help us develop a position paper. [The position paper] talked about how we need secure, sustainable funding and recognition; recognition meaning that we’d have the ability to grant our own credentials, whether they are certificates, diplomas, or degrees,” Mosquito stated.

The new decision will benefit Indigenous students greatly, and provide much more opportunity for education amongst the Indigenous community. Not only that; the new decision will provide sustainable funding, and recognition as an important aspect of Ontario’s post-secondary education system.

Blazina has commented on the significant improvements the new decision will entail.

“The legislation would help institutes support students by providing sustainable funding, independent credential-granting authority and recognition as an integral component of Ontario’s post-secondary education and training system,” Blazina said.

“This legislation would create a framework for ongoing collaboration between the Government of Ontario and Indigenous Institutes as well as support a strong, independent Indigenous Institutes sector supported by an Indigenous-controlled and governed Council that among other functions, will quality assure credentials delivered by Indigenous Institutes,” Blazina said.

Other key elements of the proposed legislation include:

Affirming Ontario’s commitment to reconciliation and working with Indigenous Institutes in a spirit of co-creation.

Setting out a co-created definition of an Indigenous Institute.

Enabling the Minister to list in regulation individual Indigenous Institutes which would receive regular government funding.

Enabling the Minister to recognize in regulation an Indigenous-controlled and governed council to oversee the Indigenous Institutes sector in various respects, including approving quality-assured post-secondary credentials (certificates, diplomas, and degrees) offered by Indigenous Institutes, and making recommendations to the Minister regarding naming new Indigenous Institutes for the purposes of funding.

Setting out a pathway by which the Minister could make a regulation, with agreement of Council, to outline a framework by which Indigenous Institutes could be approved by the Council to describe themselves as universities.

Mosquito feels that the move will be “all positive” for Indigenous students and the Indigenous community as a whole. She commented on why she believes so.

[The decision] will be all positive. Our students coming to any of the nine institutes can come to our institutes knowing that, if they start a two-year program for instance, the second year will be offered. Up until [the new legislation], there was always such an incredible amount of uncertainty because of our yearto-year patchwork of funding opportunities that we pieced together,” Mosquito said.

“We weren’t getting any operational funding. The funding provides greater certainty, and if [we are] able to provide greater certainty, we are able to graduate more of our people. As we know, education is the key to success, and its well known that once you have a graduate, it actually benefits everyone, starting with their family, their workplace, and their community. [Students] can really become good citizens as they say,” Mosquito concluded.


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