Yesterday in the House of Commons, Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk, Chair of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee (INAN) presented the report that the committee studied – community capacity building and retention of talent. I believed it was critically important that our committee, as an independent body from the Government, undertake a study to examine the barriers to education equality for First Nations youth in this country. A committee study is an opportunity to listen, learn and recommend meaningful solutions.
On November 28, 2017, I read the following motion into the record at the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. “That pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) the committee undertake a comprehensive study of indigenous education and graduation rights from secondary schools, that the scope of this study include standards for high school graduation, standard curricula, standard qualifications for educators and statistics for national graduation rights from reserved schools in comparison to indigenous student off-reserve, and also to non-indigenous students that the witness list include responsible indigenous services department officials, we need band councils, band members, the Statistic Canada officials, first nation organizations responsible for delivering education services such as the first nations education steering committee and community groups, and that the committee report its findings to the House within 12 months of the adoption of this motion.”
For decades, First Nations have been working towards achieving their visions of self-determination, notably by empowering their communities and institutions, and by rebuilding the governance structures that colonial policies attempted to break down and erase. On the path to restoring their autonomy, First Nations are faced with barriers to building capacity and retaining talents in their communities. Overcoming these barriers is key to moving toward self-determination.
In order to advise the federal government on how it can better support First Nations communities and find ways to address the barriers they face with respect to capacity building and talent retention, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs (the Committee) agreed in February 2018 to “undertake a comprehensive study of community capacity building and retention of talent in the delivery of essential services on reserve” and to report its findings to the House. From February to April 2019, the Committee held a total of nine public hearings and heard from 50 witnesses, including First Nations communities, organizations and tribal councils. The Committee sincerely thanks all the individuals and groups who took part in this study.
As has been the case in previous studies undertaken by the Committee, witnesses stressed the uniqueness of each First Nation and that a one-size-fits-all approach to capacity building will not work. Solutions must be community-driven and tailored to the unique needs of individual First Nations. As such, the Committee was told, in supporting capacity building and talent retention, federal programming should “remain flexible and responsive to the individual needs of First Nations. The federal government should not impose a single approach or federal capacity targets.”
This report summarizes the evidence gathered during this study. It should not, however, be construed as a comprehensive analysis of capacity building and talent retention in First Nations communities. This subject is an important one and a lot of work still needs to be done to address the barriers that impede the social, economic and political development of these communities. Limited by time, the Committee presents this summary of evidence in the hope that it will help guide future studies by parliamentary committees. Moreover, the Committee encourages anyone wanting to learn more about this subject to visit its Website and consult the complete transcripts of its public hearings.