Interest growing in IAESC potential

Community and leadership interest is growing over the potential for expansion of post-secondary education and skills training through the Indigenous Institutes Act.

In early May, presentations and discussions involving Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council (IAESC) have focused on the benefits of the quality assurance process for programs delivered by Indigenous communities in Ontario.

Nipissing First Nation (NFN) Deputy Chief Muriel Sawyer invited Laurie Robinson, IAESC’s Chair and Executive Director, to speak to the NFN Education Committee May 6, 2019.

“We highlight the opportunities this Act presents by recognizing ownership of Indigenous education, it recognizes local community control of skills training and post-secondary education and how the Council can support it on the ground, through the legislation,” Robinson said about what community members want to know.

“When Indigenous Institutes are ready to apply for quality assurance, we are ready to support,” she said, with several Institutes already going through the process.

IAESC was created to implement the direction Indigenous communities wanted for their Institutes and students by setting standards shaped by Indigenous world views, cultures and languages.

The Indigenous-led Council has reached numerous milestones, while steering the federally-incorporated Not-for-Profit through its first 12 months.

IAESC was also invited to the Anishinabek Education Institute (AEI)’s meeting at Mnjikaning First Nation on May 15. Joining the AEI for the meeting were several Anishinabek Nation leaders, including Southwest Regional Deputy Grand Chief Joe Miskokomon and Southeast Regional Deputy Grand Chief James Marsden.

Laurie Robinson of Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council addresses table of elders

Laurie Robinson, IAESC’s Chair and Executive Director (right) meets with Nipissing First Nation Education Committee May 6, 2019.

Before leaving Toronto for the AEI gathering, Robinson highlighted IAESC’s potential through the Act directly with provincial government decision-makers at Queen’s Park. Hearing about how Indigenous graduates can benefit economies across Ontario was Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Tibollo and Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli. MPP David Piccini, Parliamentary Assistant to Minister Fullerton, made the introductions at the Legislature.

“I’d like to welcome to Queen’s Park Laurie Robinson, Chair and Executive Director of the Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council. It was an honour to join you on September 26 for the launch of the quality assurance framework. Thank you for the work you’re doing to build a brighter future for students, graduates and employers in our Indigenous communities.”

Another community visit on the schedule is the Seven Generations Educational Institute’s June graduation in Kenora, Ontario, with 110 students celebrating their achievements.

Some of the graduates will include students who attended the “Our Community, Our Choice” conference in Toronto February 6-7. More than two dozen students represented seven of the nine Indigenous Institutes recognized in Ontario legislation.

Input was given by students at the conference about how they see Indigenous education moving forward. Curtis Fox, of Wikwemikong, studying business at Kenjgewin Teg, appreciates the benefits of learning within an Indigenous setting.

“I just feel that’s really important for anybody who is struggling, trying to move forward in their life, that they see there is a place for them,” Fox said, describing how you can feel and see the “vibrant community within” such schools compared to the isolation students may experience in non-Indigenous settings.

Laurie Robinson with Doug Ford and Craig Redford

From left, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, IAESC Executive Director and Chair, Laurie Robinson, and Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford at Queen’s Park May 15, 2019.

Laurie Robsinson with Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council team and Anishinabek Educational Institute officials

IAESC was invited to the Anishinabek Nation Chief’s Committee on Education meeting at Mnjikaning First Nation on May 15, 2019.