Evidence of meeting #12 for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was education.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Udloriak Hanson  Special Advisor to the President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
  • Jim Moore  Executive Director, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
  • Elizabeth Ford  Director, Department of Health and Environment, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
  • Betty Ann Lavallée  National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
  • Dwight Dorey  National Vice-Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

11:35 a.m.

Special Advisor to the President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Udloriak Hanson

Yes, please.

The food mail program, Nutrition North, is obviously a very important program that helps alleviate a much bigger concern of ours at ITK, and that's food insecurity. As I mentioned in my presentation, it's a real concern. Of our children, 70% live in food insecure homes in Nunavut alone. Again this could be replicated in other regions. Unfortunately, we haven't got the stats for each region, but there isn't much difference.

In terms of food insecurity, I think it would be really beneficial to look at what the contributing factors are. Why is it that so many of our children and our families are going hungry? We can't attribute it all to one program, Nutrition North or food mail for that matter, so we should look at it and take a bigger approach to what is actually causing these food insecure problems.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Ms. Hansen.

Mr. Boughen, for seven minutes.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thank you, Chair.

Let me take a minute to welcome the committee to our meeting, and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule, I'm sure, to be with us.

I have a couple of questions around the educational part of the northern program. I noticed, Ms. Hanson, you had education as the top one in the list of three. So maybe we'll start with what you see as the next steps in the Inuit education strategy. Does the ITK have any thoughts on how to ensure that, given the jurisdictional differences we have, it will be fully supported by the province and the territories?

Just to expand on that a little, as you know, each province has its own K to 12 curriculum--not necessarily the same curriculum. You're working with youngsters in your regions who are in the K to 12 program. What work has been done? I guess we're asking in terms of interfacing between your programs and the programs across Canada, so that youngsters can move in kind of a seamless direction from one to the other.

Then maybe we could talk a little about post-secondary afterwards.

11:35 a.m.

Special Advisor to the President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Udloriak Hanson

Thank you very much for your question.

Education is most definitely a priority of ITK, and this strategy was released on the Hill in June of this year. Mary released it, and I think a number of you were actually at that release.

It's a national strategy, meaning that each Inuit region has come together at the committee level to determine what they would like to see in education in our regions. It was very groundbreaking to have a national strategy that goes across all four jurisdictions. There are not only the jurisdictions, but we also have in a couple of our regions Inuit regional school boards that also have jurisdictional issues in terms of education.

The committee has determined there are 10 recommendations that could easily be implemented if only we had the resources to do so. As complicated as it sounds to have four jurisdictions and four Inuit land claims organizations, and youth and women and everybody else at the table to determine what an education system should look like and how it should be implemented.... The committee has cut across all those borders to say that we need an Inuit-centred curriculum that values and respects our language, our culture, and our values. That's number one.

How are we going to get there? The 10 recommendations actually explain it quite well in terms of increasing graduates, but it goes right back down to early childhood education. There are three priorities that each of the regions have determined unanimously. The first one is early childhood education. How can we bring it into the entire system? How can we link it to kindergarten, to the primary regions? Enough research has been done in the south to indicate that unless these children have a healthy start right from early childhood education, then they're not going to succeed at the primary levels. They're not going to succeed at the secondary levels, let alone at our university levels. Only 25% of our Inuit graduate from high school. That's one priority.

The second priority is parental engagement and mobilization. We've all heard about the effects residential schools have had on our Inuit and on aboriginal peoples, and this is playing out today in terms of how our parents may not be valuing the education system. They might not respect the education system because perhaps it wasn't good to them as students. To this day, we're sending our kids to school to learn from a curriculum that's based out of the southern regions. Alberta is where Nunavut gets its curriculum from. It was adopted from Alberta. I was learning about all kinds of different trees, and I was thinking as a child, why am I learning about trees? We have to have a curriculum, a system, that parents value. That's our second priority, engaging our parents, having them learn with their children. A lot of our parents don't have the literacy levels that are required to help their kids with school and homework. As parents, we all know how important that is.

The third priority is research and monitoring. There are so many gaps in research in terms of what best practices are taking place in our Inuit regions now. Why are our children dropping out before grade 9 even? We can only say this based on observation because we don't have the research to back it up. Why is it that our children are not going past grade 9 or grade 10? What can we do in each of the regions in order to share some of the curriculum that our own Inuit teachers are developing in the classrooms themselves? How can we increase the number of Inuit teachers in our school systems?

Those are the three national priorities.

When you ask how we can move forward, the number one step is to develop a national centre for Inuit education. How are we going to implement the strategy that spans right across the country? It's a huge feat. But ITK has a plan, which is to house a national centre within ITK and to have a national project coordinator and a national project manager to oversee the implementation. The actual work is going to get done in the regions, but we need to have somebody to oversee it and to coordinate it at the national level.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Okay, good.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

You have a few seconds left, if you'd like to use them for a short question and answer.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

We won't get in a second question, but on question number one, how do you see the post-secondary and trades training programs working for the betterment of people in the north? Are you familiar with some of the programs that are in place there, and how do you see them working in conjunction with programs of similar content that are offered in the southern part of Canada?

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Unfortunately, Mr. Boughen has left you no time to answer, but I'll give you some time. He's eating into other people's question times.

11:40 a.m.

Special Advisor to the President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Udloriak Hanson

I'll make it very quick.

One of the recommendations in the strategy, in the long term, is to eventually build a university in the north. We have colleges right across the north that Inuit have access to and we also have a new school in Nunavut in trades training. But there's also an opportunity under devolution agreements to develop a strategy specific to mining so that our Inuit can take advantage of that. Looking at it from a long-term perspective, it's how we can train our Inuit to take advantage of these jobs in trades and management and what have you.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

Mr. Chisholm for five minutes, but if you'd like to share that time, that's fine.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

I will share that time with Ms. Hughes.

Thank you very much for the presentation, Ms. Hanson. I'm an MP from Nova Scotia. I was very interested in your presentation, and I look forward to reviewing your report.

You indicated early on that we were in the business of giving hope. I would suggest to you that it's hearing presentations from groups like yours and seeing the work that you're doing that gives us hope.

The issues that you need to deal with in terms of the consequences of social distress are huge, and I know my colleagues will want to pursue this further. I only want to say that I spent a few days last week with a gentleman who was in the north doing a documentary on the narwhal. It was interesting listening to him, because what struck him was talking with the elders, talking with hunters, talking with folks involved in the traditional way of life and how that was so drastically changing because of climate change and because the territory in which they travelled has changed so drastically over the past decade. That surely gets to that whole question of social distress.

I wonder if you could comment on what a huge challenge that is for you and your people.

11:45 a.m.

Special Advisor to the President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Udloriak Hanson

Thank you.

Yes, it is definitely a huge challenge in many different aspects. Our elders are finding it very difficult to hand down knowledge when it seems to be changing every day in terms of how and when to continue traditional hunts. “Traditional hunt” isn't even the correct term because contemporary, modern-day...every day is a hunting day in our Arctic regions, our Inuit regions. But in terms of knowledge about how to do it safely, effectively, sustainably, that sort of knowledge is becoming a little harder to pass down.

I'll speak to it, though, at a national level and say that we have made a couple of requests to the federal government. One, in particular, is that there be an adaptation fund for our communities. There's all sorts of talk about what happens to the shed or the cabin in Bangladesh and what have you, but our own communities need adaptation funds. We might be in a developed country, but there aren't any funds going to our small communities for adaptation. So that's one of the pleas we have made.

The other thing I'd like to note is that we have a national Inuit climate change committee, and this committee is really at the mercy of federal funding, unfortunately. It came together, and unfortunately the funding was cut, but it now has funding again this year. The consistency isn't there, but we do appreciate the fact that we do have funding this year, to try to get as much done as possible. We will wait and see if we have funding for next year. The whole purpose of that climate change committee is to have a national voice for Inuit, because at the community level it's very difficult for them to have a very strong voice.

Maybe I'll leave it at that, knowing there are only five minutes.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

There's one minute left, if you would like to use it.

November 15th, 2011 / 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

I really appreciate your testimony here today, sharing your stories. You talked about thinking outside of the box when it comes to infrastructure. Some of it is common sense. I think you're absolutely right that when it comes to raping crown land of resources, let's not forget it is or was first nations or Inuit land. The sharing of royalties at the end of the day will be able to move your communities forward.

My question deals with the government's crime bill. I know that your first nations and the Inuit people really rely a lot on conditional sentence and rehabilitation. I'm wondering what you see, as opposed to investing in housing...by investing more in institutions that will house criminals, the impact that will have on your communities.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Ms. Hughes is over the time allotted to her to ask the question, but if you want the opportunity to give a short answer, go ahead. I know it's a big issue.