Ontario Announces Historic Investment in Aboriginal Postsecondary Education

Education

On Wednesday afternoon at FNTI’s (First Nations Technical Institute) Aviation campus in Tyendinaga (Mohawk Territory), the Honourable Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education & Skills Development (MAESD), surrounded by a group of FNTI students, announced that the province of Ontario will invest $56 million in Aboriginal Institutes over the next three years to help them expand their capacity and ability to serve Indigenous learners.

With this $56 million, Ontario’s funding to Aboriginal Institutes will have quadrupled since 2014-15. 

What is an Aboriginal Institute? 

Aboriginal Institutes are First Nation-owned and –controlled, community-based educational institutions. They develop accredited postsecondary certificate, diploma, degree and post-graduate programs and deliver them to Indigenous learners. 

For many Indigenous learners in Ontario, the mainstream education system has not or does not work for them. Aboriginal Institutes provide an alternative pathway for these students by offering culturally-enriched and culturally appropriate learning that is close to home. Many of the learners who attend these institutes would not otherwise access or attain postsecondary education. As such, Aboriginal Institutes play a key role and are a key pillar in Ontario’s postsecondary education system.

There are currently nine Aboriginal Institutes in Ontario that receive funding from MAESD. These nine Institutes are all members of the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium (the AIC), an organization that was established in 1994 with a mission to collectively secure adequate resources to support the development and to promote the recognition of its members. The nine member institutes include:

  • Anishinabek Educational Institute;
  • First Nations Technical Institute;
  • Kenjgewin Teg Education and Training Institute;
  • Iohahi:io Akwesasne Adult Education and Training Centre;
  • Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education and Training Institute;
  • Ogwehoweh Skills and Trades Training Centre;
  • Seven Generations Education Institute;
  • Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig; and
  • Six Nations Polytechnic.

Why is this funding so important?

For many years, the Aboriginal Institutes have been unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of secure and stable funding, as well as hurdles in the mainstream system that make it difficult for the institutes to offer their own accredited programs (unless they are offered in partnership with colleges and universities).

This lack of stable funding has limited the Institutes’ capacity to ensure that courses and programs are offered from year to year, to enable effective short and long term planning, to hire and retain qualified staff and faculty, and to provide needed student services.

In June 2015, and in response to the AIC’s 2014 policy paper The Road to Recognition, Ontario committed to recognizing Aboriginal Institutes as a distinct and complimentary pillar of Ontario’s postsecondary education and training system. This recent funding announcement is an important step toward the realization of this commitment, and, most importantly, toward better-serving Ontario’s Indigenous learners.

OKT lawyers Bob Rae, Kaitlin Ritchie, Steph Kearns, and student-at-law Alex Young are proud to have assisted the AIC in its efforts to raise the profile and capacity of the Aboriginal Institutes, and are excited to be moving forward along the ‘road to recognition’ with the AIC and MAESD. OKT congratulates the AIC and each of the Aboriginal Institutes on this recent historic announcement.

by Kaitlin Ritchie