Education for reconciliation

Learn how the Government of Canada is responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action 62 to 65.

Based on data provided June 2023.

  • Calls to Action 62 and 65 are based on data provided April 2024.

62. We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to:

  1. Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples' historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.
  2. Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.
  3. Provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms.
  4. Establish senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.

What's happening?

While the Government of Canada is the lead for Call to Action 62.3, where possible, it will continue to raise and advocate for further Call to Action 62 application with relevant partners. Provinces and territories are at various stages of implementation for 62.1.

Summary of progress to date

Between 2016 and 2018, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) supported community-level engagement with First Nations and co-developed a transformed policy and funding approach for First Nations elementary and secondary education to better support the needs of students ordinarily resident on reserve. These engagements were led by First Nations organizations and provided community members with the opportunity to share their views on how to improve First Nations student success.

Implemented as of April 1, 2019, with subsequent investments in 2021, 2022 and 2024, the co-developed framework:

  • replaces a number of outdated proposal-based programs with improved access to predictable core funding through regional funding formulas
  • provides base funding that is comparable to provincial systems across the country
  • provides First Nations kindergarten to grade 12 schools with additional support for language and culture programming
  • provides resources that support full-time kindergarten in First Nations schools for children aged 4 and 5 years
  • provides supports for before and after school programing and menstrual products
  • supports the development of regional education agreements to respond to the education goals and priorities set by participating First Nations communities

This transformed funding approach for elementary and secondary education has resulted in an 80% increase in education funding for First Nations on reserve between 2015 to 2016 and 2022 to 2023.

ISC also supports First Nations in building the capacity to engage with provincial and territorial governments on such matters, given that education in provincial or territorial schools falls under their jurisdiction.

The Government of Canada has worked to build relationships with organizations such as the Council of Ministers of Education to enhance the knowledge and awareness of Indigenous history and culture across Canada. However, provinces and territories are wholly responsible for modifying school curricula to ultimately raise awareness on residential schools and Indigenous peoples' historical and contemporary contributions to Canada.

For further information on the Government of Canada's funding to support the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Indigenous peoples in Canada, consult the response to Call to Action 50.

Recent budget investments

Budget 2024 proposes new investments in First Nations’ kindergarten to grade 12 education programming and infrastructure, including:

  • $649.4 million over 2 years, starting in 2024 to 2025, for elementary and secondary education on reserve
  • $545.1 million over 3 years, starting in 2024 to 2025, for kindergarten to grade 12 infrastructure to build and renovate safe and healthy learning environments for First Nations students

In addition, Budget 2024 proposes to provide $1 billion over 5 years to create a National School Food Program which will include investments for First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities, as well as self-governing and modern treaty partners.

Through Budget 2022, the Government of Canada invested $310.6 million over 5 years to better support elementary and secondary student outcomes through a Regional Education Agreement with the Quebec First Nations Education Council (FNEC). FNEC's Regional Education Agreement, developed for 22 Quebec communities, not only reflects self-determination principles but is also based on over 10 years of work on the part of FNEC and its member communities to design and develop an education funding model that is responsive to the specific needs and priorities of the communities' students. The agreement will provide a total envelope of approximately $1.1 billion over 5 years for these communities to implement education programs that will support the academic success of First Nations students.

The investments in Budgets 2024 and 2022 build on funding announcements in Budget 2021 in which the Government of Canada continued to take steps to close the education gap between First Nations peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. Budget 2021 invested $1.7 billion over 5 years, and $300 million ongoing in funding and initiatives that respond to the needs of First Nations elementary and secondary students on reserve. This included:

  • $726 million over 5 years, and $188 million ongoing, to enhance funding for the co-developed framework for elementary and secondary education in critical areas, such as student transportation, ensuring funding for First Nations schools on reserve remains predictable from year to year, and increasing First Nations control over First Nations education by concluding more regional education agreements.
  • $515 million over 5 years, and $112 million ongoing, to support before- and after-school programming for First Nations children on reserve which was announced as part of the Canada-wide Early Learning and Childcare System.
  • $350 million over 5 years to expand access to adult education for First Nations students living on reserve, as well as in Yukon and Northwest Territories. In the spirit of First Nations control of First Nations education, funding for adult education is flexible and First Nations are able to use it to develop their own adult education programs to support students looking to complete or upgrade their secondary education on reserve as well as support First Nations students wanting to access out-of-community adult education programs.
  • $112 million in 2021 to 2022, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting First Nations-led community public health measures so children on reserve could continue to attend school safely.

Recent progress

Under the transformed funding model for elementary and secondary education on reserve, First Nations students attending a First Nations-operated school receive approximately $1,500 per student per year to support language and culture programming.

In 2023 to 2024, over 93% of students attending First Nations administered schools were taught at least 1 subject in a First Nations language.

Regional education agreements support First Nation-designed education systems to improve student success through the vision and goals set by First Nations. These agreements are tailored to the local or regional context and outline First Nations’ design, implementation and management plans for their education systems, including funding required to achieve better student outcomes through activities related to language and culture. As of April 2024, 10 regional education agreements have been signed, and discussions are underway with approximately 50 First Nations or First Nations education organizations to advance education agreements across the country.

Next steps

First Nations or mandated First Nations education organizations continue to express interest in the development and renewal of regional education agreements. ISC will continue to support First Nations control of First Nations education and a path to service transfer.

63. We call upon the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including:

  1. Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.
  2. Sharing information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and Aboriginal history.
  3. Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.
  4. Identifying teacher-training needs relating to the above.

What's happening?

The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada is responsible for the response to Call to Action 63.

64. We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.

What's happening?

As education falls under provincial jurisdiction, the provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the response to Call to Action 64.

65. We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.

What's happening?

The goal of the collaboration between the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is to support the establishment of a national research program in response to Call to Action 65. This national research program will take the form of the Reconciliation Network that required the creation of a coordinating body called the Coordination Hub (RNCH).

The Coordination Hub for the Reconciliation Network was a one-time special initiative that led to the award of an institutional Connection Grant, valued at $100,000 annually for 7 years.

This directed grant awarded to the NCTR to create the Coordination Hub will enable it to support solid interactions between the network's participating researchers, their organizations and communities and to develop meaningful and efficient activities. The Coordination Hub will ensure:

  • administrative support for knowledge mobilization activities of the reconciliation network
  • research support through access to relevant archives and educational materials
  • organization of annual conferences

An additional $10,000 per year amount was also granted as a supplement for translation and interpretation fees. These additional funds will be utilized for the translation of key knowledge mobilization documents and videos to ensure adequate support for reconciliation network teams working in both official languages. With the supplemental funds, the total awarded for the duration of the grant is $770,000. In its role as Coordination Hub, a Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator was hired by the NCTR in Fall 2023.

Recent budget investments

Under Budget 2018, $3.8 million in funding was provided to support the commitment to Call to Action 65 by developing a new strategic plan, setting new directions to support Indigenous research and research training in Canada from 2019 to 2022.

The plan identifies new models and mechanisms to conduct research by and with Indigenous communities, based on the results of 2 engagement exercises. The first involved organizing a series of roundtables and workshops in partnership with Indigenous organizations, while the second involved funding Indigenous organizations and researchers to support their own research engagement activities.

In total, 116 projects were funded through the Indigenous Research and Reconciliation Connection grants. The engagement exercise culminated in a National Dialogue event in March 2019, followed by the release of a new strategic plan in January 2020.

Recent progress

The Tri-Agency launched the Indigenous Leadership Circle in Research (ILCR) in 2022. It held its first in-person meeting in the fall of 2022 and 2023.

The ILCR supports the implementation of research and assists in monitoring progress. Members of the ILCR belong to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities across the country and represent a variety of disciplines. Members come from postsecondary institutions, Indigenous not-for-profit organizations, and other research communities.

Collectively, the appointees have a deep cultural understanding of Indigenous research and Indigenous knowledge. ILCR serves as a forum for Indigenous guidance and direction on issues related to reconciliation and Indigenous research, including Call to Action 65.

More broadly, work is underway to implement the recommendations generated by working groups and through engagement with the Indigenous Leadership Circle in Research in areas that support reconciliation. These include:

  • building relationships with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples
  • supporting the research priorities of Indigenous Peoples
  • creating greater funding accessibility to granting agency programs
  • championing Indigenous leadership, self-determination and capacity in research

To date, key accomplishments related to Call to Action 65 include:

  • generating key pieces of work, including:
    • an environmental scan of current Indigenous research funding landscape
    • preliminary identification of mechanisms for indirect financial or operational support
    • ongoing development and implementation of tools and models to confront barriers within application processes
  • the continuity of SSHRC-NSERC pilot funding supplement for Indigenous students, to better support their representation and success in research
  • the funding of a research project reviewed in Cree as a case study, through the SSHRC President's office
  • the publication of What We Heard: A Report from the Three Federal Research Funding Agencies’ Ad Hoc Working Group on Indigenous Citizenship and Membership
  • updating the Tri-agency Guide on Financial Administration to clearly communicate how compensation may be paid to Indigenous Elders, Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, or Indigenous people affiliated with not-for-profit organizations to conduct research

Finally, as part of the response to the TRC's Calls to Action 71 to 76, SSHRC partnered with the NCTR to propose an opportunity for short-term funding to support Indigenous community-led research and related activities involving community decision-making processes, research and actions regarding residential school sites across Canada.

This NCTR-SSHRC initiative was a one-time funding opportunity in June 2022 called the Partnership Engage Grants: Residential Schools Joint Initiative (PEG-RSJI). This initiative supports projects responding to a community's need for planning, discussions, archival work or storytelling prior to, or in addition to, excavations or identifications on residential school sites across Canada.

SSHRC has invested $373,460 to support 8 projects related to residential schools. Grants were valued at a maximum amount of $50,000 per project for the duration of the 1-year grant, with an extension without additional funding also available.

Next steps

Through the Indigenous Leadership Circle in Research, work is being undertaken to realize all of the goals of Setting New Directions to Support Indigenous Research and Research Training in Canada , for which the implementation timeline has been extended to March 31, 2026.

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