Kenjgewin Teg gets ready for diploma-degree granting status

Graduates, faculty, staff and family and friends participate in a round dance following the graduation. photos by Robin Burridge

Ontario set to pass legislation recognizing First Nation education institutes as post-secondary partners

M’CHIGEENG—New legislation has been introduced that, if passed, will grant post secondary indigenous institutions in Ontario such as M’Chigeeng’s Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute (KTEI) the right to award their own diplomas, certificates and degrees.

“This has been a long time in the making,” said KTEI Executive Director Stephanie Roy. “We have been advocating for this for the last 20 years. This is something that has been always on KTEI’s roadmap and we are pleased to work with the province to bring it to fruition.”

Currently, KTEI partners with Ontario colleges and universities to offer degrees, diplomas and certificates.

“We will continue to work with partners moving forward,” stressed Ms. Roy, “but we will be evolving to deliver our own certifications, diplomas and degrees. We won’t be offering every program—we plan to be selective in what we offer through our own accreditation. One of our first will be a language degree. It has been a long time goal to offer an Anishinaabemowin degree and diploma. We are looking forward to offering specialized degrees.” Currently, for example, KTEI offers teacher training accreditation through Queen’s University.

“Ontario is taking an historic step in recognizing the unique role Indigenous institutes have in the province’s postsecondary education system with the introduction of new legislation that, if passed, will transfer key functions and oversight to Indigenous people,” states a press release from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

Deb Matthews, minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, and David Zimmer, minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, were joined by the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium, chiefs, leaders of Indigenous institutes (including KTEI) and students from across the province in Toronto last Thursday, November 23 to mark this step on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“The legislation, if passed, would recognize Indigenous Institutes as unique and complementary pillars of Ontario’s postsecondary education system and support the independence and sustainability of the institutes,” the release continues. “It is also another important step on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The changes would create a framework for ongoing collaboration between Ontario and Indigenous institutes and would support a strong, independent Indigenous institutes sector, overseen by an Indigenous controlled and governed council. The council would, among other functions, provide quality assurance for postsecondary diplomas, certificates and degree programs offered by Indigenous institutes.”

The proposed legislation is the result of joint policy co-creation between the Indigenous institutes, represented by the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium, and the government.

“Working in partnership with Indigenous institutes to promote Indigenous language, culture, identity and community well-being is a key step towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Ontario,” re-iterated Minister Matthews in the press release. “This legislation goes a long way to create greater access to lifelong learning opportunities for Indigenous people so that they have the skills, training and education to succeed in Ontario’s highly skilled workforce.”

The legislation was introduced on November 14, 2017.

There are currently nine Indigenous institutes throughout the province (the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium is the industry association) of which all are Indigenous-governed and operated institutions, receiving their mandate from Indigenous communities, and providing postsecondary education and training to Indigenous students.

It was also announced that, over the next three years, the government will be investing $56 million for Indigenous institutes to expand their capacity and strengthen their role as an important and unique pillar in Ontario’s postsecondary education system. Kenjgewin Teg has already begun to expand its programs with the groundbreaking earlier this fall for a dedicated trades school at its M’Chigeeng campus.

“This is going to be really good for Manitoulin,” said Ms. Roy. “Good for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals. We want to include everyone as we continue into the next chapter and become the third pillar (joining universities and colleges) in the province.”