Rainbow District School Board renews education service agreement with partnering First Nations

Wiikwemkoong artist Leland Bell’s Bebaminojimat ‘Gesture of Goodwill’ adorns the cover of the board’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission: A Commitment to Action plan.

ATIKAMEKSHENG – Representatives of Rainbow District School Board and First Nations gathered at Atikameksheng Anishnawbek on Friday, August 30 to celebrate the renewal of the Education Service Agreement. In effect from September 2019 to August 2022, the agreement reaffirms Rainbow District School Board’s commitment to First Nations students and recognizes the unique relationship with First Nations communities. 

“In signing this agreement, we honour the history and culture of First Nations communities served by the Board and commit to working in partnership with First Nations communities to better meet the needs of First Nations students,” said Chair Doreen Dewar. “I commend the First Nations Advisory Committee for their leadership and contribution to this important document.” 

Made up of representatives from each of the First Nations, the First Nations Advisory Committee (FNAC) advises the Board regarding matters affecting the establishment, development and delivery of programs and services for First Nation students, including reviewing the agreement.

The First Nations who signed the Education Service Agreement includes: Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, Dokis First Nation, M’Chigeeng First Nation, Sagamok Anishnawbek, Sheguiandah First Nation, Sheshegwaning First Nation, Wahnapitae First Nation, Whitefish River First Nation and Zhiibaahaasing First Nation.

RDSB board chair Doreen Dewar signs the agreement next to Aundeck Omni Kaning Ogimaa-kwe Patsy Corbiere.

The agreement has been developed with the vision and spirit of enhancing the ability of First Nations learners to meet their goals. It also affirms the rights of all First Nations students to receive a quality education that includes access to culture, language and programs that support wellbeing and achievement.

In April 2017, Rainbow District School Board passed a motion acknowledging the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and committing to key recommendations as they relate to education. Under the guidance of the First Nations Advisory Committee and through broad community consultations led by Nbisiing Consulting, the Truth and Reconciliation: Commitment to Action plan was developed. The plan, which was adopted by the Board on July 3, 2018, was formally launched at the signing ceremony. The cover of the plan features an original painting by First Nation artist Leland Bell – Bebaminojimat entitled “Gesture of Goodwill.”

RDSB board chair Doreeb Dewar signs alongside Whitefish River First Nation Ogimaa Shining Turtle, right.

In the Education Service Agreement, seven social factors provide the guiding principles – curricular and instructional practices, organizational practices, linguistic perspectives and practices, personnel equity, school culture, school/community involvement and relations and equity of educational outcomes. A progress report is presented annually, ensuring that outcomes are being measured over time.

“The renewed agreement recognizes the distinct qualities of First Nations and First Nations students, with a focus on student success,” said First Nations Trustee, Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige of M’Chigeeng First Nation. “Key objectives of the renewed agreement are not only to improve the rate of First Nations students graduating from Grade 12, but to also improve the relationship between the First Nations and the Rainbow District School Board in moving forward on a collaborative basis. I commend the work of the First Nations Advisory Committee and the support of the members of the Rainbow District School Board.” 

RDSB board chair Doreen Dewar and M’Chigeeng Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige, who also serves as the First Nations trustee on the board.

“I also commend the Board for its commitment to action and look forward to the ongoing implementation of the plan,” Ogimaa-kwe Debassige added.

The parties to the Education Service Agreement have a continued understanding to increase academic success of First Nations learners, honour and support the language, culture, and history of the First Nation people whose territories are served by the Board, increase knowledge and understanding of First Nations people, build awareness of the important issues that affect First Nations learners in our schools, and bring about positive change for all students.

Sheguiandah First Nation band councillor Pearl Waindubence signs the agreement with RDSB director of education Norm Blaseg.

“We value our relationship with First Nations communities,” said Rainbow District School Board Director of Education Norm Blaseg. “The new agreement reinforces our commitment to maintain our focus on academic and social factors. We have made tremendous progress in Indigenous Education and will build on our work for the ongoing benefit of First Nations learners and all students in Rainbow Schools.” 

The agreement is consistent with the Government of Ontario’s First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework that “First Nation, Métis and Inuit students in Ontario will have the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to successfully complete their elementary and secondary education or training and/or to enter the workforce. They will have the traditional and contemporary knowledge, skills and attitudes required to be socially contributive, politically active, and economically prosperous citizens of the world. All students in Ontario will have the knowledge and appreciation of contemporary and traditional First Nation, Métis and Inuit traditions, cultures and perspectives.”