Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 4 - Evidence - Meeting of April 21, 2010


OTTAWA, Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 6:45 p.m. to examine the federal government's constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, and other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (topic: issues concerning First Nations Education).

Senator Gerry St. Germain (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good evening. I would like to welcome all honourable senators, members of the public and all viewers across the country who are watching these proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples either on CPAC or possibly on the web.

I am Senator St. Germain from British Columbia, and I have the honour and privilege of chairing this committee.

The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. This gives the committee a broad scope to look into issues of all types that touch on matters of concern to First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

The committee is undertaking a study of primary and secondary education of First Nations children living on-reserve. To gain some further knowledge of this issue, the committee has invited as a witness the Canadian Council on Learning, CCL, an independent non-profit corporation with a mission to inform Canadians about the state of lifelong learning in Canada.

Following its establishment in 2004, the CCL founded a knowledge centre on Aboriginal education. The centre consists of a consortium of Aboriginal learning and representative organizations, along with a steering committee. The centre provides a collaborative national forum that would support the development of effective solutions for the challenges faced by First Nations, Metis and Inuit learners.

Its work focuses on lifelong learning and seeks to include all aspects of development — spiritual, physical, social, emotional and cognitive — identified by Aboriginal world views. The centre also seeks to incorporate the unique perspective and diverse ways of knowing of Aboriginal learners. We look forward to hearing more about this interesting approach.

[Translation]

Before we hear from our witnesses, I would like to introduce the committee members who are here today.

[English]

On my left is the deputy chair of the committee, Senator Dyck from Saskatchewan. Next to her is Senator Lovelace Nicholas from New Brunswick, Senator Hubley from Prince Edward Island, and Senator Campbell from British Columbia. On my right I have Senator Nancy Raine from British Columbia, Senator Patterson from Nunavut, Senator Stewart Olsen from New Brunswick, Senator Brazeau from Quebec and last but definitely not least, Senator Poirier from New Brunswick.

Members of the committee, please help me in welcoming our witnesses from the Canadian Council on Learning, Mr. Paul Cappon, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Mr. Jarrett Laughlin, Senior Research Analyst and Team Lead. Mr. Cappon, please proceed with your presentation, which will be followed by questions by senators if time permits, and I am sure it will. Hopefully that will meet with your timetable.

[Translation]

Paul Cappon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council on Learning: I will make my presentation in English but, as usual, I am always ready to answer any questions in French.

My colleague, who has just been introduced to you, is our expert on all aspects of Aboriginal education.

[English]

My approach is a more generalist approach. Jarrett Laughlin is the real expert, and I will be relying on him of course to help answer your questions. As we have been requested to do, we will limit the presentation to 15 minutes, hoping that we will have a very robust exchange with you.

I will make three points in this presentation. The first is about the attainment level of Aboriginal education currently, and I know the focus here is on First Nations on-reserve, but we need to look a little more broadly as well. What is the record now? How well are we doing with respect to attainment? I am setting the record straight because it is not necessarily the way headlines would have us believe. I will get into that in a moment.

The second point is about how you know whether you are making progress in Aboriginal education and First Nations education. We will talk about how we monitor progress and what methods we think should be used in the future.

The third series of points will be around the issue of an act of First Nations education, if there is to be such an act. What would the recommendations be for implementing that act?

Those are the three dimensions I will be touching on briefly in this presentation.

First, then, what is the evidence on the current status of Aboriginal learning and then specifically First Nations learning? It is neither as bad as some headlines would have us believe nor so good as to be acceptable either to First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities or to the rest of Canada. I will give you some data that illustrates the balance as we see it between the good news and the bad news for First Nations learners and then talk about that in more detail.

We always like to start with the positive when we do our reporting out to Canadians. The main function of the Canadian Council on Learning is to monitor and tell Canadians transparently and independently how we are doing as opposed to how we would hope to be doing.

On the positive side, first, informal learning in Aboriginal communities is abundant, especially in First Nations communities. For example, First Nations youth who participate in extracurricular activities such as social clubs, sports, and music groups have grades equal to or above Canadian youth. That is important, because when we measure learning in the different communities in Canada through our annual Composite Learning Index, which is coming out for the fifth year on May 20, 2010, we measure not just learning in the classroom, not just formal education, but also informal learning. People learn a lot through volunteering, through sports, through participation in the community. First Nations youth do slightly better or at least as well as other youth in Canada.

Second, in First Nations communities, social relationships seem to be inherently nurtured, which becomes the cornerstone for intergenerational learning, and intergenerational learning is, for us, an important cell in the matrix of monitoring and reporting and understanding quantitatively the progressive Aboriginal learning.

The third positive development is that First Nations people living on-reserve show a strong sense of community involvement through activities such as volunteering, and we show in our Composite Learning Index that volunteering is a powerful driver of the conditions of learning in a community.

Now we look at how Aboriginal people are doing with respect to formal education. In 2006, 41 per cent of Aboriginal people had a post-secondary education certificate, diploma or degree. That is Aboriginal people in total, but for First Nations people living on-reserve, the highest post-secondary education attainment rates are for college, 14 per cent, and trades credentials, 13 per cent. However, it is also true that the attainment rate of Aboriginal Canadians in community colleges is the same as for non-Aboriginal Canadians, another piece of good news.

Furthermore, when First Nations people living on-reserve are able to attain a university degree, and they do get there, they are equally as likely to be employed as non-Aboriginal Canadians, if they get there.

Finally, on the positive side, First Nations people do appear to optimize their opportunities to learn about their culture and traditions. For example, First Nations children regularly participate in cultural ceremonies and gatherings. Four in ten First Nations youth interact with elders regularly each week, which is a key source of learning about culture and traditions; and half of First Nations take part in traditional activities such as hunting, fishing or trapping, which is a key source of what we call experiential learning. All of these things contribute to the learning conditions of a society.

Now we get to the systemic gaps that do persist between First Nations people and non-Aboriginal learners. First, and perhaps most important, non-Aboriginal youth in Canada are five times more likely to complete a high school diploma than First Nations youth who live on-reserve. Although it is true that the majority of Aboriginal students have aspirations to complete post-secondary education, only 41 per cent do so.

There is a huge gap in university attainment. Again, non-Aboriginal people are five times more likely to complete a university program than First Nations people living on-reserve. That is one dimension.

A second dimension is that, although quite a few First Nations people are pursuing distance learning, only 17 per cent of First Nations communities have access to broadband services, which we consider to be a key component of any 21st century education system, and in fact, in our Composite Learning Index, connectivity is one of the measures we use to assess the learning conditions of a particular community. Only 17 per cent have access in First Nations communities, and that compares with 64 per cent of non-First Nations cities and towns in Canada. There is an enormous gap there.

Apart from these education and learning indicators, there are what we consider to be persistent social and economic challenges — non-learning factors, if you like — that continue to undermine success in learning. For example, only one third of young First Nations children living on-reserve are read to daily, compared to two thirds of young Canadian children. This is not a fact to be sneezed at, because reading to young children is an enormous factor in their later acquisition of literacy and interest in school. It is almost as powerful as social class or income in terms of the impulse it can give to a young learner.

Almost one in five First Nations youth living on-reserve has a parent who was a student at a residential school, and that does have psychosocial implications in the environment; and 34 per cent of First Nations youth on-reserve live with a single parent, which is about twice the proportion of non-Aboriginal youth. Again, that is an environmental factor that does bear on education and learning.

When we look at the Community Well-Being Index, which has a powerful impact on learning, of the top 100 communities in Canada, only one is a First Nations community, while 96 were in the bracket of the bottom 100 communities. That tells you that the overall community well-being is very low in comparison with non-Aboriginal communities.

That sets the record straight, as I put it, about how well we are doing now.

The next question is how do we measure and report progress on Aboriginal learning. More specifically, how do we do this without relying on a deficiency model, in other words, not beginning with the weaknesses but beginning with the strengths, and there are strengths evident in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.

We are constructing a framework of evaluation of learning progress in Aboriginal communities. We brought a couple of hard copies of this, one in English and one in French, and they can be downloaded from our website. The importance of this framework is that it relies equally on Western models of assessment of progress on the one hand, like graduation rates and the results of standardized testing in the classroom, and on the other hand an Aboriginal perspective on what constitutes success. We are combining and melding these two to create what we think is a more sophisticated, complex and realistic matrix that evaluates learning progress, which we think Canada should use to measure progress. Then, of course, we will work on the areas of weakness as well as acknowledging the areas of strength.

We think that the absence in the past of a comprehensive approach — what we are calling a holistic approach — of measuring Aboriginal learning is problematic because it can lead to information that is irrelevant to Aboriginal communities or that fails to inform effective social policy. Reporting only on the bad things, the deficiencies, does not necessarily lead to improvement. If you are to report numbers, you do that in any evaluation because you want to have an effect on policy, because you want to be able to do something about it; otherwise, the numbers are not very useful.

We need, then, a comprehensive framework for measuring Aboriginal learning that has not been available in the past. As I said, as part of our submission to this committee you have our 2009 report The State of Aboriginal Learning in Canada: A Holistic Approach to Measuring Success, which introduces this framework — an innovative, first-of-its-kind approach to measuring Aboriginal learning in Canada, and we will be happy to answer questions about that. In brief, it is based on the three holistic learning models that we developed in partnership with Aboriginal learning experts across Canada — that is, separately for First Nations, for Metis and for Inuit communities.

If and when a First Nations education act comes into beginning, CCL would be pleased, working with its partners in Aboriginal organizations and communities, with government and with civil society, to provide ongoing monitoring and public reporting on progress in Aboriginal learning on the understanding that it is a holistic framework and not just a narrow Western model.

The third and final point I want to make is what we would say if there were a First Nations education act. We do not have anything to say about the process by which such an act might be developed at this time. That is not really our area of expertise, nor do we have anything to say about issues of governance and financing, but the considerable experience we have in Aboriginal learning does lead to several conclusions and recommendations that touch on implementation, objectives and governance to some extent.

There are six recommendations we would make if there were to be such an approach.

First, you need clear objectives for each phase of education and learning covered by such an act and its implementation. These goals should be both long-term objectives and short-term benchmarks. For that to occur, you have to have indicators that are both established and agreed, and those indicators cannot just be inputs. It cannot be how much money we spend or how many people participate. They should be outcome-oriented or output-oriented. Are we accomplishing the goals or not? The goals should be set in advance, not after the fact. It is too easy to do it after the fact. If you do it after the fact, you often rely on the inputs — how much money you are spending and the process — rather than on what you are actually achieving with the investment of time, effort and money.

Second, there should be independent and ongoing assessment of the degree of achievement of the specified goals using the agreed indicators. It is not surprising that I would say that, because that is what CCL does. You have to agree on what the indicators are first, and then you have to ask somebody outside the system, as it were, to assess, in an ongoing way, whether you have achieved those goals, and if not, why not.

The third recommendation has to do with the indicators themselves, and it refers back to the point I made about a framework. The indicators used should represent an appropriate synthesis on the one hand of traditional Aboriginal perspectives on what constitutes success and on the other hand of conventional Western measures. We need to meld those together, the way we try to do at CCL, to provide something that represents transparency and honesty in reporting but at the same time is respectful of the values and perspectives of Aboriginal learners.

The fourth recommendation has to do with being pan-Canadian. We need common learning outcomes or shared learning outcomes, which should be established nationally for every age and grade level. That means that for every major discipline — English, French, mathematics, science, citizenship education and so on — the expectation of student mastery of the area would be the same no matter what province or territory the student lives and studies in. The expectation should be the same. The outcome should be at the same level, not different.

The fifth recommendation is that expectations for student achievement in First Nation schools must be equivalent to those of provincial public schools. You cannot have two sets of standards for outcomes. The processes might be different, but you cannot dumb down the expectations in any way. We find that when expectations are set fairly high — the bar is set fairly high in education generally — you get better results than when you set low expectations.

The sixth and final recommendation is that although learning outcomes must be high — the expectation is high and shared right across the country at the same level — the curriculum that is designed to meet those high standards can and should vary on a regional basis in accordance with differing local conditions, local traditions and local cultures. There are many ways to skin a cat, many ways to arrive at an outcome at a high level in education.

This does not mean a national curriculum. It does not mean even a curriculum for First Nations people that is the same from coast to coast. It means the outcomes are the same, but how you achieve them would be different. The curriculum would be different in different parts of the country.

I have gone very quickly to try to get through some pretty complex points in 15 minutes, but I hope I have made them.

The Chair: You have, sir, and I want to thank you right off the top for your presentation.

I have a quick question. How is community well-being established?

Mr. Cappon: The Atkinson Foundation runs the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, which has a number of indicators to measure well-being. In fact, the measurement of community well-being is now internationally a tremendously important task. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Defence, OECD, held a conference in South Korea last year, which I attended, on how to measure well-being. It was the biggest conference the OECD has ever held. The idea is that it is not just about gross domestic product, GDP, or income; it is about broader measurements of how people are, including disparities in income and social dimensions. It is a basket of indicators that measure how the well-being of a society or a particular community might be.

The Chair: There is only one First Nations community in the top 100?

Mr. Cappon: In the top 100, yes, which tells you something about the conditions.

The Chair: As a committee we had the privilege of travelling to the Navajo Nation a couple of years ago, and we were introduced to their educational system at Window Rock, which is their headquarters. They had a school with immersion in the Navajo language, and it was proving extremely successful. The cultural and linguistic component was attached to it. The parents of these children were also attending the school and learning the Navajo language, which they had failed to learn as children. It seemed to be creating something positive.

Has the CCL done any work in that area in regards to our First Nations in Canada?

Mr. Cappon: I will ask Mr. Laughlin in a moment if he wants to comment on whether there are studies on immersion in Aboriginal languages, but there are two more general points that I can make.

We have done a lot of work at CCL about the issue of immersion. It was more about French immersion, but whether immersion processes are effective and whether people are less likely to master their mother tongue if they go to immersion programs and what the results are in comparison with people not in an immersion program. We have published this for French immersion, and the evidence is that French immersion students do better, including in their mother tongue, than those who do not enter immersion programs.

You may know that French immersion is quite well known outside Canada, and it is a model that other countries ask me about all the time because it is considered to be so successful. There is no reason to assume that immersion in an Aboriginal language would detract in any way from people's mastery of English.

The second point is the parental involvement. The model for the future in public education has to be that schools need to be the hub of the community.

Aboriginal students are the exception to the rule in Canada in that it is a growing population of young people. We will find that unless adults can benefit as well from the schools, we will not get much support for public education or investment in public education as society grows older. The models working well around the world for use of the school are those models in which the parents learn as well. That hub provides an ongoing community learning service.

When parents are involved with students, as in the model you are talking about, it appears to be highly successful whether it is with Aboriginal people or in other societies.

Jarrett Laughlin, Senior Research Analyst and Team Lead, Canadian Council on Learning: I will simply reiterate the two points Mr. Cappon made, but with respect to work with Aboriginal people.

Over the past five years, we have worked with the Nunavut Literacy Council to look at the importance of both bilingual and immersion programs in educational outcomes. We have been involved with an Inuit group in Nunavik, in Northern Quebec. We looked at a 15-year study on the importance of immersion programs in outcomes. Similar to what Mr. Cappon mentioned, they are finding that those Inuit children involved in immersion programs are seeing improved results in their literacy, and not only in their ancestral language but also in English or French, whichever is the second language in which they are working.

I also want to reiterate the importance of family and parents. When we set out to measure success in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities across Canada, one approach is to ensure we have the right framework. Part of the holistic learning model is that Aboriginal communities, organizations and experts across Canada stressed the important role of language and culture in educational success as well as the important role of families, parents, elders and the community.

Senator Hubley: I think you began to touch on defining success. Your December 2009 report indicates a need for a comprehensive definition of what learning success means for Aboriginal people and a comparative need for a culturally appropriate means to measure success. How does CCL define success under these terms for Aboriginal learners, and how did you arrive at the definition?

Mr. Cappon: For the definition of success to be appropriate, it must resonate, not only with non-Aboriginal people but also with Aboriginal people. It must also be measurable; it cannot be vague notions, because then it is not transparent. We must have numbers. We like numbers at CCL; it cannot be all qualitative measures.

We lack a lot of data, particularly at the national level. The huge task is to build indicators that use the conventional Western model — like graduation rates and test scores — and indicators such as the intergenerational transmission of learning. We mentioned this a moment ago in looking at the Navajo case. This is important to First Nations people.

That is what we mean by a holistic model. It does not take into account only formal education in the classroom. We are the Canadian Council on Learning and not the Canadian council on education because a lot goes on outside the classroom that is important.

Interestingly enough, our model for holistic Aboriginal learning resonates a lot with other countries, especially those in full economic development but not as highly developed as Canada. Informal learning outside the classroom is also important in those societies. They understand what that means.

Mr. Laughlin: When we started to measure the state of Aboriginal learning, we started with the notion that we did not know what that was in 2007 because we had not asked the right questions. We had to take a step back in order to take a step forward.

Our step backwards was to ensure that we worked with Aboriginal learning experts, organizations, governments and communities to define success. We would not impose a definition. In the past 30 years much research has come from Aboriginal learning organizations, communities and governments to put forward notions of success. Our work was to bring that research and the right people together to redefine how success should be measured for First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.

The result of the discussions in 2007 was the holistic lifelong learning models that Mr. Cappon mentioned. In many ways, the models look at learning not only in the classroom, but learning that occurs in the home, community, school, workplace and on the land. It was these notions of success that these experts, together with CCL, put forward as models to move forward.

Senator Hubley: You described how you put together the framework, and I can relate it to every child I know on Prince Edward Island. They have a formal learning program, but they also have an informal learning program that we call life.

The ultimate goal for education is to develop young people who will eventually be able to achieve all the success they would like to in the world in which they live. Is that the goal of the educational system for Aboriginal children?

Mr. Cappon: Do you mean is that the goal now?

Senator Hubley: Yes.

Mr. Cappon: The goal definitely should be preparation for life in the same way as for any non-Aboriginal child on Prince Edward Island. That is why we use this broader model. I mentioned during my presentation the example of reading to young children before school age. It is very important, as we know. However, most educational assessments do not take that into account.

We also developed this model for Aboriginal people because we did not have enough data to include some communities in Canada in our Composite Learning Index, which is another way to measure learning in a community. Our annual Composite Learning Index will come out in May of this year. We have a score quantifying the learning conditions in each of 4,200 communities in Canada, but we do not have that for the North or for some Aboriginal communities. We did not have a way to express learning conditions. This is another way to do it for Aboriginal people in particular.

Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Have you any expert First Nations people on your federal initiative team?

Mr. Laughlin: All of our work from the outset has been done in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Metis across the country. We identify the holistic learning models as being developed in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities. We do not have any Aboriginal people working at our head office. However, as was mentioned at the beginning by the chair, this work was done in partnership with the Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre, created by the Canadian Council on Learning in 2005. It was co-led by two Aboriginal education leaders, Dr. Marie Battiste from the University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Vivian Ayoungman from the First Nations Adult & Higher Education Consortium in Alberta. They are strongly represented in all of this work, and they live and breathe it.

Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Did the federal government engage or consult its Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre in developing this program?

Mr. Cappon: No. We need to make a distinction between us and the federal government. We are not the federal government in any way. Our funding has come from the federal government, but we are independent, which is our strength, frankly. Had we been the federal government, it would have been more difficult for us to do this than it has been as an independent organization. You can appreciate that, perhaps.

At our December press conference when we talked about these models, the heads of five national Aboriginal organizations, including the heads of the Assembly of First Nations, the Metis national organization and the Inuit national organization, were there to support the work we do. It would be different if we were a government organization. It would be more difficult to accomplish that. We have built up trust levels by the processes that we put in place. We did not allow political considerations of any kind to get in the way of our work. Working in partnership does not mean that everyone has to agree on everything.

Building the Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre was quite a process, as you can appreciate, because there is only one, not three. That brought together people from First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities in a way that might not have been done before. They had quite a lot in common. We had three holistic learning models, one for each population, and a great deal was shared. That is why the knowledge centre was a shared endeavour.

Senator Dyck: Thank you for your presentation. I think the CCL has done some quite amazing work in data generation. The reports have been very useful, and I have consulted them on a number of occasions.

It seems that there are always difficulties in securing the numbers when trying to track students' success, in particular for the kindergarten to Grade 12, K-12, system. Could you recommend better ways to access the numbers of students in the K-12 system? How do we track them better so that we can measure success in the numerical way?

Mr. Cappon: I like that question because it leads me to say that people should not generate data and numbers for their own sake. They have to be generated for a purpose. Statistics Canada is one of the best statistical organizations in the world, but the people there are not experts in education and learning. They need to be told what to collect and why. When you collect data or information, it must be driven by a policy imperative. You must know why you are collecting it.

Earlier I talked about the methods for measuring progress. You first have to decide what the objectives are, then what your indicators are, and then you go to Statistics Canada and give them the indicators and the data that you want to collect. Canada has never done that, not only for Aboriginal learning but also for any education. We are the worst country in the OECD for national data on education. It is an embarrassment. It is not just for Aboriginal learning that we have that problem. We have not set national objectives, and if we do not do that, then we will be in the dark as to how well we are doing, because we will not be collecting the information that we need to determine where to go next.

Senator Dyck: I have a fascination with numbers, so I have looked at Statistics Canada and at your reports and at the gender differences in the various levels of educational attainment. Do you have any insight on the greater success of Aboriginal, First Nations and Inuit women achieving university degrees compared to Aboriginal, First Nations and Inuit men? I am talking about only those categories. The data on those entering trade schools show that they are mostly male First Nations and Aboriginal learners. What do you think underlies that?

Mr. Cappon: Were you asking about gender difference as well?

Senator Dyck: Yes.

Mr. Cappon: The gender difference is reflective of the general population. At the moment in Canada, only 39 per cent of graduates are men and 61 per cent are women. That runs across the board of all ethnicities in Canada. The other factor is that First Nations people do not tend to go to universities but go into the trades instead. The good side is that there is a huge market, and they can do very well in the trades. The impediments to going to university are likely at the crux of your question. Mr. Laughlin might want to comment on that issue.

Mr. Laughlin: In terms of the gender gaps, we see the same patterns in Aboriginal communities that we see in general society, whereby we have more Aboriginal women attending university than Aboriginal men. We see the same reverse pattern in the trades. Why that is, we have not yet looked at. Possible reasons could be the unique way the post- secondary education system is funded or the way it is distributed to Aboriginal communities.

We have not done much of that foundational work on the follow-up policy questions, which is where we hope to transition some of our work now. The majority of our work has been in laying those foundational tools and frameworks to ensure that we ask the right questions in measuring progress.

Mr. Cappon: In addition, one of our problems for Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals is the tendency to go into the trades after the completion of high school. In many countries, you can do a trade apprenticeship during high school. For males, who tend to drop out more, the relevance of education is often a problem because they do not see it. If we could develop trade certification or apprenticeship during high school like other countries have, we would have a much lower dropout rate. As well, the students could still go on to university if they chose to do so. In Norway, you can learn a trade in high school and still go on to university. We do not have anything like that in this country.

Senator Dyck: You talked about extracurricular activities, such as sports and social clubs. On the anecdotal side, I know a number of First Nation males that have achieved higher levels of education, and for them sports was a factor. In your studies, have you noticed any differences in the availability of sports arenas and sports activities at on-reserve schools?

Mr. Cappon: We have data for non-Aboriginal people because it is encompassed in our Composite Learning Index.

Mr. Laughlin: We have a large data gap for First Nations living on-reserve. Recent work from Statistics Canada for First Nations living off-reserve indicates very high participation rates in extracurricular activities outside the classroom, including sports, as Mr. Cappon mentioned in his opening remarks.

One thing that complements on that side is the perspective that those opportunities or resources are not available for off-reserve First Nations, Inuit and Metis. In the off-reserve context, although they are displeased with the lack of availability, they are participating more or at equal rates to non-Aboriginal Canadians.

Senator Raine: I find this fascinating. A couple of questions occurred to me when you talked about language immersion. In reference to Nunavut, were you talking about children going to school in Inuktitut and then immersing in English or vice versa? If their mother tongue is Inuktitut and they go to school in grade 1 and have to speak English, I guess they are all in immersion.

Mr. Laughlin: The study I was referring to in Nunavik in Northern Quebec was through the Kativik School Board. It has an immersion program from kindergarten to Grade 3, all in Inuktitut. The children are immersed in Inuktitut from Grade 1 to Grade 3.

The long-term study that we are loosely partnered with has looked at the outcomes of those kids as they move from a fully immersed Inuktitut program into streams of English or French, at the same time comparing those kids who are not in the immersion program, who are in either an English or a French steam, and move on.

That study found that the children in the immersion program were doing equal to or better than the non-immersion students in their literacy levels in Inuktitut but also in English or French.

Senator Raine: I have a hard time grasping it because taking an immersion course means taking a course where I am immersed in a language that is not my own, and these are children who are extending their maternal language further into their primary schooling, which makes ultimate sense to me. Maybe we are not doing that in many First Nations across the country, perhaps because we do not have the teachers. I am not sure why. If the research is starting to show that it will not hold them back from moving easily into the mainstream language, then it would be much easier to continue their language if they went to school in it.

Mr. Cappon: Indeed, we are only beginning to have the evidence for Canada, but in Latin American countries, which have high Aboriginal populations, there is a lot of evidence showing that immersion in the ancestral language is helpful not just for that language but for Spanish mastery as well. The evidence is there.

As to why we have not done it more, one of the reasons is a shortage of teachers. The population increase of young people, especially in the North, is quite substantial, so keeping up with the demand is a challenge.

Senator Raine: If we say it is the shortage of teachers and we have people living in those communities who do not have jobs, then perhaps the teachers are right there and we just have not given them the skills they need to teach their children in the school.

You said only a third of First Nations children are read to versus two thirds of non-Aboriginal children. Are they being told stories? Reading was not part of their culture, but storytelling and passing on their history and their culture through storytelling certainly was. Are you looking at storytelling on an equal basis to reading?

Mr. Cappon: No, I would say not; but you can correct me, Mr. Laughlin, if I am wrong. We are dealing with storytelling as another kind of indicator, another facet, another dimension of learning, but I am referring to the fact that we know from a lot of research in many countries that reading to children under five years old elicits a kind of response in favour of reading themselves later on and being more literate. That is not to ignore or deny the importance of storytelling, but that could be captured in another way.

Mr. Laughlin: Yes. In fact, as part of that framework, we just mentioned the indicator around reading, but there is an indicator on that framework around oral storytelling, which is captured unfortunately only for off-reserve Aboriginal people in Canada. We are finding rates of about 80 per cent for First Nations living off-reserve, meaning 80 per cent of the children are being told stories and communicating with family and elders in the community on a regular basis.

Mr. Cappon: That example illustrates what I was saying earlier. The more data we have, the richer the mix is. If we can have a conventional Western approach, which is reading to the children, and a First Nations approach, an Aboriginal approach, which is storytelling, we can measure both of those and put them in the mix. That is a richer way of describing learning results than if you had only one on its own or tried to capture everything within one indicator. That is why we are so keen on this framework, melding all these components together in a framework that really resonates with people but also tells a story accurately.

Senator Campbell: It truly has been fascinating. I have two questions. First, I have never thought about the idea of the school being the hub of the community. I guess that is because I am old, because it was always the hub of the community when I was growing up. When I thought about it, I realized that is because we did not have community centres or specialized places. You went to the school. When school ended, all of your activities centered around it, whether formal learning or sports. How do we go back to that, not only in the Aboriginal communities but overall? Have we lost it, or do you think it is possible to go back to that spot?

Mr. Cappon: I think it is possible to go back, but it takes a great deal of effort. In a sense, it might be easier on-reserve than off-reserve in non-Aboriginal communities, because in cities there are so many structural impediments to be negotiated with caretakers, with teachers' unions, with problems that are not insurmountable but make it difficult organizationally to have a school that is open 14 hours a day, which is what you really want. I stick to what I said earlier very emphatically, which is that if we do not do that, support for public education will drop in this country, and so will the quality, because, given the demographics, people do not have the same stake in it as when you had kids in school.

Most provinces in Canada of have models of schools that have become the hub of the community; they are community learning centres as well as places to dispense education for youth, which is what we are getting at here. The reason it will be easier for First Nations is because they already have that sort of sentiment anyway, the informal learning, and because they are not as mired in the old structures as the non-Aboriginal communities, so they might get this right or better than the other ones have.

For the non-Aboriginal communities, I insist that if we do not do this, we will be in trouble in public education.

Mr. Laughlin: I will give you an example of how we have applied these foundational tools, the holistic learning models, to look at this notion of learning communities. We worked in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations and our Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre and with three First Nations communities — one in Onion Lake, Saskatchewan; one in Nipissing First Nation in Ontario; and at the Council of Yukon First Nations in the Yukon Territory — applying these models as the framework in which we looked at learning in that broad way of the community approach. It not only attracted the teachers, the principals and the students, but it also brought the parents, the social workers, and the recreation program developers in that First Nation community to ask the following question: If this is what we are saying success is in learning, what are we doing in our community to promote that in each of these aspects of the learning model?

They did almost an asset-mapping exercise where they looked at their strengths and challenges in order to use that model, that tool, to develop a community plan for learning, which their board of directors for education then moved forward. It was a fantastic exercise and really brought home that notion of the school being the hub of the community.

Senator Campbell: With regards to education and Statistics Canada, is it possible that the lack of information is because education is provincial and so there are multiple jurisdictions going on, or is it because as citizens or as politicians we have not demanded the information we really need and are just prepared to sit back and take whatever is gathered? It disturbs me that we are at the bottom of the OECD for our statistics, because we have always been quite proud of Statistics Canada and thought that we were at the cutting edge.

Mr. Cappon: They are very good and very independent, and they do excellent work. That is acknowledged around the world. The problem is not with Statistics Canada. The problem is with the way we manage the country.

Canada is the only country in the world that does not have a national ministry of education. There is no other country like Canada in that respect. However, even without a national ministry of education, you can still gather the data you need if you have national objectives.

My favourite model is Europe, because of course by definition in Europe all the countries are sovereign in education, but they have indicators and objectives that are shared among all the members of the European Union. They may not be doing very well in currency exchange right now, but they are doing very well in education and training because they have benchmarks, objectives and goals. These objectives are stated on a yearly basis as well as on a five-year and ten-year basis. Each of the countries has to reach the goals, and they are reported on publicly all throughout Europe. Therefore there is pressure on the politicians and the civil service in those countries to achieve those goals.

Setting goals is so important because, even if they are not legislated, which you cannot do without a national ministry, goals are still powerful. For instance, if you have a national goal in Ontario for Aboriginal education, it applies to the minister in Ontario, and if the minister does not achieve that goal, he or she looks bad, so you can actually do it.

The trick is to get the authorities in learning matters, not just in education but also in industry and training and so on, together to set the goals. Then everything else follows because you agree on the indicators.

That is why I am so keen on there being national indicators for Aboriginal learning; I know that will drive the data. If you have the indicators, then you have to have the data to tell you whether you are doing it. We have been swimming in uncharted waters, in the dark, because Statistics Canada does not know what we need, and we are not telling them what they need.

They will be asked by six different provinces at different times for different data. They cannot possibly fulfill those demands because the provinces do not get together and say what they need and use the same information in Saskatchewan as in New Brunswick. Canada is distinct in being the only country that does not do that. We have a serious problem.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you for coming. It is very interesting. Please forgive me; I am not a pure research person, so a lot of your terminology is a bit confusing to me.

I would like to know what outcomes you actually measure, or do you do that? Do you just set up the programs? What exactly is it that I can learn from you? I have been through your literature but do not see what you are measuring. Perhaps that is not your role.

Mr. Cappon: It is our role to measure. It is not our role necessarily to set the indicators — what should be measured — although we do that when nobody else does it. We did it for post-secondary education in Canada.

I will take a little tangent on that. Because Canada is the only country in the world with no national objectives for post-secondary education, we set out what we thought the objectives could reasonably be, but that is not the same as there being a national consensus on that. We are just one organization saying these should be the goals, and from the goals follow the indicators.

We do not do any programs ourselves. We do not do programs or policy. That is government, communities, business and labour and so on. However, we are very keen on the indicators.

Do you want to talk about some of the indicators, Mr. Laughlin?

Mr. Laughlin: Yes. Going back to a point made earlier, when you engage in a measurement process like we have with Aboriginal people across Canada to measure success and learning, it is important to make sure you measure what matters. I think that has been our challenge in the past. We have not been asking the right questions and have not had the right frameworks. The role we have been trying to play in the last four or five years is to develop more appropriate frameworks in which we can ask the right questions and make sure we gather the right indicators.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I am looking for examples of that then, please.

Mr. Laughlin: Of some of the indicators?

Senator Stewart Olsen: Yes.

Mr. Laughlin: Earlier this evening we talked about some of the more conventional measures, such as high school completion, post-secondary education completion, adult learning, looking at adult literacy levels, and access to workplace learning. There is also success in language and culture, and informal activities that occur in the home and in the community, the sports, clubs and museums.

We still have many data challenges, but as we have stated in our work, it is the first-ever comprehensive framework in which we can take a more holistic and lifelong approach to measuring success. The report that has been distributed to the Senate and online on the state of Aboriginal learning identifies a list of about 30 indicators in that framework right now.

Mr. Cappon: Some of those 30 indicators would be conventional Western measures and some would be Aboriginal measures.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Yes, I saw that. Like graduating high school and things like that. I like the holistic approach. I think it is very good. It is probably a model for everyone.

Mr. Laughlin: Absolutely.

Senator Stewart Olsen: How are you finding acceptance of your reports?

Mr. Cappon: The acceptance is enormous, as I said. It resonates in Aboriginal communities. That is why the heads of those five national organizations came to a press conference when we talked about this in December. Our challenge is not whether it resonates with the communities — it does, enormously so, and abroad too. This is known about in Latin America in particular where there are many indigenous peoples.

Our problems are twofold. The first problem is filling in all of the indicators with data — that is, lacking the data. We do not have resources to develop data ourselves; we rely on provinces and Statistics Canada to do that. That is the first problem.

The second problem is that we are a small organization. To disseminate our work, Mr. Laughlin might go to Onion Lake, but he will not go there every second week to talk about that. We cannot go to every community in the country. We have to be more effective in disseminating the work, and people have to take it up — which is what I hope you will do — as a way of measuring success. We do not now and will never have the capacity to do that ourselves. Those are our two problems, methodological and dissemination and resources, frankly.

Senator Poirier: Thank you for the presentation. I have a comment to add on to some of the discussion that was had a while ago on the community schools. I do not know if it is because maybe we are more into smaller municipalities and communities, but in New Brunswick the concept of opening up other schools to community schools has been going on for a number of years and is growing. It is actually very interesting; they are doing something probably similar to what is going on in the First Nations communities, where the schools are opening up and there are activities going on until sometimes very late at night, 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. It can be sport activities in the gym that adults or children can use, from the access centre to community organizations using the auditorium for plays or musicals, concerts and different things. The schools are very active even though we do sometimes have a community, and I think all provinces across Canada should look at that because it is an excellent model to be able to open up the schools and use them for that. I just wanted to make that comment.

I was taking down numbers when you were giving your presentation. You said 46 per cent of Aboriginal people finish high schools. You talked about the gap. You said 17 per cent of First Nation communities have broadband compared to 64 per cent. You talked about a third of the First Nation communities reading to their children compared to two thirds elsewhere. We talked about 34 per cent of First Nations youth living with a single parent. That was double compared to the rest of Canada.

Do those percentages and numbers you gave include only First Nation communities, or do they include also averages for the Metis and Inuit communities?

Mr. Cappon: We were talking about Aboriginal?

Mr. Laughlin: Mostly First Nations. For the most part it is for First Nations living on-reserve, because we understood that was the interest of the committee.

Senator Poirier: Okay.

Mr. Laughlin: However, there are many data challenges. Some of these speak specifically to First Nation populations off-reserve only, and some will speak to Aboriginal. However, for the majority, it is there. I think for the purpose of our presentation, if it was not explicit, it is explicit in the report.

Senator Poirier: I was asking because I wanted to know whether the three were combined in that data. If the three were combined in that data, are we actually getting the true picture just for the First Nations? Is the combination of the three making it higher or lower?

Mr. Laughlin: For the most part, they are specifically for First Nations living on-reserve, but it brings up an important point when we talk about the high school completion rates. This was specific for First Nations living on-reserve. We mentioned 60 per cent, and we have to remember that this is an average. The non-completion rates are 38 per cent in Prince Edward Island and, worse, 72 per cent in Manitoba; 72 per cent of First Nations living on-reserve aged 20 to 24 are not completing high school.

When we talk about those numbers, we have to remember, as you said, that they are averages, and there are the extremes in both directions. There are successes and there are big challenges, not just provincially speaking, but when you look at very isolated or remote communities relative to communities that are close to urban centres.

Senator Patterson: I would like to say thank you for the intriguing presentation. I have found it quite compelling that your description of success using broader indicators than high school graduation or university attainment tells a more positive story. That is very compelling.

We are just starting our study, and we have looked at this question of success and have talked a lot about the gaps. We have focused on the shocking gaps — Aboriginal students are five times less likely to succeed in high school, and five times less likely to complete university. You are saying, as I understand it, that it is wrong to frame education success in narrow terms. We have to look at the broader indicators.

However, our society does look at whether you got a high school diploma or whether you have a university degree. Our society does tend to look at the more conventional measurements, so I guess I am struggling as we start our study. Would you say that we should not rely on those indicators? The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, CMEC, did a study on Aboriginal education that I am sure you are familiar with. It also talked about eliminating the gaps.

You are telling us that if we focus on these narrow gaps, we do not have a very adequate measuring tool, and we should use a broader tool. Do you have the broader tool, or did I hear you say that we have a challenge to determine all the indicators?

Mr. Cappon: Thank you for that very good question. We are beginning to have the broader tools. We mentioned 30 indicators that we have now.

When you are developing a basket of indicators, a composite index, like the Consumer Price Index or the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, the more measures you have, the richer it is and the more complex it is, but it is richer because it tells more of the story. It is like doing a painting in which you have more detail or less detail. You want as complete a portrait as you can get.

We have some of it now, but we are also saying let us not wait until we have all of it to use it. We can use it today. We have developed this for a reason, and it is not an academic exercise; we want people to use it because we think it is usable now. If you wait for all of the data to be perfect, you will never do anything. That is part of the answer.

To the first part of your question, you are quite right that we have been using a deficiency model, focusing on the weak points. It is not that they should be neglected, but we are saying we have been at this for 100 years. We have been using this model for 100 years. Has it worked, or is there something else that we can use? Has it ever worked in any society? We think it probably has not and that people who move forward usually move forward collectively because they can build on the strength, and from that, they also acknowledge the weaknesses. It is very difficult to get people to acknowledge only weaknesses and still maintain their willingness and ability to move forward collectively. That is what we find in other countries as well.

We should remember also that we are not talking just about education. We are the Canadian Council on Learning for a reason, which is that education is only a very small part of learning. All the learning that goes on in the community and in the home is so very important, whether you do sports, whether you volunteer. A lot of learning goes on in those kinds of things.

The way the world is going now, it is all about skills and qualifications. It is not about where you learned it or how you learned it; it is whether you can do it. The countries that succeed in their education systems, and I am not sure Canada will be one of those — not on the evidence so far — will be the countries that develop qualifications frameworks, which is not how many degrees you have, but what you can do and what qualifications you have and whether you have demonstrated that you are able to do something.

When you look at it that way, of course, you will not get qualifications in any serious way unless you graduate from high school. That is a given, but beyond that, all kinds of other things can occur. Even before you graduate from high school, if you have the right learning environment, if you were read to as a child or there is storytelling in your environment, those things will make a big difference to the way you perceive the world. If you are offered the possibility of beginning to learn a trade before you get out of high school, that will make a difference in how you are motivated.

We are saying let us capture these things. Let us not ignore the negatives because they are there, but let us have this as a melded system or a melded way of looking at things. Then it will be useful, and I have to say that that is validated by the experience of other countries and other societies.

Senator Patterson: We see there is quite a lot of money. We are always told it is not enough, but quite a lot of money is spent by the federal government through Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, INAC, on First Nations education, and it does not seem to be working very well. Maybe the indicators are narrow, so perhaps we should look, as you say, at the successes in trades and successes in college.

I understand we should be having broader measures of success, a holistic framework for measuring success, and that is useful advice for us as we start our work. Now that we understand that, how does it help us to determine how we should recommend change to the system and better use of money? Can you give us a roadmap for how we can use that holistic approach to design or recommend a more effective use of money than seems to be happening now?

Mr. Cappon: That is another very good question. As I was saying earlier, you develop data sets — the evidence — for a reason, and the reason is that you want to do better; it is not just an abstract concept.

I am glad you are at the beginning of the process. If you are interested in our approach, which will be different from what you heard from CBC and INAC in the ways we have described, that would be very useful. If you focus on Aboriginal learning in the same way this country has done it for the last 40 years, not much will change. That has been the demonstrated evidence.

What you could do that would be useful, which leads to the question of how to spend resources, would be in line with the recommendations I made at the end of my presentation. Whether or not you had an act, you would establish the objectives and what you want to achieve. That is always the first thing, and you would do that for the longer term in a generic and general sense, and for the short term, for time periods.

For example, we know what the graduation rate is for First Nations people today. What do we want it to be in five years? What is the objective? It is no good saying we want it to be better than this year; that will not go down very well. How many First Nations people now master the native language of their ancestors? How many do we want that to be five years from now?

Then you go to the resources question, and you have to choose because you do not have unlimited resources. You choose among various criteria and parameters which ones are most important. You do that — and in our model it is easier to do because you have acknowledged those things that are important to Aboriginal people; that is intrinsic, implicit in our model — but you cannot do everything at once. You have an agreement on where to expend your resources to achieve the most influence over results in agreement with the peoples who will use those systems, and then you expend the money that way, and you monitor over time.

Inevitably, as I have said, you will make some hard choices about where the money is to be expended in order to achieve the objectives, and you will fall short in some of the objectives, but that will be publicly acknowledged, and you will revise your expenditures later on. That is how you would proceed moving towards objectives and using resources that way.

Mr. Laughlin: By taking a more broad and holistic approach, we are able to identify both the strengths and the challenges in the communities. In the past, policy organizations and others that have been looking for solutions have tended to look at a deficit model, as Mr. Cappon mentioned. When we do that, we react to deficits and our solutions respond to deficits and may throw money at deficits instead of recognizing the strengths and building on those.

A clear example of one non-learning factor is overcrowding in housing. That can be seen as a negative or as a positive. It is a negative often in our deficit-based thinking, but in a more holistic way, when social ties and intergenerational knowledge are important in the process of learning, it can be a positive in the sense that social ties are directly connected to the learner. That is how we can shift the way policy can be delivered and developed and solutions can be made.

Mr. Cappon: To take another example in another area of education, we spend $34 billion a year in Canadian post-secondary education. We do not have a single objective. If you ask, the president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada will say we want to do better, have more students and more publications, but there is no objective. How do you know whether this $34 billion is producing the results you want when you do not have any objectives?

If you want to expend usefully in Aboriginal education, which is a similar problem to what I have just mentioned, you have to know what you are spending it on and make hard decisions between the various objectives, because you cannot do it all at once.

In post-secondary education, I would say the country needs to set objectives for research and development and for classroom learning, and it needs to make conscious decisions about expending its money in one area more than another for whatever reason it wants to advance. That is what you need to do with Aboriginal education, I submit as well.

Senator Brazeau: Thank you both for being here this evening. Obviously much of the information in your presentation is compelling. A couple of days ago I was chatting with my friends on Facebook, as Senator Campbell is prone to do, about Aboriginal education. We were having a debate because I mentioned the possibility of this committee doing a study on education, and many negative comments came back. Many Aboriginal people in particular were saying, "Here we go again, another study, some more data collection, some more problem definition." Many of them were basically saying they know what the problems are; they were talking about governance issues with respect to education, accountability issues, and interference by INAC, whether real or perceived. They were also talking about the 2 per cent funding cap and the lack of established provincial standards in First Nations education.

How would you respond to those critics, and Aboriginal critics in particular, who would ask what a lot of data and research will lead to and how that will help us achieve a better education regardless of how broad or narrow those determinants are?

Mr. Cappon: You have had decades of experience in seeing that there have been many studies and data that have not been directly relevant to those critics. I would submit that unless what you do is relevant to them, it will probably have the same impact, the same fate, as the other studies.

Mr. Laughlin: That is exactly one of the notions we took when we started in this endeavour in 2007, to take a step backwards in order to take a step forwards and to recognize that much research and many studies have been done on this issue, both by Aboriginal people and by non-Aboriginal people. Our first steps were to combine those volumes of research and take those reports, dust them off and bring them together and provide the tool that summarizes the research, which is the development of the holistic learning model, and try to bring that together so that we can better understand what success means and therefore move forward in measuring that success.

Our work is building on the shoulders of all that research. It is not to add more research but to move that research into practice by providing the tools that communities and organizations can use.

Senator Brazeau: I do not disagree with both of you on the importance of looking not only at Western standards of education or criteria or indicators of success but also at traditional indicators and the holistic model you spoke about as well.

First, have you approached the Council of the Federation with respect to your findings, and if so, what has been the response?

Second, if we will be in a position down the road to develop a framework that incorporates both Western thinking and holistic thinking for indicators of success, what cost implications will that have? Let us face it, the provinces have jurisdiction on education, except obviously for First Nation education, so that poses jurisdictional barriers and issues. If we do not get the provinces, the federal government and the Aboriginal groups on board, could we potentially see 600 different frameworks of education? We have over 600 First Nation communities across Canada, and I have no idea how many Metis communities there are. Could we potentially have over 600 different models or frameworks of education?

Mr. Cappon: You cannot usefully have that many. I do not know what it would cost, but I suggest that many of these issues are not necessarily about the amount of money you expend but how smart you are in expending it.

To illustrate that fact, among the OECD countries, Canada spends the second most on post-secondary education, but we are certainly nowhere near second in results. It is how we spend money, not necessarily how much we spend. Similarly, in other aspects of education, in Canada we spend a lot of money on education, but how you organize yourself makes a difference.

It may be true that if you went through the logic of the model I propose, which is using objectives and deciding what those would be on a national basis, you would cut down on spending in some areas and boost up spending in others. Whether overall you would have more money is not my interest. My main issues would be whether you were spending wisely and in accordance with the objectives you set in consultation with the communities.

You would not consult 600 communities. You would do this on a national basis using our framework, perhaps. You would agree on what the objectives are for each of the measures, in our case 30 measures for the next five years. You would have that agreement across the country. It could and should be done in different ways in different communities because the cultures are different, but you would attain those objectives. For me, that is what accountability is about. It is not about spending more or less money but about how you have achieved the objectives that you said you would, with the resources you had.

In relation to how we work and the balance between the conventional Western models and the more innovative ones we are using, I want to emphasize that this is not to dismiss the conventional models, and we ourselves reject any rejectionist notion. We are not rejecting Western models, which are very important. We stay away from any rejectionist impulses. Some of the people you are corresponding with probably have those impulses: If it is White, it must be bad. We do not go there. That is what I mean by a rejectionist model. There are measures that have worked and that are useful, and there are measures that are less useful than the conventional ways of doing things. The whole task is to take what is useful and not the rest.

In terms of the politics, there is the rub for us. The politics are very difficult for us. We have not approached the Council of the Federation. We had intended to do so, but since we lost our federal government funding two weeks ago, we have fewer resources than before. Therefore, our capacity to go forward with this work in detail is significantly reduced, because federal funding was 90 per cent of our funding. We would like to work with the Council of the Federation, but it does not seem likely in the near future.

Senator Brazeau: I am assuming that if there were buy-in from the five national Aboriginal organizations, having a seat on the council once a year, they would promote the work that you have been doing.

We are doing a study on First Nations kindergarten to Grade 12. In your experience, in the work you have done, does the CCL believe that First Nations should have control, administration, oversight and delivery of First Nations education in Canada?

Mr. Cappon: That is probably the only question I have had so far this evening that I do not have an answer to. I do not know. We do not have a corporate view to express there. That is more a governance issue in the direct sense of the term. All I can say is that we do know that if the objectives are not set in collaboration with First Nations, it will go nowhere. I suppose you can interpret that in whatever way you want, but the objectives and the assignment of resources to those objectives must be done collaboratively or it will not work, in whatever model of governance you have.

The Chair: During our travels to the U.S., we visited a high school. It was incredibly inspiring to see these Pueblo Native American children. It was so positive. There was a meeting in the gym. I asked the grand chief of the Pueblo Indians how he maintains such a high level of enthusiasm and such a high success rate in his high schools. He said they try to look through the eyes of the children for what they should be doing, as opposed to looking through their own eyes. He said that is one of the reasons they have been successful. Some of the senators who were with me on that trip will recall that.

You mentioned earlier that one in five Aboriginal learners had parents or grandparents who had been in residential schools and that this has had a negative effect on the present-day educational outcomes of First Nations children.

Could you explain that a little further? Do we have any data establishing this intergenerational effect? How important a factor do you think this is?

Mr. Cappon: I will ask Mr. Laughlin to address the issue of data in a moment.

I do know, because I have a medical background, that the environment in which people work affects them psychologically in all sorts of ways. Any experience in the educational system that would be seen as traumatic for a parent tends to get passed on to children.

Let me give you an example from some of the research we have done, although not in Aboriginal education. We find that parents who themselves struggled with homework when they were in school are much more anxious about their own children's homework and about how much homework there is than are those who did not struggle with homework. Those kinds of psychological factors can be powerful.

Mr. Laughlin: Intergenerational is a key component of the structural model or the framework that First Nations in particular have defined. In fact, in the model, they identified this lifelong learning process, starting from early learning through to adult learning, but then including the seven generations of intergenerational learning. The fact that one in five First Nations youth living on-reserve right now has parents — not just grandparents, but parents — who attended a residential school has a significant impact, and not only on this idea of learning communities or communities as a hub. In fact, some of those parents are dropping off their children at the residential school they attended. As we can all imagine, the potential impact is devastating. It is a big impact, but especially when we are defining the importance of intergenerational learning through elders, parents and communities in that lifelong learning process.

Senator Raine: Would some of your indicators measure physical education as well as traditional education? I know that the rates of poor health, obesity and diabetes are higher on-reserve than off-reserve. Has it come up in your conversations with First Nations people to put in those kinds of indicators as well?

Mr. Cappon: I will ask Mr. Laughlin to answer that specifically in a moment. There is good, strong evidence that in countries that have a national healthy schools process — which means not education about health matters in the classroom but that the school environment is a healthy one, including psychological and physical dimensions, as well as physical education — such as the U.K., the academic performance of students in those schools is much better than in schools that do not belong to the healthy schools initiative. Canada, for the reasons we have talked about, including the political disorganization here, does not have any national healthy schools initiative at all. We are at a bit of a disadvantage with respect to that generally, but specifically in First Nations schools.

Mr. Laughlin: Unfortunately, the only data we have around physical education and activity is that which occurs outside the classroom. We have a big data gap. There is very little information available on the extent of physical education programs for First Nation schools and communities, especially considering the physical health challenges and obesity and diabetes rates that are more persistent and prevalent in First Nations communities. We have no data to identify the extent of such a healthy schools program in Canada.

Mr. Cappon: If this committee were to think about what indicators and objectives it wanted the country to have, I would suggest that would be one, because of the issues with regard to diabetes and weight being so important.

In addition to having that as a measure, as we do in the Composite Learning Index, you would see what the impact of that measure was as a percentage with the weighting of that measure on the overall learning conditions of the community. We do that with the Composite Learning Index, and we can do it with this process as well. You want to know how great an impact that would have, and you can actually do the work to determine that.

If the question is whether we should have that data, it is a huge gap, and it is one of the obvious indicators that you would add to the rich mix you would have.

Senator Lovelace Nicholas: During your research, did you find that racism and poverty could be problems First Nations people are facing?

Mr. Cappon: Yes. Of course, that is not specific to First Nations people. Every indicator of people's well-being is related to revenue levels. For example, there is a straight-line relationship between revenue and health. That is also the case to some extent for education. Where you find poverty, you find lower levels of education and lower levels of learning outcomes. That is an exterior factor that will have a huge impact.

Mr. Laughlin: As a broader response, as you will see in the report, the framework we have incorporated has a relationship to many community well-being factors. It is not only the importance of learning and what those indicators are, but the importance of learning as it relates to well-being in the community.

One indicator we looked at in the report was the impact of racism on learning. Unfortunately, the data we have cited here is only for off-reserve, but a survey done in 2006 found that 42 per cent of off-reserve Aboriginal people reported being exposed to racism or discrimination over the last two years. Racism and discrimination are prevalent; they do exist. I think this committee is aware of those concerns.

A recent study by the Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre looked at the importance of indigenous knowledge from Aboriginal teachers, what they can bring to the classroom and some of the challenges they face with systemic racism, both on-reserve and off-reserve.

Senator Lovelace Nicholas: I asked that question because I do not think that all of Canada is aware that this is a problem.

Senator Hubley: My question goes back to the one Aboriginal or First Nations school that was among the top 100 in Canada. Can you tell us where that school is and the name of it?

Mr. Laughlin: I do not know. The Community Well-Being Index referred to in the report is done by the research group at INAC. They base that on an international framework of human development. It may be that the school was in British Columbia, but that is all I can tell you.

Senator Hubley: We could find that out.

Mr. Laughlin: You could find that from them.

Senator Hubley: It would be nice to recognize them for having achieved some success. Do you recall whether it was a high school or an elementary school?

Mr. Laughlin: I do not know offhand, but I am encouraging the notion of building on strengths as opposed to recognizing differences.

Senator Hubley: Absolutely. You mentioned what will happen in the next five years. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo says education is the key to success in a modern economy and is pushing for 65,000 post- secondary First Nations graduates in the next five years. Hopefully we can help him along the way.

Mr. Cappon: That is an objective.

Senator Hubley: That is right.

Senator Dyck: The very recent Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study released by Environics says that urban Aboriginal people, which includes First Nations, Metis and Inuit living in urban areas, experience negative stereotyping, that is, discrimination and racism. Part of that may be reflected in another study by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, which surveyed high school students in Winnipeg. The study found that of the students who dropped out, about 20 per cent said they dropped out because of bullying. Bullying and racism seem to contribute a significant amount to the dropout rate of urban Aboriginal high school students.

How do we address that? In Saskatchewan there is a change in the public school system to include knowledge about treaties. Within the Canadian curriculum there is very little about Aboriginal people. Should that be changed?

Mr. Cappon: There are at least three aspects to that question. First, why do people drop out, and does bullying or racism have anything to do with that? We find broadly that dropouts from school, especially males, do not necessarily drop out because they are doing badly. They drop out because they are not engaged in the schooling process, and that could be because of bullying, racism or any number of other things. I am not talking about Aboriginal people necessarily, just dropouts in general. Therefore, it would not be surprising if prejudice or racism was a factor. Most dropouts from high school are not doing too badly in school; they are not failing, so it would not be surprising if these other factors were important. Many people do not understand that. Kids are not dropping out because they are failing. It is because they do not feel that school is relevant or they are not engaged.

Second, on bullying specifically, this goes well beyond Aboriginal people. It is rampant in many school systems.

Third, knowledge of Canadian history, including treaties, is an important factor. Some Canadian provinces do not have a single mandatory Canadian history course, and most provinces have only one. No other country in the world has only one mandatory course on the country's own history.

When you have only one course, which is often social studies and not even Canadian history, it is very hard to fit everything in, so knowledge of treaties will be at the bottom of a long list of things. I would argue forcefully that we need to do more Canadian history, period, than we currently do in the school system.

Mr. Laughlin: The work in Saskatchewan that you mentioned on building on treaty education for all is part of the work that CCL helped commission and fund back when we had the financial means to do that.

Senator Patterson: Talking about goals and objectives, we received a presentation from INAC recently that talked about the goals of education. The witness said:

The government wants First Nation Canadians to fully share in Canada's economic prosperity. We believe that while quality education is not the only way to achieve this goal, it is the single most important lever in improving life's chances.

Have you any comments on that assessment of the goal and value of education?

Mr. Cappon: It is fine rhetoric. We hear it every day. Everywhere in the world we all want to do better, both in quality and in quantity. However, it does not tell me anything.

Senator Patterson: Thank you for that candid answer. What would you say should be the goals and value of education, then?

Mr. Cappon: The goals should be to prepare people for the life skills they need, including occupational skills, as well as every other kind of skill they need for personal development, such as learning to be; learning to live together, to develop socially with respect to social cohesion; learning to do, which is skills acquisition; and learning to know, which is education and gathering knowledge. That should be the goal of a learning system. Those are UNESCO's four internationally defined dimensions of learning, which we use in our Composite Learning Index at the Canadian Council on Learning. If you are serious about doing something, you then have specific objectives within that.

I recognize the rhetoric, and I did not want to be dismissive about it. If I sounded that way, I did not mean to; it is just that it is so familiar to me. In and of itself, it does not lead you anywhere unless you have something more specific to put behind it.

Senator Patterson: I take it you would say that the goals and values you have just described would not be different for Aboriginal learners as compared to other Canadians?

Mr. Cappon: Absolutely not. It is why I said at the beginning of my presentation that the objectives and the standards should be equivalent for Aboriginal Canadians. The expectations should be just as high. There is no room for having lower expectations for any segment of the Canadian population.

Senator Patterson: Thank you.

The Chair: I would like to thank both of you on behalf of the committee. Senator Campbell asked me earlier today how many witnesses we have. I said we have just one panel and most likely it will be an hour-long meeting.

Mr. Cappon: Sorry to disappoint you.

The Chair: No, you did not disappoint us at all. As far as I am concerned, you did an excellent job. Your candid straightforwardness in response to the questions and your excellent presentation were very much appreciated. I would like to thank both of you for coming.

I would like to think that if we run into something we feel you may be able to answer, hopefully we would be able to contact you somehow. If you would leave your contact information with the clerk, although we most likely have anyway, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for an excellent job.

Mr. Cappon: Thank you. It has been a great pleasure for both of us to be here this evening and to answer the wonderful questions we have had. We have appreciated it a great deal.

The Chair: Colleagues, I have some business to conduct. We will conduct it in the business session. It is about upcoming witnesses. We are thinking of bringing the department and Statistics Canada back for a statistical portrait of educational attainment, which would be one group of witnesses. We are also thinking of asking the Auditor General to appear, as well as academic Michael Mendelson from the Caledon Institute, which is a think tank, and John Richards from Simon Fraser University, who has been recommended to us by Tom Courchene.

If there is no objection to the people we have listed, we will set out to invite them and try to have witnesses here for next week so that we can carry on with the study.

Senator Stewart Olsen: While I like hearing from all these high-level academics, I would like to hear from the actual teachers who teach at the two levels we are looking at, from the excellence and maybe not from some of the excellence. I would rather hear from the horse's mouth what is going on rather than concentrate so much on this.

The Chair: Our plans were to have both. We will definitely go to the people and try to find out first-hand what is happening on the ground, but we wanted to get this behind us before we went in, so that when we did speak to the people on the ground, we would be able to compare that with the people who are running the show at this end and see whether it relates to what we are hearing on the ground.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I would almost rather do it the other way. I would like to ask some of the academics where their thought processes come from when this is what is actually happening on-reserve. That is just me.

The Chair: We will try to do that, Senator Stewart Olsen, but we have next week coming up, and we have not received any legislation yet. It is easier to get these people to the committee meeting at this time, but we will take into consideration what you are saying and will go from there.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Okay.

The Chair: Are there any other comments?

Senator Dyck: Would it be possible for us to visit Onion Lake First Nation, which has an immersion program?

The Chair: Onion Lake?

Senator Dyck: Yes. The witnesses mentioned Onion Lake tonight as well. They have a Cree immersion program.

The Chair: We should know what our budget is by tomorrow, and that will determine any travel.

Senator Dyck: Then we would see teachers right on the ground.

Senator Raine: Where is Onion Lake?

Senator Dyck: It is in Saskatchewan. We would actually see teachers on the ground delivering this program. That is a possibility, and we would be looking at an immersion program at the same time.

The Chair: The steering committee will be working on this. I wanted to bring it up tonight so we could deal with it and have witnesses for next week so that it is not be a lost week. We will take into consideration your request, and we will set about to meet the expectations of senators on the committee.

If you have any input, get it to the clerk as soon as possible. If you think of someone who should appear on this subject, get it to the clerk, and then Senator Dyck, Senator Brazeau and I will deal with it as the steering committee.

I need a motion. Are we agreed that we will use the list I provided to supply witnesses for next week?

Senator Campbell: So moved.

The Chair: Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Opposed, if any? Carried. If there is no other business, I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, and we will try to inform your offices as soon as possible as to who the witnesses will be.

(The committee adjourned.)


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