Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
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.
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
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.
Before we hear from our witnesses, I would like to introduce the committee
members who are here today.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Has the CCL done any work in that area in regards to our First Nations in
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Do those percentages and numbers you gave include only First Nation
communities, or do they include also averages for the Metis and Inuit
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.)