Treaty #3 Resolution Demands Equal Funding for Off-Reserve Students at Kiizhik School
Kiizhik School, the first urban Anishinaabe immersion school in Ontario, has received unanimous support from Treaty #3 leadership in its efforts to secure equal tuition funding from the Ontario government for its off-reserve students. The resolution defines specific actions that would address the funding issues faced by Treaty #3 First Nations schools and more specifically – Kiizhik School (Gagiige Kiizhik GaKinoo’amaawadiiwi’gamig GaKinoo’amaawasowin).
Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh states, “We are fully committed to providing our students with access to education opportunities that are reflective of our own Anishinaabe identity, language and culture regardless of residency. We call on both levels of government to become partners in finding a resolution to this unique situation so that all children have the opportunity to succeed”.
Grand Council Treaty #3 is the traditional government of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3. On May 18, 2017, the Chiefs met in a spring assembly in Mitaanjigamiing First Nation, where the Anishinaabe Nation Chiefs passed a resolution calling for fair and comparable funding levels for all First Nations Schools on and off-reserve.
The resolution also called for a direct tuition agreement process with Ontario for existing and future off-reserve First Nation Schools; as well as a tri-partite process with Canada and Ontario regarding First Nations education jurisdiction.
To this day, Kiizhik and other First Nations schools have been repeatedly challenged with roadblocks when requesting tuition payments for off-reserve students. Tuition fees for off-reserve Anishinaabe students attending public or Catholic schools are automatically paid by the Ontario government. However, if an off-reserve Anishinaabe student attends Kiizhik, Ontario legislation dictates that local school boards may redirect the student’s tuition to the First Nations school via a reverse tuition agreement. A school board may also refuse to enter such an agreement but receives no financial benefit. The tuition payments are simply retained by the Ontario government as surplus and remain unpaid.
The resolution also highlights the 2016 Thunder Bay Inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations youth, which makes several key recommendations some which include; that First Nations students deserve sufficient funding for education (on and off-reserve); that they have the same advantages regardless where they live or choose to go to school and that decisions are made based on best interests of the children.
The school has seen many successes in its first few years of operation and Ogichidaa Kavanaugh and the leadership stand with the students, families and staff of Kiizhik school in providing the necessary political advocacy and support.