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First Nations school system in the works for FSIN
On behalf of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations(FSIN) and the 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan it represents, Vice Chief Delbert Wapass is calling for a separate school division for First Nation students in the urban setting.
"The Province has had decade after decade to close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, but has not been able to succeed in doing so," noted Wapass during a press conference at the FSIN office in Saskatoon.
While before it was a provincial matter, after the Saskatchewan Indian Education Act was passed, it became a matter for local school boards, he said.
He pointed to a publicly funded First Nations system as no different than a Catholic or Francophone system because urban First Nations people are off-reserve and paying the same taxes as any other urban resident.
A First Nations separate school division is also being explored in Manitoba. A panel of experts in Winnipeg suggested a separate school based on core values and said integrating traditional teachings with contemporary learning would not only increase graduation rates but also reduce crime and help retain students. Wapass agrees with this approach, saying it surely provides a blueprint for success.
"If the separate school system can be based on the Catholic faith and values, there's no reason we can't do the same with our core teachings and spiritual values," Wapass told reporters. When asked if they would approach this with the intent to include the Metis populations, Wapass said while he hadn't yet had a chance to discuss too many details, he said they planned to discuss matters with Robert Doucette, president of Métis Nation - Saskatchewan.
"Anyone will be able to attend, just like the public and separate systems," Wapass said, explaining the school will be based on the values, beliefs, and traditions of First Nations. Acknowledging the existance of schools like Oskayak he asked, "If a Catholic school with First Nations traditions is working, why can't there be a First Nations school based on our own spirituality?"
He did not yet have a timeline to refer to but said consulting still needed to be done, adding his personal hope was that it would happen fast - within a year, because it is a priority, he said.
"We (First Nations people) are big business - filling up the pen, corrections, and the psych ward, and yet everyone is supposed to be servicing First Nations people. Money goes out and is not accountable to First Nations people. The public and Catholic schools have done a lot of good things on behalf of and for First Nations people." Wapass added that he can guarantee a better success rate with a First Nations run school system.
While the premier looks around for a workforce, Wapass wants to see First Nations position themselves to contribute to that workforce.
"Already over 3,000 Aboriginal people have been educated as teachers from ITEP, NORTEP, SUNTEP, and FNUC," Wapass noted, adding a separate stream is not segregation. "Whoever wants to go goes, the doors are open. Treaties are based on a brother-to-brother relationship," Wapass said.
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