New Approach Initiatives
Aboriginal youth is the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian population. In Ontario, more than 50 per cent of the Aboriginal population (on- and off-reserve) is under the age of 27.
Aboriginal communities and organizations are working to develop ways to create more positive family and learning environments for their at-risk children and youth, many of whom face issues such as family breakdown and poverty. Aboriginal children are over-represented in Ontario's child welfare system where they account for approximately 17 per cent of the caseload, yet only account for about three per cent of all children in the province. The rate of youth suicide is two to five times the national average and even higher in isolated northern First Nations communities.
The McGuinty government wants a better future for all children in Ontario and is aware of the unique challenges that Aboriginal families and children face. We are introducing several new processes for us to work together on this matter. We are committed to working with Aboriginal communities and organizations to help give at-risk children and youth a better start in life. A critical gap exists in programming and services for Aboriginal children aged seven to 15, a crucial period in the development of healthy, positive attitudes and skills that set the stage for successful adulthood.
- Work with Aboriginal communities and organizations to provide meaningful support to Aboriginal children and youth on-and off-reserve and use resources effectively.
- Ontario will support the creation of a new Urban Aboriginal Children and Youth program. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) will work with the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres to develop a culturally appropriate program related to the following priorities:
- Give children the supports they need to make positive life choices;
- Provide additional supports for children in care;
- Promote healthy habits and physical development;
- Provide alternatives to institutional interventions such as the child welfare and youth justice systems; and
- Support children with disabilities who are at risk of additional challenges.
- Ontario will encourage the federal government to fund a similar program on-reserve to complement the new provincial initiative.
What We've Done
- The Healthy Babies Healthy Children program includes annual funding of $7.62 million to support Aboriginal children and their families, delivered through the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy (AHWS). Culturally appropriate family home visiting services are provided to Aboriginal families both on- and off-reserve.
- Through AHWS, funding is provided to the Nishnawbe Aski Nation to respond to the high incidence of youth suicide in remote First Nation communities and identify prevention strategies.
- In July 2004, the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto was designated a Children's Aid Society, enabling the agency to provide child protection services for Aboriginal children and youth in the city.
- In 2004-2005, MCYS increased its prevention services funding by $2.8 million to develop a new family violence and support service across 14 First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario.
- Through the Early Years Challenge Fund, more than 40 Aboriginal projects have received more than $5 million in provincial funding since 2001. The projects cover areas such as children's developmental opportunities; special populations; community resources; health; literacy and parenting supports. They will conclude at the end of 2005-2006.
- The Aboriginal Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Child Nutrition Program provides $4.4 million in funding for health promotion, prevention education and family support services to address Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and child nutrition.
- Several ministries participate in the Intergovernmental Committee on Aboriginal Youth Suicide to contribute to a co-ordinated response to the youth suicide crisis in northern First Nations communities.
- MCYS also provides the following federally cost-shared programs:
- $5.9 million to Aboriginal child and family service agencies for a range of prevention, community development and family support services in First Nation communities.
- $10.9 million to several individual First Nations to provide prevention and community support services.
Ontario and its Aboriginal leaders recognize the importance of education in improving lifelong opportunities for Aboriginal children and youth. It is widely acknowledged among Aboriginal communities and educators that many Aboriginal students are achieving at a much lower rate than other students in the province.
Most First Nations in Ontario operate their own elementary schools and purchase services from school boards for students who continue their education by attending provincially funded secondary schools. A growing number of First Nations in the province also operate secondary schools on-reserve.
Aboriginal leaders and educators have voiced the need to develop curriculum, teacher training and supports that create a positive learning environment at both the primary and secondary school levels. Aboriginal communities also want to encourage more young people to seek postsecondary education and training.
The McGuinty government supports these goals. Our new approach will include working with Aboriginal peoples, school boards and the federal government to provide accessible, high-quality education, including postsecondary education and training, for Aboriginal children and youth.
- Work with Aboriginal leaders and organizations to improve educational outcomes among Aboriginal children and youth.
- The Ministry of Education (MEDU) will work with Aboriginal communities and organizations and school boards to develop an Aboriginal Education Policy Framework to improve educational outcomes among Aboriginal children and youth. The Framework will develop ways to improve academic achievement, reduce the learning gap, and increase the retention and graduation rate of Aboriginal students in Ontario's publicly funded elementary and secondary schools.
- Foster good working relationships between First Nations and school boards.
- Work to establish clearer roles and responsibilities, acknowledging the federal government's special relationship with First Nations.
- Work with the federal government to improve the learning environment and educational outcomes of First Nation students living on-reserve in the province and ensure there is an integrated approach to adequate funding for the education of Aboriginal students.
What We've Done
- The Ministry of Education (MEDU) provides annual funding ($650,000) to eight Native Friendship Centres to deliver alternative secondary school programs to address the drop out rates among urban Aboriginal students. The Alternative Secondary Schools Program originally had three sites in London, Fort Erie and Sudbury. It was expanded in September 2004 to include five more sites in Hamilton, Ottawa, Sault St. Marie, Kenora and Fort Frances.
- MEDU provided funding ($175,000) to the Northern Ontario Education Leaders (NOEL) to develop and implement projects to improve Aboriginal student achievement.
- MEDU also works to improve Aboriginal education through the Aboriginal-Specific Curriculum Program:
- Curriculum policy documents have been developed for teaching Native Studies, grades 9 - 12, and Native Languages, grades 1 - 12. Support documents have been developed for teaching language patterns for six Aboriginal languages.
- The ongoing Curriculum Review Project - Sustaining Quality Curriculum (SQC) Project - with input from Aboriginal organizations is revising through a five-year cycle, curriculum in Ontario elementary and secondary schools to include Aboriginal perspectives where relevant. Social Studies (Grades 1 - 6) and History and Geography (Grades 7 and 8) have been completed and implementation training is also complete, including teachers in First Nation schools. Revisions in Canadian and World Studies courses (Grades 9 - 12) have been completed, and Aboriginal perspectives have been incorporated in the revised Geography, History, Law, Politics, and Economics courses. Provincial implementation training on the revised courses has also been completed.
- MEDU provided funding in 2004-2005 to support 105 innovative school board projects to improve the graduation rate, reduce the drop out rate, and re-engage youth who have left school without a diploma. Seven of these projects, receiving a total of $2,392,850 in funding, include specific supports for Aboriginal learners and/or partnerships with Aboriginal communities.
- Invested $25,000 in Blueprint for the Future, a series of career fairs for Aboriginal high school students, in partnership with the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. Each year, about 1,500 students from across the host province learn about career opportunities in the areas of health, medicine, business, sciences, technology, finance and manufacturing.
- The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) provides more than $7 million annually for programs and services to support approximately 7,200 Aboriginal postsecondary students through special-purpose grants for colleges and universities:
- The Aboriginal Education and Training Strategy ($6.07 million) works to increase Aboriginal participation and completion rates in universities and colleges, foster sensitivity to Aboriginal cultures and include Aboriginal partners in decisions affecting Aboriginal postsecondary education. Eligible colleges and universities have received funding for programs and services such as counsellors, support services projects, curriculum development and funding to offset the incremental costs of delivering Aboriginal postsecondary programming.
- The Aviation Pilot - Fixed Wing Aboriginal Program ($1 million), is delivered through Canadore College at the First Nations Technical Institute.
- Aboriginal teacher education programs ($198,000) are offered at Brock University, Lakehead University and Nipissing University.
- The Native Nurses Entry Program ($70,000) at Lakehead University provides Aboriginal students with the requisite skills and academic preparation to enter the four-year nursing degree program.
Ontario has a duty to consult Aboriginal peoples where its actions may adversely affect an established or asserted Aboriginal or treaty right. The Supreme Court of Canada continues to clarify the nature of this duty.
Ontario is committed to meeting its duty to consult with and, where appropriate, to accommodate Aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal leaders have asked Ontario to adopt a more consistent, effective approach to consultation on matters related to Aboriginal and treaty rights.
- Develop and implement effective consultation processes that are consistent with Ontario's consultation obligations related to Aboriginal and treaty rights.
- Ontario will develop draft consultation guidelines to assist ministries in fulfilling their consultation obligations.
- Ontario will provide opportunities to Aboriginal peoples and non-Aboriginal stakeholders to give their input on the draft guidelines.
- Ontario will work with the federal government and Aboriginal communities to facilitate co-ordination on consultation matters.
More than half of the First Nations in Ontario are located in the northern part of the province. Many are remote with fly-in access only. These communities face social and economic conditions that give rise to unique challenges in achieving prosperity and well-being.
First Nation peoples in the North have younger, faster-growing populations with lower education levels than the general population in Ontario. More than 45 per cent of northern First Nations' residents are under the age of 25. In the most northerly areas, more than 50 per cent are under the age of 16. This younger generation is more attuned to and ready to engage in economic opportunities as they arise.
First Nation peoples in the North also have higher rates of unemployment and, when they are employed, their median income is lower than that of the general population in the region. At the same time, there are untapped opportunities in the North with the potential to generate training, jobs, investment and other benefits for First Nations peoples.
Northern First Nations leaders have asked Ontario to develop a political forum dedicated to addressing these unique challenges and opportunities as part of our new approach. New solutions are required to ensure that First Nations peoples in the North prosper and improve their quality of life.
- The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs (MAA), working with the Ministries of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) and Natural Resources (MNR), will establish a new political-level Northern Table to develop a constructive and co-operative approach to the unique challenges experienced by First Nations in achieving prosperity and well-being in the North.
- MAA, working with MNDM and MNR, will initiate discussions on the establishment of a Northern Table with First Nations and their representative political organizations. Once agreement is reached, initial partners at the table could include relevant Ontario government ministries, affected First Nations, their representative political organizations and Canada where appropriate.
- The participants' first task would be to negotiate a framework agreement on the appropriate representation at the table, the role of the table, priority matters and accountability measures.
Métis leaders have identified identity and rights-holder issues and the establishment of harvesting regimes that respect their constitutional rights as key issues for their communities.
Ontario will continue to seek greater clarity and understanding on the nature and scope of Métis harvesting rights protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
- Negotiate and implement harvesting regimes that respect and accommodate Métis section 35 subsistence harvesting rights in a manner consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Powley.
- Conduct research and analysis on Métis rights-bearing communities and individual rights holders in Ontario to facilitate the negotiation and implementation of interim harvesting regimes.
- Involve the federal government where appropriate.
- Negotiate and implement harvesting agreements with Métis communities.
Aboriginal leaders have expressed concerns regarding the specialized justice needs of their communities, particularly in the areas of prevention, intervention, reintegration, and relapse prevention.
Ontario is committed to addressing these issues through the development of an Aboriginal Justice Strategy, together with Aboriginal partners. Our new approach will pursue effective ways to work together, reflecting the diverse needs of rural and urban Aboriginal communities, with an emphasis on prevention for children and youth and promoting community safety.
- The Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) will work with Aboriginal communities and organizations and relevant government ministries to design an integrated policy framework related to Aboriginal justice.
- Engage Aboriginal communities in identifying justice priorities.
- Establish better linkages among existing provincial justice programs and the health, education and social service sectors.
- Promote more effective linkages between relevant Ontario ministries and other levels of government.
- Facilitate the more effective use of existing resources through strategic co-ordination, targeted delivery of existing services and a community development approach.
What We've Done
- A series of working meetings is underway with Aboriginal partners to help develop justice services that respond to the diverse needs of Aboriginal communities across Ontario. The meetings are led by MAG.
- In summer 2004, Youth Justice Services held community consultations to explore ways to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal youth in care and find alternatives to custody.
- The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) works with First Nations wishing to administer their own police services. As of April 1, 2005, 92 First Nations communities were policed by eight self-directed services, with one more under development.
- For communities without self-directed police services, the OPP administers policing for 20 communities under the Ontario First Nations Policing Agreement and provides direct services to 22 other communities.
Regular physical activity contributes to good health and well-being throughout life. Across Canada, children and youth - including Aboriginal young people living on- and off-reserve - are increasingly sedentary and overweight, raising their risk of serious health problems in adulthood. There are particular challenges for children and youth in remote Aboriginal communities to participate in sport, recreation and physical activity programs.
- Increase physical activity and sports participation levels among Aboriginal youth.
- The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation (MTR) has launched ACTIVE2010 to help achieve the government's "Healthier Ontarians" target of increasing the proportion of Ontarians who are physically active to 55 per cent by the year 2010.
- A component of the ACTIVE2010 strategy will include initiatives designed to encourage Aboriginal children and youth to increase their physical activity levels and get more involved in sports.
- MTR has signed a bilateral agreement with the federal government to increase participation in sport. A component of the agreement is to support increased sports participation in Aboriginal communities. This initiative will include projects to enhance the Aboriginal sport delivery system, train Aboriginal coaches and leaders and encourage Aboriginal peoples to get more involved in sports.
What We've Done
- A series of grants to the Ontario Aboriginal Sports Circle and local and regional Aboriginal organizations have supported athlete development, coaching (including a women's coaching initiative), leadership development and the North American Indigenous Games.
Aboriginal communities have traditionally used tobacco for cultural and ceremonial purposes. However, widespread smoking of commercial tobacco products among Aboriginal peoples is a critical health issue. More than half of the Aboriginal population in Ontario smokes, compared to 20 per cent in the population as a whole.
- Reduce the overall rate of commercial tobacco use among Aboriginal peoples, and encourage Aboriginal youth to avoid smoking.
- The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) will continue to work with Aboriginal partners to develop and implement culturally appropriate tobacco control programs and services.
What We've Done
- The Aboriginal Tobacco Strategy (delivered by Cancer Care Ontario) has received annual funding from MOHLTC to support Aboriginal peoples on their path to developing "tobacco-wise communities" that know the difference between traditional and commercial tobacco and have the knowledge, commitment, resources and skills to mobilize and deploy strategies to promote and protect the well-being of their members. This strategy includes capacity building, knowledge exchange, smoking prevention and cessation activities, public education, leadership engagement and evaluation.
- In 2004-2005 MOHLTC increased the support provided to the Aboriginal Tobacco Strategy by an additional $150,000, for a total of $400,000 annually.
- MOHLTC will be allocating additional funds for Aboriginal tobacco control activities beginning this year.
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