Bob Dickson, the chair of the Chiefs Committee on Education, speaks to media about a report that found Yukon First Nation students may not be receiving adequate schooling during a breifing in Whitehorse on June 20. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

UPDATED: YG is ‘failing’ First Nations students, says chair of the Chiefs Committee on Education

Bob Dickson said the Yukon government’s unilateral approach to education ‘doesn’t fly’ anymore

The chair of the Chiefs Committee on Education is railing against the Yukon government following the release of an auditor general’s report that found First Nations students may not be receiving adequate schooling.

Bob Dickson told media June 20 that the report is clear in that the Department of Education is “failing” First Nations students in the Yukon.

The department, he continued, is dictating the terms of education in the territory.

“I think it’s appalling that the government continues to say that they’re making progress and they’re working with us when their view of working with us is telling us what to do. That doesn’t fly with the Chiefs Committee on Education anymore.”

The auditor general’s report, released on June 18, found that the department can’t ascertain whether what it’s doing is improving outcomes for First Nations, special needs and rural students, suggesting they’re being underserved.

The bulk of the report deals with First Nations students. It determined that they continue to fare worse in school than their counterparts, a circumstance that hasn’t significantly changed in the past 10 years. Not enough has been done to institute Yukon First Nations languages and culture in curriculums, the report also says.

“Ten years ago they had the same report with the same results,” Dickson said. “It’s not working and we’re still at the table going through the same situation where nothing’s changed. Now it’s time for a change.”

Dickson said a meeting with Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee was hosted at the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) on June 18. It went “poorly,” he said.

“We laid out the options that the First Nations see for moving forward as true partners,” he said. “True partners don’t mean that YTG comes to us and says, ‘This is what we’re gonna give you, and you take it.’ True partners means we work together, we develop solutions and we move forward together. It’s not a take it or leave it attitude.”

In an interview June 24, McPhee said incorporating Yukon First Nations’ priorities into the education system is work that’s ongoing.

Asked to reply to some of Dickson’s comments, McPhee said the Liberals have been trying to restore trust and good relations, implying fault of prior governments.

“We believe that the foundation of good government here in the territory and, in fact, in Canada requires us to have solid, great working relationships with First Nations …” she said.

McPhee suggested the meeting at CYFN was productive, contradicting Dickson.

“I’m a bit surprised, I’ll say, about the characterization that the meeting went poorly because it was extensive, there were lots of parties there and certainly it was a frank and complicated conversation, but I know at the end of that meeting we agreed to work together going forward.”

Asked for examples of work that’s been happening, McPhee said the Yukon Forum, which occurs four times annually, routinely addresses education. Her department has also worked on a manifold of issues with the Chiefs Committee on Education, she said, including hiring an assistant deputy minister that’s in charge of First Nations initiatives.

While the education system here is an import from British Columbia, it includes Yukon First Nations’ “knowing and ways of doing at every grade level,” McPhee said.

She said the joint action plan, signed in 2014, has been “reinvigorated” (A revised curriculum that reflects First Nations’ culture and languages comes from the plan, which was spurred in 2014.)

Asked how and what this means, she said, “Before we came to office, I understand that the work on that had stalled,” going on to say that parties have agreed to “re-establish” meetings relevant to the plan.

“I appreciate the opportunity to say that we share and appreciate frustration of First Nations. We know this is a long-standing issue,” McPhee said. “We are committed, absolutely, to improving our relationships with Yukon First Nations on many education fronts, but also on a path to success that will come from collaboration and remembering that the absolute critical piece in this is the success of our students.”

Dickson said First Nations should have more power when it comes to designing curriculums, and the education system in general.

Asked if he means total control, he said, “Yeah, sure.”

Millions of dollars, Dickson said, from First Nations’ purses are being sunk into programs in order to prime students for post-secondary, which shouldn’t be happening.

And further, First Nations learn differently, he said.

“We have a traditional way of learning that is more oral than the European way of learning, where everything’s in books on text and on paper.”

Dickson said a balance should be struck between these going forward.

“You can’t just stuff an Indigenous individual into a school and say, ‘You’re gonna learn this way.’”

The auditor general report includes seven recommendations for the department to make good on, including creating a strategy that addresses root causes of poor outcomes of First Nations students, crafting a policy to solidify collaboration with First Nations, drawing up policies that support their languages and teacher training.

McPhee recently told the News that all recommendations have been accepted.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patti Balsillie will be running for the mayor’s seat in Whitehorse in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Submitted)
Balsillie aims to serve as city’s mayor

Says she has the time, skill set to serve in full-time role

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton sits on the opposition side of the legislative assembly on March 8 after announcing his resignation from the Liberal party earlier that day. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Don Hutton resigns from Liberal caucus; endorses NDP leadership

Hutton said his concerns about alcohol abuse and addictions have gone unaddressed

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read