08/26/2015 23:14 EDT | Updated 08/26/2016 01:12 EDT

Saskatchewan, First Nations group sign agreement to work together on education

SASKATOON — The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the province of Saskatchewan have signed an agreement on education.

The memorandum agreement states that both the FSIN and the Ministry of Education respect and recognize each other’s contributions and responsibilities.

It also identifies that each chief and council exercises control and jurisdiction when it comes to education of First Nations youth in Treaty territories.

Funding for on-reserve education is the responsibility of the federal government, but Education Minister Don Morgan says the province is dedicated to supporting programs to help close the gap between First Nations and non-First Nations students' graduation rates.

Graduation rates for First Nation students has been as low as 32 per cent, compared to the provincial average of just over 70 per cent.

Morgan says that it’s important to have something in place to “work with First Nations without them thinking we are trying to take away their jurisdiction or infringe upon what are their rights to do.”

“The premier made a commitment that by the year 2020 we would want to close that gap by at least half and I think we are on the way to do that,” Morgan said. “There’s a lot of history that has taken place in the past and what we are attempting to do is work with FSIN, work with our partners across the province, to identify the things we can do to improve those outcomes.”

The province and First Nations have teamed up to create specialized programming as well as shared service agreements for services such as speech language pathologists and educational assistants.

Federationo vice-Chief Bobby Cameron said they are already seeing positive outcomes.

“Over the last three years we have had a growing number of graduation rates. In 2012 we had just over 600 Grade 12 graduates, 2013 we had just about 650, 2014 we were right around the 700 mark, and this year we were around 750,” he said.

“Anything and everything that we can do to enhance that, and give our Treaty Indian students that opportunity is what we want as leaders, as educators, and as people of Saskatchewan.”

The FSIN represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.


CKOM, The Canadian Press