The Greater Essex County District School Board has formally and publicly committed to making First Nations, Métis and Inuit education a priority for all students, at every level.
During a ceremony at West Gate Public School leaders from First Nations in the area, Métis and Inuit representatives and GECDSB Director of Education Erin Kelly signed the Indigenous Education Protocol. This significant document establishes 7 principles which are a guide to improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students and for building respect among all cultures. "We will work together as a family," said Chief Dan Miskokomon of the Bkejwanong First Nation (Walpole Island). "As we grow we will grow together."
Director of Education, Erin Kelly stated, "Our Indigenous Education Protocol is a first among school boards in Ontario - a reflection of the Greater Essex County District School Board's committment to action and a credit to the people who took the time and made the effort to develop this statement of our aspirations."
The document is in response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. Work began last year with a local committee of GECDSB Trustees, Board administration, staff and Indigenous leaders collaborating on the list of principles. "The document captures all the work that has happened over the years," stated Leslee White-Eye, Chief of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.
The 7 principles are: Commit institutionally to making First Nations, Métis and Inuit education a priority at every level; Ensure governance structures recognize and respect First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples; Implement responsive and inclusive academic programming and support programs; Support students and employees to increase understanding and reciprocity among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples; Commit to increasing the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit employees with ongoing appointments; Establish First Nations, Métis and Inuit centered holistic services and learning environments for learner success; and Build reciprocal relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and organizations.
"Today is an important one and is only the beginning of our journey," said Director Kelly. "Reconciliation begins with all of us working together with the spirit of respect. I know that we must and will move forward with courage, humility, truth, love and wisdom."