Q.P. Robert Service School educational outreach program May 15, 2013

Question re:  Robert Service School educational outreach program

Mr. Silver:    I have a question for the Minister of Education. The minister received a letter from the Chief of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation regarding the educational outreach program that is in place at Robert Service School in Dawson. The program addresses concern for youth who are struggling with regular attendance. It is clear that the dedicated teacher and associated programming have engaged our youth in a supportive learning environment. This school year, the program was made possible through the initiative of the principal and special circumstances within the school. Next academic year, the program will only be possible with a special commitment from the Government of Yukon. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in is looking forward to the continuation of the educational outreach program and is encouraging the government to commit the teaching staff resources necessary for further development and success. Will the minister make this commitment?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    I thank the member opposite for the question. I did have the opportunity to follow up at this morning’s reception with First Nation leaders with Chief Taylor on this initiative and I can confirm for the members opposite in an e-mail sent from a senior official at Education to a senior official in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation that the Yukon Education Staffing Allocation Committee has already met to discuss alternate programming full-time equivalents at Robert Service School in Dawson City and recommended that the resource be included as part of our rural action plan.

So I can make that commitment today on the floor of the House and we’re looking forward to moving in that direction as well as a number of other initiatives under the rural action plan that we’re very excited about, and I’m also very excited about sharing those initiatives with MLAs from rural Yukon on both sides of the floor.

Mr. Silver:    I appreciate the answer from the minister. The education outreach program is part of a larger educational discussion that has been ongoing between the Government of Yukon and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. Last July, officials from both governments concluded substantial negotiations on an agreement respecting section 17.7 education provisions as set out in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in self-governing agreement.

This agreement is a significant step forward. It confirms the partnership between government and will strengthen the work undertaken by Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Education officials in the future. On October 25, 2012, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Council formally endorsed this July 20 draft agreement. Last fall the Chief of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in wrote the minister to encourage him to also formally endorse this agreement. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in wants to sign off on this agreement as soon as possible to proceed on agreed priorities.

Why has the Government of Yukon not signed off on this agreement to date?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    As with many issues that the government is confronted with, there are processes that need to be adhered to and this is no exception. This issue came up during debate in the Department of Education earlier this sitting and at that time I indicated that this is something that has to be considered by not only the Department of Education, but also the Executive Council Office, with the responsibility for that obviously being with the Premier.

Work is continuing on this initiative. I know it’s important to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. It was also referenced in the letter that I just recently received from Chief Taylor. I can assure members of the House that we continue to work on this and we hope to reach a resolution through the process as quickly as possible.

Mr. Silver:    I’d just like to remind the minister that time is of the essence. We are preparing for the next school year.

The schedule attached to section 17.7 outlines a number of initiatives. One of the items of discussion in 17.7 between the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the government is the establishment of the Individual Learning Centre.

There has been one in place for a number of years here in Whitehorse and it is a fantastic educational academy. The Individual Learning Centre offers a multitude of choices for students through self-paced continuous learning in a safe and respectful environment with opportunities for graduation and lifelong learning. The schedule that I mentioned earlier also includes educational outreach programs, camp accreditation and residential school curriculum development.

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in has staff already identified and working to fulfill their side of the deal. We need the government to sign off; it’s the only missing element here.

When does the minister see some of these items being signed off?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:    Indeed, a lot of great work has been done. We have to recognize the officials for the work that has been done, not only between the officials of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Yukon government, but also the work that was done in terms of formalizing these unique additions to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s agreement, because none of the other self-governing First Nations had these agreements. So work has been done, not only by officials to move forward with what has been identified within Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s agreement, but also to look at moving this forward with other interested self-governing First Nations. Canada has also been involved.

We’re looking at the possibility of ensuring that those First Nations interested in those similar provisions will be provided the opportunity to do so. Once that work is done, we’re looking forward as a government to move all of those things forward for not only Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, but for other First Nations who are interested.