Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Native Education

We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For: Towards the Development of an Indigenous Educational Advocacy Organization for Indigenous Children in Canada's Custody

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Native Education

We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For: Towards the Development of an Indigenous Educational Advocacy Organization for Indigenous Children in Canada's Custody

Article excerpt

The influential Indian Control of Indian Education (ICIE) policy statement, written by the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) in 1972, galvanized widespread Indigenous resistance to Canadian human rights abuses that included child apprehension policies and practices (Hansen, n.d.). Forty-one years since its release, and three years after the Assembly of First Nations re-affirmed its principles in its First Nations Control of First Nations Education (2010) policy document, the ICIE serves as the policy context from which this Indigenist study begins. Two purposes drive this study. The first purpose is to examine the implications of the ICIE policy on contemporary urban Indigenous child populations living at the intersection of Canada's child protection and education systems. The second purpose is to evoke the presence of this silenced population of Indigenous children, and privilege their Canadian educational and child protection experiences in peer-reviewed literature, policy, practice, advocacy, and research agendas. A clear recommendation for Canada, emerging from this research, is to establish an independent Indigenous advocacy organization to focus solely on the education of Indigenous children in its child protection system. Its mandate must be to eliminate the educational gap between Indigenous children that have been removed from their families and relocated to Canada's child protection system and those that have not.

Introduction

The 1972 Indian Control of Indian Education (ICIE) policy statement was written as a protest and resistance to human rights abuses, genocidal policies, and practices enacted by successive Canadian governments against vulnerable Indigenous children. These Indian residential school (1RS) atrocities were commended in the name of education and child safety, and yet history has proven they were anything but educational or safe (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2013). The National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) wrote the ICIE document while the notorious 1RS project was being phased out, and yet it was 1996, some 24 years later, before all Indian residential schools were closed. It would not be until 36 years later, in 2008, before Canada was legally forced to apologize to 80,000 1RS survivors for the atrocities committed against generations of Indigenous children by teachers, principals, custodians, Christian church officials, and state representatives, among many others. The deliberate misery that was the 1RS project was not the only educational weapon or form of genocide that Canada aimed at Indigenous children. The ICIE policy statement was written in the midst of the infamous "Sixties Scoop" era between the 1960s and 1980s. The term Sixties Scoop was coined by Patrick Johnston (1983) and refers to the forcible removal of more than 20,000 Indigenous children from their families and communities, and their national and international transfer to primarily white foster and adoption homes (Sinclair, 2007a; Walmsley, 2005). The child removals were accomplished with the complicit help of the collective muscle of the Canadian police, social workers, teachers, judiciary, clergy, and state, and resulted in the loss of Indigenous identity and grief for untold thousands (Sinclair, 2007b).

Yet for all their influence, the 1972 ICIE and subsequent 2010 First Nations Control of First Nations Education policies have not significantly addressed the educational gap that exists between Indigenous children who have never been in Canada's child protection system, and those who have. A central principle of the NIB ICIE policy statement is that in order to address Indian student educational withdrawal and failure rates, Indian parents must have local control of education and the responsibility to set goals for their children. Considering what these two 1972 ICIE principles mean, for today's urban Indigenous populations in Canada it is problematic on any social, economic, and political levels. …

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