It is a real privilege to serve as the consultant responsible for the Indigenous Studies courses for the Ottawa Catholic School Board. As a settler, this role has given me the opportunity to increase my own knowledge and understanding. It’s been a steep learning curve over the past five years, but I’ve been so blessed to have worked with incredible elders, supportive social agencies like the Wabano Centre for Indigenous Health, the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre, and the Métis Nation of Ontario, and Indigenous community artists and speakers, and our own Ottawa Catholic School Board Indigenous Education Advisory Council.
While I’ve learned a lot over the years, there is still much I’m continuing to learn about treaties, the Indian Act, and the Sixties Scoop, and in turn helping support our educators discover these important pieces of history and the impacts that they still carry today. It brings me great pride to say that we’ve increased the number of the Indigenous Studies courses from 18 classes when I first started five years ago to 29 classes today at every one of our high schools.
Our board works hard to bring change in Indigenous Education for all of our students, so that we walk down the path to Reconciliation together. In the midst of our board’s Indigenous Awareness month, it seems like a good time to reflect on the important topic of self-Identification which can have such a positive impact on our Indigenous students’ education.
1. Self-identification allows school boards to monitor how our Indigenous students are doing academically. It allows our staff to provide personalized assistance to students through supports to increase their academic achievement and well-being. It allows us as a board to expand current programming and services to suit the unique needs of students with an Indigenous heritage. Self-identification allows for the OCSB to implement additional enhanced programming that focuses on culturally relevant Indigenous content.
2. Self-identification helps us advise students of possibilities for grants and additional training through our guidance counsellors and school teams. We are always looking for opportunities for career pathway planning for students whether it’s our staff checking out the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Information education fair, offering a chance for students to attend the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s National Conference on Youth Employment in the Skilled Trades which had a focus on breaking down barriers for Indigenous youth in the skilled trades, or students participating in the Skills Ontario’s First Nation, Metis, and Inuit student focused conference.
3. Self-identification is easy. We don’t require proof of ancestry. You simply would fill in the self-identification form at ocsb.ca/indigenous or contact your school. For students who are under 18 years old, a parent or guardian would identify on behalf of the student. Students 18 and older can choose to self-identify.
4. Self-identification is confidential. The information is kept in the student’s Ontario Student Records (OSR) which is a confidential file. The information is not shared with outside agencies or groups.
We need you to help us strengthen First Nations, Métis, and Inuit voice and involvement, so that our educators at the Ottawa Catholic School Board can continue to offer our Indigenous students enriching curriculum with their input and their unique knowledge. This, in turn, helps us provide a culturally relevant education for you, or for your son or daughter. We will be there to do our part to increase knowledge of Indigenous contemporary and traditional issues, cultures, and perspectives for all staff and students.