First Nation, Métis and Inuit Voluntary Self-Identification

Purpose

The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) believes that all students can achieve to a high standard. We want to improve our education services by ensuring that we are meeting the unique needs of all students, including those with First Nation, Métis and Inuit ancestry.

In May 2011, the Waterloo Region District School Board passed the Voluntary First Nation, Métis and Inuit Self-Identification Policy, which allows all Indigenous students and their parents to voluntarily self-identify, so that we can provide supportive programming for them.

If you or your child are of First Nation, Métis and Inuit ancestry, we encourage you to consider participating in our self-identification information collection process when registering at a school, or when updating student information.

Background: Ontario First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework

In 2007, the Ministry of Education identified Indigenous student success as one of its key priorities, with a focus on meeting two primary goals by 2016:

  1. To improve achievement among all Indigenous students
  2. To support Indigenous students in the areas of:
    • literacy and numeracy
    • graduation rates
    • advancement to post-secondary studies

It is essential to have valid and reliable data to assess progress toward the goals. For this reason, the Ministry of Education encouraged school boards to develop policies which enable First Nation, Métis and Inuit students and parents to voluntarily self-identify.

Is WRDSB the only board collecting this information?

No. All public school boards in Ontario have either implemented or are working toward voluntary Indigenous self-identification. We work closely with our Indigenous Education leaders to ensure that we are doing everything we can to service our First Nation, Métis and Inuit students. We know that a policy on self-identification in B.C. has helped school boards to gather evidence and obtain extra funding to meet the needs of Indigenous students. Ontario’s Ministry of Education supports a similar approach.

Goal

The goal of the voluntary First Nation, Métis and Inuit self-identification process is to improve Indigenous student achievement through specific programming, targeted initiatives, resource support and increased family and community involvement with the Board.

This policy allows Waterloo Region District School Board to:

  • collect achievement data related to the achievement of Indigenous students;
  • direct resources to Indigenous education projects that provide high-quality learning opportunities, improve achievement results and increase graduation rates among Indigenous students;
  • provide decision-making information for Indigenous student success;
  • promote effective partnerships with Indigenous families and communities; and
  • provide culturally relevant resources

What is voluntary First Nation, Métis and Inuit self-identification?

It is a way to let Waterloo Region District School Board know if a student is of First Nation, Métis or Inuit heritage.

How do I voluntarily self-identify?

There are two ways to self-identify:

  1. Registration Forms: When a student registers with a WRDSB school for the first time or moves to a new school, a “Student Registration Form” is completed. This form includes student information such as birth country, citizenship, date of birth, home address, emergency contact information, etc. It also includes a section that allows First Nation, Métis and Inuit students and families to voluntarily self-identify.
  2. Student Data Verification Forms: Each year we distribute Student Data Verification Forms to each student in the September take-home package. The forms verify students’ name, DOB, address, citizenship information, health information, etc. Also included is a section called Voluntary First Nation, Métis and Inuit Ancestry. Students and families will check the box that best describes their cultural heritage.

Do I need to provide identification when I self-identify?

No. Self-identification is a voluntary process; therefore, you are NOT required to provide identification or to validate your claim in any way.

Do I need to be registered as a “Status Indian” with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to self-identify?

No. Self-identification allows First Nation, Métis and Inuit students and caregivers to choose how the student identifies. By doing this, the Ministry of Education and the Board honours people’s individual choice to identify with a particular cultural group.

Which box do I select to indicate both Métis and First Nation (Status/Non-status)?

The student and caregiver have the right to identify the student’s ancestral background as whichever they think is most suitable.

What about privacy?

All data collected by the WRDSB will be stored securely to protect privacy. Individual student data is confidential and is not publicly reported. Protection of personal privacy is a key element of the policy.

The WRDSB will disclose information to the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and the Ministry of Education. Once the Ministry of Education collects the data from the WRDSB, it will be possible to report publicly on Indigenous student achievement at an overall level. For example: “Percentage of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students at or above standards (Level 3 or 4) in reading, writing and mathematics.”

The public may request any information held by the Ministry, EQAO, and school boards in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. No data that can personally identify a student will ever be released.

Definitions

The word Indigenous is a collective term which refers to the descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. The Canadian Constitution recognises three groups of Indigenous peoples:

  • First Nation: Canada’s original peoples whose history is interwoven with the creation of the 1876 Indian Act, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and subsequent Indian registration system. First Nation includes status and non-status Indians.
    • Status: people registered under the Indian Act who identify with a First Nation community/ancestral land.
    • Non-Status: people who identify with a First Nation community/ancestral land but are not registered with the INAC registry system.
  • Métis: those who trace their descent to mixed European and First Nations parentage. The Métis National Council defines Métis as a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Indigenous peoples, is of Historic Métis Nation ancestry, and is accepted by the Métis Nation. In 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the term “Métis” as referred to in Section 35 of the Constitution refers to distinctive peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs, way of life, and recognisable group identity separate from that of their First Nation or Inuit and European forebears.
  • Inuit: means ‘the people’ in Inuktitut and generally refers to Canada’s original people whose homeland is the Canadian Arctic, which includes portions of the three Territories: Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories in addition to Northern Quebec and Northern Labrador.

To learn more about voluntary First Nation, Métis and Inuit self-identification email the Equity & Inclusion Officer – Aboriginal Focus, Nicole Robinson, or phone 519-570-0003 ext. 4329.