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Monday, 22 August, 2011

Plan Y

Plan Y and the National Panel on First Nation Education

As I shared with YMCAs earlier this summer, in June  I was approached by the Federal Government with a request to chair a National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education for Students living on Reserve. While this joint call to action from the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations is proving to be complex and challenging, the opportunity to move forward on our Plan Y commitment to work collectively on improving health outcomes of children, teens and young adults is compelling. As one of four possible priority areas for collective action identified in our new Federation Strategy, focusing on the determinants of health for Aboriginal youth (of which education is a key factor) could have a major social impact not only on the lives of First Nations’ children and teens, but for their communities and the country as a whole.

As a country, the time has come for us to work together with our partners in First Nations communities to close educational achievement gaps once and for all for First Nation children and youth.  Completing high school gives youth choices and opens doors to opportunity, individual wellbeing, and access to jobs.  It is fundamental to continuous learning and growing.  It is fundamental to the Canada we want, and the YMCA we need.

As a result of our work in Canada over the past 160 years, the YMCA has deep roots in education and in programs and services that impact other determinants of health.  Less visible has been our growing involvement with First Nation peoples. In fact, just over one-half of all YMCAs in Canada have an existing relationship with First Nations communities, Aboriginal organizations and friendship centres.

The Role of the National Panel

As Chair of the National Panel, I am leading an engagement process that includes 8 provincial and 1 national roundtable sessions, visits to First Nation schools and key meetings with students, parents, educators and other stakeholders across the country. To date, the panel has visited five provinces in the lead-up to the roundtable sessions and received extensive briefings from a wide range of experts. The Panel will be engaged in an intensive process of regional visits starting on Labour Day that will culminate in a national roundtable in mid-November and the tabling of a final report by year-end. We will be involving YMCA member associations in these regional visits where possible.

A Focus on the Future

Pow Wow (SK)

Pow Wow (SK)

I have had some amazing experiences so far. There was the opportunity to participate in a cultural sweat lodge ceremony at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park near Saskatoon and to be part of the Grand Entry at the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Pow Wow in Saskatchewan. These “chance of a lifetime” opportunities reinforced the rich culture of First Nation people and the need for Canadians and First Nations to work together to ensure that we put students first.

I have begun to share my own learnings on this journey in the form of weekly e-mails to YMCA CEOs across Canada in the hopes that we can begin our own dialogue about next steps.  I believe this journey holds much promise for the future of our own First Nations’ relationships and partnerships as we move to shape the YMCA’s
  Grand Entry to the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Pow Wow

Grand Entry to the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Pow Wow

response to the recommendations that will emerge from the Panel in the coming months.  In turn, I invite all YMCA staff across the country to share their own experiences and suggestions with me from your work with First Nations children, teens and young adults, by leaving a comment below.

This week the National Panel heads to Edmonton where we will hold the final key meetings prior to the start of our Regional Roundtables.

YMCA Connections

Last week, Steve Butz, President & CEO of the YMCA of Greater Vancouver, Denis Gagnon, VP Association Services, Marty Reynolds, Past Chair of the YMCA Canada Board and I flew to Prince George where we met Mark Miller, CEO who took us on a tour of the YMCA of Prince George including the downtown youth centre, the community school and the main health, fitness and recreation centre. We were very impressed with the wide range of services offered to the people of Prince George, focused on strengthening the foundations of community.

As a group, the next morning we took a one hour flight to Terrace and then drove 1 ½ hours further north to the Nass Valley, home to the Nisga’a people and the YMCA of New Aiyansh. The YMCA of New Aiyansh was introduced by an Anglican missionary in the early 1880s and the Nisga’a have kept the concept alive through oral tradition and without any contact with the Canadian YMCA. While they have been offering a variety of programs for children and youth throughout their history with a particular emphasis on sports (especially basketball), the YMCA is more than program delivery…it is a big idea that integrates Christian and traditional Nisga’a values with a particular focus on respect for self and others. It is a unique YMCA and we were impressed by all that they shared with us.

Do you have an experience or suggestion you would like to share with me as a result of your work with First Nations children, teens and young adults?

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Scott

  • Pat Flack

    Scott and Team: thank you very much for taking the time to visit our assocciation then on to our partners in the Nass Valley!
    I think that we have a lot learn, and a lot to offer, in our relationship with First Nations. Many times we will need to take unique paths to getting definition to a deliverable, whether working jointly or to directly support. First Nations have many challenges, many similar/same as the rest of us. I beleive we need to keep focused: building on our strength’s in support of First Nations and getting better at working with First Nations strenght’s allowing. Thus allowing us the opportunity to grow and better service our areas, our regions, our provinces and our National Movement.

  • Bryan Webber

    Scott, I am very encouraged by this opportunity for you and our YMCA, and inspired by your commitment and leadership. When I look back at the historic achievements of the YMCA in Canada (and around the world for that matter), this feels like one of those unique opportunities to help youth in our communities, address an important gap. This may be one of those milestones that our children or grandchildren will look back on and say, wow, the YMCA did the right thing.

  • Chris Craig

    Hi Scott! I am also encouraged to hear about this incredible opportunity and initiative. Through my work with YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada and the Youth Exchanges Advisory Committee I have had the pleasure of working and linking with First Nations communities and organizations across the country and thoroughly enjoy this aspect of my Y experience.

    Exchange leaders are required to attend training sessions before embarking in the adventure that is a cultural exchange, and we cover a number of topics including cross-cultural communication. During a recent session involving leaders hailing from a variety of communities across Canada East, an interesting question arose; one of the adults asked another leader from Wendake (a Hurons-Wendat community near Quebec City) how he would wish to be described or referred to….

    I will never forget his poignant answer: – “as a human being”.

    I believe that one of the remarkable strengths of the YMCA is that we work to support people in whatever way we can. This is a great opportunity to continue.

  • Scott_haldane

    Thanks to Pat, Bryan and Craig for your comments. Sorry to take so long to respond…I had an opportunity to get some family time leading up to Labour Day and I’ve been in B.C. with the National Panel ever since. Your comment are very encouraging. This is hard and controversial work but Plan Y calls on the YMCA to step up and take leadership on tough challenges facing the health of our children, teens and young adults. This is one of those challenges and we will do what we can to help.

    Scott

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Scott!
    Angela

    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

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