Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) was pleased to see its grade on the Year Four Report Card on the Implementation of Recommendations from the First Nations Youth Inquest in Thunder Bay remained at an A+. The First Nations Youth Inquest was held over nine months from October 2015 to June 2016 to look into the deaths of seven First Nations youth from NAN communities who died while pursuing their high school studies in Thunder Bay.
“We were quite happy with the Report Card as it pertained to our overall A+ rating of 94.03,” says Dobi-Dawn Frenette, director of education at NNEC. “We’re also very happy to see that our partners were recognized for the on-going commitment and dedication that they’ve put forward to implement the immediate, short and long-term recommendations. I think it is going to be a challenge going forward where there are larger recommendations that require jurisdictional changes by both our federal and provincial government partners. While the overall grade of the report card may have went down, a lot of that was related to the bigger items where we need movement from both the federal and provincial governments.”
Jonathan Rudin and Caitlyn Kasper, from Aboriginal Legal Services and counsel for the families of Jethro Anderson, Reggie Bushie, Robyn Harper, Kyle Morrisseau, Paul Panacheese and Jordan Wabasse, reported a drop in the overall grade, from an A- in 2019 to a B+ in 2020, during a virtual release of the Report Card on Sept. 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall grade was the same as the B+ in 2018 and up from the C+ in 2017.
“It’s good to see that progress has been made on implementing the recommendations over the past four years,” Rudin says. “The fact grades have dropped since last year speaks to the challenge of keeping the momentum going to address some of the more challenging recommendations the jury made. The realities imposed by the pandemic make it even more crucial that these recommendations are addressed sooner than later.”
The Matawa Learning Centre’s grade was the only one that increased this year, up to an A+ compared to an A- in 2019.
The grades for Nishnawbe Aski Nation, at A-; NNEC and Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, at A+; and Keewaytinook Okimakanak, at A+; remained the same as 2019 while the grades decreased for Canada, from a B+ in 2019 to
a C+ in 2020; for Ontario, from a B+ in 2019 to a B- in 2020; and for the City of Thunder Bay, from an A in 2019 to a B in 2020.
“The reason for (this year’s overall) grade drop is because progress has not continued to be made in completing a number of these recommendations,” Rudin says. “If short-term recommendations were not completed, if work did not start on medium-term recommendations then people lost marks, and that has been the problem now. We are worried that things are stagnating, so a B+ is a good rate but we are down from where we were.”
The Year Four Report Card also states that 61 per cent of the 145 recommendations were completed in 2020 compared to 15 per cent in 2017, 33 per cent were in progress in 2020 compared to 61 per cent in 2017 and six per cent have had nothing done in 2020 compared to 24 per cent in 2017.
“The jury’s recommendations were quite significant and they range from things that could be done very quickly to things that were going to take a long time,” Rudin says. “There are 17 of the recommendations that are long-term — long-term recommendations for us were recommendations that we felt would take five years or more to implement. In 2017, 70 per cent of those long-term recommendations were started and for about 30 per cent nothing was done on them. Now for all of the long-term recommendations, at least progress is being made on them — none of them are complete yet.”
Rudin says 75 per cent of the medium-term recommendations were in progress and nothing was done on 25 per cent in 2017, but in 2020, 51 per cent of the medium-term recommendations were complete, 44 per cent in progress and nothing was done on five per cent.
“The bulk of the recommendations were what we call short-term recommendations — 89 of the recommendations were short-term and those were the ones we felt could be implemented in one or two years,” Rudin says. “In Year One when we did our first report half of them were in progress and about a quarter were complete and (for) a quarter nothing had been done. Now in Year Four over three quarters have been done, 15 per cent are in progress and (for) eight per cent there has been no progress made.”
The Year Four Report Card is posted online at: aboriginallegal.ca/fnyyear4.html.