Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care (IELCC) Framework
The Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Framework is innovative because it represents a promising practice in the development of a comprehensive policy, program and implementation strategy that was co-developed with the Government of Canada and Indigneous peoples. The document recognizes the value of Indigenous-led, culturally-grounded programs and that supports their health and wellbeing, spiritual, social and educational development, and language and culture.
The Government of Canada made it a priority to ensure Canadians had meaningful impact in the policy development process. In 2016, the Government announced that it was time for a renewed collaboration and nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. As such, the Prime Minister asked the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples in developing an Indigenous ELCC Framework as a first step in identifying the unique needs and priorities of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
The intent was for the Indigenous ELCC Framework to establish, in policy, a vision for Indigenous ELCC to guide future federal investments and programming. In the spirit of this renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) committed to a process of co-development, collaboration and partnership.
In 2017, ESDC and Indigneous parnters undertook a national engagement process to hear from Indigenous parents, family members, communities, early childhood educators, youth, Elders, experts and leaders about their vision for early learning and child care for Indigenous children and families to build on what is working and improve for the future.
Over 100 engagement activities were conducted across the country by Indigenous organizations and the Government of Canada, reaching over 3,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis parents, practitioners, leaders, communities, and representative organizations through town halls, regional and national meetings, and online surveys. This collaborative engagement process sought to inform a more comprehensive understanding of existing Indigenous ELCC systems and programs in order to identify their strengths and service gaps, and to articulate a vision that would guide new and meaningful approaches for Indigenous ELCC. The objective of the engagement was to inform a co-developed Framework that reflects the unique needs and priorities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and familes to make a genuine difference in the early experiences of Indigneous children.
Throughout the entire engagement process, ESDC demonstrated an ability to build trusting relationships with Indigenous partners, working intensively with them to co-develop the Framework, which ultimately resulted in the release of the Framework by Ministers and Indigenous leaders in fall 2018 and its endorsement by the Government as the guiding document for all federal policy and programs related to Indigenous ELCC. It is a transformative document, co-developed with Indigenous partners, that captures the unique visions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis for ELCC. The Framework lays a path forward towards Indigenous governance and self-determination in alignment with the Government’s broader reconciliation agenda.
In all, our engagement process caputured thousands of voices from coast to coast to coast and ultimately helped inform an Indigenous ELCC Framework that represents the unique needs and priorities of Indigenous peoples. Our engagement approach has since been recognized within the Government of Canada and by indigenous political leaders as a model for meaningful co-development and co-involvement of Indigenous peoples in the policy development process.
Implementation of the Indigenous ELCC Framework has been guided by the principles and priorities identified by Indigenous partners and laid out in the Framework. Guided by the Framework, key implementation milestones to date include: the establishment of joint national/regional partnerships tables, Indigenous-led allocation decisions, Indigenous leadership endorsement of plans and priorities identified; federal mechanisms aligned to support Indigenous priorities; and advancement of approximately $100 million in new investments to Indigenous recipients in 2018-19.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
*It offered multiple ways for Indigenous peoples, organizations and communities to lead in the policy development process, in particular to ensure the unique and complex system of Indigenous ELCC was accurately represented;
*It prioritized in-depth consultations with early childhood educators with experience in Indigenous ELCC. This was done through sessions, events and activities;
*It recognized the distinct cultures and needs of Canada’s First Peoples rather than creating a pan-Indingeous “one-size-fits-all” approach;
*It directly contributed to a transformative policy and program approaches to better align investments and programs to Indigenous needs by enabling Indingeous-led decision-making.
*The collaborative approach with Indigneous Peoples during our engagement has made our process an innovative model for Canada to use in the future. Likewise, it demonstrates moving away from government-centric policy-making and into Indigenous self-determination.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Since the announcement of the ELCC Framework, ESDC has been working in partnership with Indigenous partners to begin to advance the Framework.
This includes formalizing:
o Interim National Partnership Tables formed by distinctions-based group;
o Interim regional allocations developed and supported by resolutions from Indigenous leadership;
o Regional plans developed, identifying short/medium term spending priorities; and,
o Co-developing data, results and evaluation frameworks to ensure progress and satisfy mutual accountabilities (i.e. to Canadian citizens for the Government of Canada and for Indigenous parnters, to their communities).
ESDC is advancing approximately $100 million to communities this fiscal year to enhance Indigenous ELCC programs and services, and strengthen capacity and governance. We continue to share our findings, lessons learned, and best practices with other groups across governments.
Collaborations & Partnerships
ESDC engaged a broad range of voices to develop the Indigenous ELCC Framework that would reflect the unique cultures and priorities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and familes across Canada. We wanted to hear from parents, family members, communities, early childhood educators, youth, Elders, experts and leaders about their vision for ELCC for Indigenous children and families so that we could engage on what was working and learn how we could improve.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Extensive engagement included over 100 in-person sessions and online surveys reaching over 3,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis parents, practitioners, leaders, communities, and organizations. There were also various engagement events and activities that were led by dozens of Indigenous governments and organizations.
With the extensive reach of this engagement process we heard from Indigenous people on the ground, in their communities, on their vision for Indigenous ELCC.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
• Over 100 in-person sessions and online surveys reaching over 3,000 Indigenous Peoples;
• Identified strengths, challenges and opportunities of the complex Indigenous ELCC system, which were reflected in the Framework;
• A greater understanding of Indigenous communities’ needs and priorities for all players in ELCC;
• Validated meaningful principles and goals; and,
• Established priorities for sustainable action in the short, medium and long term.
Engagement activities led to co-development of tangible priorities and goals for Indigenous ELCC, as reflected in the Framework. Priorities included improving coordination of ELCC services, reducing administrative burden and breaking down silos between exisiting federal ELCC programs.
The engagement process informed the Indigenous ELCC Framework, which supports Indigenous self-determination and control over ELCC program design and delivery.
Challenges and Failures
The engagement process undertaken for the Indigenous ELCC Framework identified a range of complexities in the landscape of Indigenous ELCC. This is characterized by a number of policy regimes, programs, and supports across several jurisdictions, with differing benefits and challenges and variable levels of services and participation in different regions and communities. Participants in the engagement sessions spoke of the challenges of offering and accessing reliable, high‑quality ELCC programs and services in a context of unstable or insufficient funding, and lack of continuity or alignment in a patchwork of programs or services offered by many different entities. Participants indicated that for many Indigenous children and families, there is limited availability of, or lack of access to, culturally‑relevant ELCC. Despite our comprehensive process, some groups with valuable input were more difficult to reach, in particular those living in northern remote communities.
Conditions for Success
Undertaking an engagement process in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples living in or around rural communities was not easy. Several steps helped us succeed. An active internet presence informed Canadians of engagement activities and multiple ways to participate, including an online survey. Indigenous led engagement sessions blostered particaption, as these organizations had established networks.
Success of this initiative is conditional on the continuous acknowledgment of the unique needs and priorities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and families. Children need to be supported by a comprehensive and coordinated system of ELCC policies, programs and services that are led by Indigenous peoples, rooted in Indigenous knowledge, cultures and languages, and supported by strong partnerships of holistic, accessible and flexible programming that is inclusive of the needs and aspirations of Indigenous children and families.
Given that our approach to co-development is at the forefront of moving away from government-centric policy-making to Indigenous-led decision-making, we have been approached by other departments, provinces and territories and others for advice and guidance on co-development in this respect.
After completing the process, we are confident that our co-development and innovative engagement plan can be replicated in the future (e.g. data, results and evaluation frameworks). Our plan is well-documented, and we have maintained records, including lessons learned, to refer to in the future.
The goal of the Indigenous ELCC Initiative is to enable greater control and influence by Indigenous peoples over ELCC. The co-development process of the Indigenous ELCC Framework paves the way for self-determination in this area.
There are several lessons learned from our engagement process. It can be noted that having a variety of engagement activities is imperative to sound public policy. We were able to reach so many Canadians because we provided different types of opportunities for participation, such as online, community conversations, in-person sessions, to name a few.
We learned that engagement must target those most impacted by the policy and make it easy for them to contribute to the process. In our case, it was people with a vast understanding of the cultural practices, needs and priorities of Indigenous children and families. We specifically ensured they were well-represented as a proportion of those who took part in engagement. From the views shared through our extensive engagement, ultimately, the Indigenous ELCC Framework reflected their voices.
We would not have had the success in reaching so many Canadians if it were not for our Indigenous partners. Ensuring Indingeous organizations had the necessary capacity supports to lead and shape engagement approaches.
While we conducted our engagement process over a matter of months, we remain in contact with groups who participated as we jointly implement the Framework. As ESDC moves towards the next phase of implementing the Framework, continued engagement reflects our commitment to include Indigenous partners throughout the entire policy development process.
This innovation is at the forefront of moving away from government-centric policy-making to Indigenous-led decision-making. It reaffirms the Government of Canada’s commitment to recognize the importance of collaborative public policy – going beyond superficial input gathering and into a co-developped policy document, done in the spirt of nation-to-nation, government-to-government relations.
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