What We Heard and What We Did
Public Review of Bill 48
To commence our review, committee sent letters inviting input on Bill 48 to an extensive list of stakeholders, including community governments, Indigenous organizations, and educational entities in the NWT.
Between May 13 and May 17, 2019, committee traveled to the communities of Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Providence, Behchoko, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk to hold public hearings on Bill 48, followed by a public hearing in Yellowknife on May 23, 2019.
In addition to these meetings, committee received three written submissions. Copies of these submissions are attached in Appendix B.
Subsection 1(1) of Bill 48 defines such terms as "post-secondary institution," "public post-secondary institution," "private college," "private training institution," and "public college," but not others like "university," "college" and "private university." It became apparent to committee during the public hearings on Bill 48 that the bill is unclear about what kind of entity might qualify for each type of post-secondary institution, particularly a university, college, or Indigenous institution.
While committee agrees the distinction between the various institution types possibly could be clearer in Bill 48, we have determined that it would be difficult to incorporate definitions for terms like "university" and "college" without being unintentionally limiting. There is more than one kind of institution type in some cases, a university-college that grants both diplomas and degrees being one example. We believe this necessitates some flexibility in the meaning of such terms. Further, we understand that, if definitions for these terms were incorporated, problems may arise with respect to other institutions that are not established under the Act and to which the Act is not intended to apply.
Further, Bill 48 allows the Minister to make regulations setting out the prescribed circumstances and prescribed criteria an entity must meet to be eligible for status (e.g. ss. 66(g) and (l) and ss. 67(a)). Colleges and universities would be established under specific legislation, following an in-depth application process. In the meantime, committee understands the department can assist entities in assessing their ability to meet the requirements of the quality assurance process, and we encourage the department to involve stakeholders in the development of regulations.
The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Education, Culture and Employment consult stakeholders in the development of the eligibility requirements by which applications for status as a post-secondary institution will be measured.
In order to address a specific concern raised by College nordique francophone that Bill 48 does not anticipate partnership models like the one College nordique intends to pursue, the Minister collaborated with committee to develop Motion 7, set out in Appendix A. This motion seeks to expand the definition in section 27 for "program of instruction" to capture a course or series of courses that results in a certificate, diploma, "or degree" from a private training institution "or from another institution in partnership with the private training institution."
Under section 9 of the bill, the Minister may, on the application of a post-secondary institution and in accordance with regulations, recognize an institution as an "Indigenous institution," defined under subsection 1(1) as "a post-secondary institution recognized as an Indigenous institution under section 9." Bill 48 contains less detail in relation to Indigenous institutions than it does for other post-secondary institutions, and committee heard concern about the lack of clarity about the meaning of the term "Indigenous institution" and the processes and status associated with qualifying as an Indigenous institution.
A representative of the Gwich'in Tribal Council told committee they would like to see more structure and details on Indigenous institutions set out in Bill 48. Specifically, the Gwich'in Tribal Council recommended the inclusion of a set of aspirational principles resembling those in Ontario's Indigenous Institutes Act, 2017 to guide the eventual development of regulations respecting the recognition of Indigenous institutions under paragraph (a) of section 67. The executive director of Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning agreed that section 9 is skeletal and appears to be a placeholder. She went on to say that consultation with Indigenous leaders, students, governments and organizations will be necessary in the development of regulations establishing the process and criteria for qualifying as an Indigenous institution.
Committee has been informed that these regulations will be developed following extensive engagement with Indigenous governments and organizations. We encourage the department to be as inclusive as possible in this engagement process, in light of the recommendations we heard from stakeholders.
The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Education, Culture and Employment target a comprehensive group of interested stakeholders in the development of regulations concerning the recognition of Indigenous institutions.
Section 3 of the bill requires the Minister to facilitate the development of a post-secondary education system in the NWT that, among other things, promotes excellence, is accessible and affordable, and respects academic freedom. To guide the Minister's work and the development of regulations pertaining to the recognition of Indigenous institutions, committee collaborated with the Minister to develop Motion 2, set out in Appendix A. This motion expands the principles guiding the work of the Minister under section 3 to include respect for the unique values, history, and cultures of the people of the NWT.
In addition, we proposed Motion 6, set out in Appendix A, to clarify that only those entities that have received recognition as some other form of post-secondary institution, such as a college, may seek recognition as an Indigenous institution.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn the reading of the report to the Member for Deh Cho. Mahsi.