The Process of Studying Aboriginal Postsecondary Education Policy


My thesis research focused on the meetings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in 2006. I analyzed the meeting Minutes, Evidence, the summative report, No Higher Priority, and the Harper government’s response.

The following summary is a simplified account of the events outlined in the texts that I consulted.

1. The Committee began meeting May 1, 2006. The Committee debated possible topics to investigate during the parliamentary session. Witnesses from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development briefed the Committee members on the policy issues currently under review by the Department and the witnesses were questioned by the members of the Committee.

2. The Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, a subcommittee of the Committee, reviewed the lists of topics submitted by the Committee members on May 15, 2006. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Jim Prentice, was consulted and he advised  the Committee to focus on Aboriginal education.

3. The Committee members agreed to focus on Aboriginal education on May 15, 2006, but continued to hear the presentations of witnesses from Aboriginal organizations, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, the Department, and Prentice on a wide range of policy issues in addition to education, including housing, self-government, child welfare, food security, and health.

4. On September 19, 2006, the Committee focused its inquiry on the topic of Aboriginal postsecondary education (PSE). The Committee continued to hear the testimony of witnesses and to question witnesses. The overall focus of presentations was Aboriginal PSE, but the discussion was also diverted to other policy problems. The Committee also reviewed reports and briefs about Aboriginal PSE. The Committee’s study of Aboriginal PSE ended on October 31, 2006.

5. On January 30, 2007, the Committee met in camera (or in private, meaning there is no public transcript of the meeting) to review a draft of the summative report on PSE that had been prepared in consultation with analysts from the Library of Parliament. The Committee presented the final draft of its summative report, No Higher Priority, to the House of Commons on February 12, 2007 and requested a response from the Harper government in 120 days.

6. The Harper government submitted its response to the recommendations outlined in the Committee’s summative report to the House of Commons on June 12, 2007.

As I stated at the beginning, this is a simplified summary of the events that occurred during the study. Due to the nature of the documents that I used for my analysis, there are possible negotiations and compromises that took place that are not accounted for in these documents. Such is the messiness of policy making.

Photo Credit:, Danilo Rizzuti

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