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What is the Manitoba First Nations School System?

The Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS) is the first of its kind in Canada, is a First Nations-designed school system, with funding comparable to provincial school divisions. As the leader in First Nations education in Manitoba, MFNSS recognizes and meets the unique needs of First Nations students, providing a culturally relevant, high quality education system. While respecting First Nations control, treaty and inherent rights, MFNSS supports schools to improve the quality and relevance of education, improve academic standards, and increase student outcomes, including retention, completion and graduation rates.


What components of education does MFNSS administer?

MFNSS administers and manages elementary and secondary (K4-12) education programs, services, and funding for participating First Nations.

The K4-12 education programs and services include the following:

•    Instructional services (including tuition)

•    Student support services (including transportation, Private Home Placement supports)

•    Operation and maintenance of school facilities

•    Elementary and secondary education-related band employee benefits

•    First Nations Student Success Program

•    New Paths

•    High-Cost Special Education Program 


Are all education services administered by MFNSS?

Not all education services are administered by MFNSS. Post-secondary services and early childhood programs (e.g., Head Starts, daycares, etc.) continue to be administered by the First Nation.


How is MFNSS unique?

MFNSS is guided by the shared vision of First Nations leadership to work with communities to develop and implement a comprehensive holistic educational system inclusive of First Nations languages, world views, values, beliefs and traditions with exemplary academic standards under First Nation jurisdiction.

MFNSS recognizes the diversity within First Nations and supports quality education by building on a foundation of First Nations languages and tradition. The system includes knowledge from Elders and Knowledge Keepers and traditional ways of knowing into First Nations education.


What are the benefits of joining MFNSS?

The benefits of joining MFNSS include:



  • Increased resources for First Nations language and culture programming
  • A full range of learning resources and counseling services
  • Specialized personnel including school psychologists, speech/language pathologists, audiologists, and programming facilitators
  • Greater flexibility in the way programs are delivered to ensure high standards that improve student outcomes
  • Extensive technology support ensuring the majority of students can achieve outcomes of the highest standards
  • Opportunities to provide specialized programs such as Reading Recovery, music, and other programs
  • Advanced professional development opportunities and increased teacher mobility such as cross-mentoring and interchanges
  • Opportunities for regional Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for the purpose of collaborating, networking, building capacity and sharing of materials.



  • Ability to attract and retain staff, share resources, and provide students with access to a wide range of opportunities;
  • Competitive salaries and benefits package e.g paid summer vacations;
  • Adequate and equitable funding which respects First Nations control and treaty and inherent rights 
  • Larger overall budgets, greater financial and programming flexibility;
  • Lower administrative costs through shared corporate functions, which means more funding for classroom resources; and,
  • Stable and sustainable comprehensive funding model comparable to the funding provided to school divisions in the provincial system.



  • Enhancing capacity to meet school facility and education resource needs;
  • Supporting First Nations schools to developing a safe and healthy school infrastructure, such as addressing infrastructure deficiencies to allow for inclusion  
  • Supporting First Nations leadership in realizing school capital projects such as expansion and new schools


Which First Nations have joined MFNSS?


The following First Nations are part of MFNSS:

1.    Bloodvein First Nation

2.    Brokenhead Ojibway Nation

3.    Dakota Plains First Nation

4.    Fox Lake Cree Nation

5.    Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation

6.    Lake Manitoba First Nation

7.    Lake St. Martin First Nation

8.    Pinaymootang First Nation

9.    Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation

10.    York Factory First Nation

Several other First Nations have expressed an interest in joining the MFNSS.

When did MFNSS start managing and administering First Nations schools?

MFNSS was established in July 2017 and has been responsible for managing and administering schools since the beginning of the 2017/18 academic year.



What is the governance structure of MFNSS?

MFNSS remains under the umbrella of MFNERC governance structure during Phase One. This will evolve as the system develops. MFNSS governance structure includes a Governance Model, which describes the roles and responsibilities of the partners, and the reporting/communication relationships.

What are the roles and responsibilities of the MFNSS?

MFNSS's primary responsibility is to ensure students and schools have a high-quality and culturally appropriate education system that reflects the needs of the participating First Nations. The MFNERC Board establishes operating budgets and sets policies. The Director of Instructional Services ensures staff deliver education in a manner consistent with the policy, while the Director of Facilities and Operations supports MFNSS schools by utilizing best practices in health and safety standards.


MFNSS Governance Model

MFNERC Board of Directors

The MFNERC Board continues to provide the overall governance and works with the MFNSS Directors. They also communicate with the Local Advisory Representative(s) (LAR) through their Director of Education.

Director of Instructional Services

The Director of Instructional Services provides direction and coordination of instructional services. This includes implementing educational goals and objectives by working with school administrators and staff through the development of curriculum, instruction and assessment strategies to strengthen student learning

Director of Facilities and Operations

The Director of Facilities and Operations manages and administers non-instructional areas of MFNSS. This is includes oversight of educational facilities and infrastructure such as maintenance of school facilities and repairs, school operations and communications and transportation programs.

Local Advisory Representative(s) (LAR)

Each participating First Nation has the opportunity to identify a Local Advisory Representative(s) (LAR) using their own processes. The LAR is responsible for serving as a liaison with MFNSS Directors by providing advice and information.

The LAR may provide advice and information on:

  • Programs, policies, procedures, and activities;
  • Human resources;
  • School facility operation and maintenance;
  • Short- and long-term priorities and planning; and
  • Student transportation.


Who creates policies?

The MFNERC Board of Directors sets policy for MFNSS. The policies include recommended guidelines and processes such as the minimum number of days for instructional time, curriculum guidelines, and teacher certification.


How is the the MFNSS model used by the federal government?

The federal government has provided resources for development and implementation of the MFNSS model. Other First Nations in Canada are developing their own models based on their own needs.



Does joining MFNSS affect the day to day operations of the school?

Joining the MFNSS does not affect the day to day operations of the school. MFNSS provides support to the school as needed.


What happens to teachers when they transition to the MFNSS?

When First Nations join MFNSS, teachers become employees of MFNERC and receive support in various program areas.


What provisions are being made for teachers Health and Pension benefit packages?

MFNSS employees become part of MFNERC and receive similar health and benefits packages.


Does MFNSS build capacity in First Nations e.g., job creation?

With increased funding for education, MFNSS is able to hire more teachers to work in specialty areas and to lower the teacher student ratios. There are also more opportunities for professional development and training sessions in various areas to build the knowledge base of First Nation teachers.


Will individual locally controlled schools receive provincial comparability in funding?


First Nations that manage and administer their own schools continue to operate based on Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) policies, guidelines and funding regimes for First Nations education. A new regional funding formula is being developed which may lead to enhanced levels of funding.


Does the MFNSS receive increased funding and resources for participating First Nation schools?


The MFNSS funding model provides increased funding and resources for participating First Nations schools. It is based on the provincial model for funding school divisions with enhancements for Private Home Placement, language and culture, transportation and other programs. MFNSS is responsible for managing all elementary and secondary education funding, including approving annual budgets and determining funding allocations.


What are the impacts on education funding for First Nations?


The MFNSS funding model has flexible funding for elementary and secondary education programs. This includes band employee benefits, instructional services, student supports, operations and maintenance, minor capital, and programming previously available through the ISC proposal-based programs such as New Paths, High-Cost Special Education, and the First Nation Student Success Program.


Do First Nations have a say in how the education money is spent? Where does the money go?

Funding flows directly from ISC to MFNSS, which administers the education funding for the participating First Nations schools. The local First Nations representatives are responsible for identifying the priorities of each school and seeking meaningful involvement of parents and community in providing input to MFNSS.

MFNSS is responsible for incorporating the local priorities as it continues to provide a high-quality education and strategies for school improvement using best practices for effective schools for First Nations students.

MFNSS considers the local priorities in establishing operating budgets, setting education system policies, making decisions and ensuring that these decisions are implemented by MFNSS Directors.




Is there funding for language and culture programming in the MFNSS?

There is funding available for language and culture programming. First Nations have the option of either offering a First Nations language as a subject of instruction or a language of instruction for bilingual and immersion programs.


Do MFNSS schools follow the provincial curriculum?

MFNSS follows the provincial curriculum while incorporating curriculum that addresses locally-identified needs and language and culture. MFNSS provides additional supports to foster comparable education outcomes to allow for student transferability, and to cultivate academic success in post-secondary studies.


How does MFNSS plan to improve academic achievement and how does it measure student success?


MFNSS is using enhanced supports and a performance measurement strategy to track, monitor and assess academic achievement. MFNSS has analyzed current academic achievement data and is utilizing early intervention strategies and ongoing assessments to identify appropriate programming to meet student needs.




What is the process to join the MFNSS?


First Nations who are interested in joining MFNSS may forward a letter of interest to the Executive Director of Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre Inc. (MFNERC). This will initiate the process of consultation and communication. MFNERC will provide an information session to the First Nation upon the request of its leadership.


Process for joining MFNSS:

1)   Submission of a letter of intent with a proposed time frame for implementation.

2)   The First Nation will identify a representative(s) to engage in discussions with MFNERC.

3)   Once an agreement has been reached between the First Nation and MFNERC, the First Nation shall submit a Band Council Resolution (BCR) to both MFNERC and ISC.

4)   During the transition phase, MFNERC will conduct a human resource assessment, school facility audit, and education funding arrangement analysis.

5)   The First Nation will sign a Delegation Agreement with MFNERC and ISC a minimum of nine months prior to the next academic year


What are the eligibility criteria?


Any First Nation that has an on-reserve school and/or a First Nation that administers their school is eligible.


What is the opt-in process?

In order to establish stability within MFNSS, each participating First Nation is required to join for a minimum of five years.


What is the opt-out process?

At least 18 months prior to the expiration of the term, the parties involved will meet to discuss the process for non-renewal. This 18-month period will be necessary to ensure a smooth and orderly transition process to minimize the impacts on students and school programming