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What is the Manitoba First Nations School System?

The Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS), the first of its kind in Canada, is a First Nations-designed school system with enhanced funding. As the leader in First Nations education in Manitoba, MFNSS recognizes and meets the unique needs of First Nations students, providing a high-quality education system. MFNSS addresses language, culture and land-based education to make schooling more relevant to a First Nations identity. While respecting First Nations control and treaty and inherent rights, MFNSS supports schools to 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?

Currently, not all education services are administered by MFNSS. Post-secondary services will continue to be administered by the First Nation.

How is MFNSS unique?

MFNSS is guided by the shared vision of our leaders to work with First Nations to develop and implement a comprehensive, holistic educational system which focuses on the heart, mind, body and spirit. MFNSS is inclusive of First Nations languages, worldviews, 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/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 classroom resources
  • 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
  • Technology support enabling students to achieve outcomes of the highest standards
  • Specialized programs such as Reading Recovery, music, art and facilitating traditionally based physical education
  • Opportunities for professional development, 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
  • First Nations exercise their jurisdiction over education by mandating MFNSS to manage their schools
  • Competitive salaries and benefits package
  • Larger overall budgets, greater financial and programming flexibility


  • Supporting First Nations leadership with capital projects such as school expansion and new schools
  • Enhancing capacity to meet school facility and education resource needs
  • Supporting First Nations schools to develop a safe, healthy , inclusive school infrastructure for accessible scools


Which First Nations have joined MFNSS?


The following First Nations are part of MFNSS as of March 2019:

1.    Bloodvein First Nation

2.    Brokenhead Ojibway Nation

3.    Dakota Plains First Nation

4.    Dakota Tipi 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 are currently discussing potential for joining MFNSS.


What is the governance structure of MFNSS?

MFNSS remains under the umbrella of MFNERC governance structure. This structure may evolve as the system develops. The Governance Model describes the roles and responsibilities of the partners and the reporting/communication relationships.

What are the roles and responsibilities of the MFNSS?

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


MFNSS Governance Model

MFNERC Board of Directors

MFNERC board provides overall governance. As of March 2019, there are two representatives from participating First Nations on MFNERC board of directors. Annual reports and audits are provided as information to the AMC Chiefs and assembly.

Director of Instructional Services

The Director of Instructional Services reports to MFNERC senior administration and 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 reports to MFNERC senior administration manages and administers non-instructional areas of MFNSS. This 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
  • Student transportation

Who creates policies?

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


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

MFNSS works with schools to improve day-to-day operations 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 local First Nations capacity?

MFNSS provides more opportunities for professional development and training sessions in various areas to build the knowledge base of all employees.


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.

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

MFNSS funding model provides increased funding and resources for participating First Nations schools. It is based on an enhanced interim funding model for Private Home Placement, language and culture, transportation and other programs. MFNERC 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 MFNERC, 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 meets the requirements of the provincial curriculum for student transferability between systems.

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

MFNSS uses enhanced supports and a performance measurement strategy to track, monitor and assess academic achievement. MFNSS analyzes current academic achievement data and is utilizing early intervention strategies and ongoing assessments to identify appropriate pro- gramming 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 before the next academic year.

What are the eligibility criteria?

Any First Nation can join MFNSS.


How long is the Delegation Agreement term?

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.