Choosing the Chair

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On July 25, the people of Eeyou Istchee go to the polls to choose who will run the Cree School Board for the next three years. While many were nominated, it has come down three candidates: the incumbent Kathleen J. Wootton, Dr. Sarah Pash and Robert Auclair.

The Nation asked each candidate what makes him or her the best person for this job. These are their responses.

Kathleen J. Wootton

From its inception, the Cree School Board has struggled to follow Quebec Education Programs and its education standards and competencies. Meanwhile the Quebec education system has undergone numerous reforms over the past 40 years. The Board, however, was not able to implement similar reforms due to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

After the completion of the Communication, Accountability, Follow-up for School Improvement (CAFSI) Report in 2008, the Council instituted a school improvement and change process for all levels of Cree education. For the past 10 years, the Office of the Chairperson and Council have spearheaded changes intended to lay the groundwork for significant school improvement.

In 2013, the Council set up two working groups to assess the feasibility of including Cree traditional knowledge into the Cree education system. The intent was to move away from trying to “fit” Cree culture and language into a western education model to a holistic model which would make Cree traditional knowledge, culture and language as the foundation of Cree education.

I feel that with my education and experience as a leader, I am the ideal candidate to lead an education reform to develop a Cree system that is based upon Cree traditional knowledge, skills, culture and language. With an education system that will be more relevant and meaningful for Cree students and meet Quebec education standards and competencies, just as many young Cree parents rightly expect.


Dr. Sarah Pash

I have always believed that our education system is the greatest tool we have to create our future as a nation. It is my love for teaching and my belief in the power of education that fuelled my determination to complete a Bachelor’s, a Master’s, and a PhD in Education.

Motived by the desire to serve our communities and our nation, I have been a teacher, and worked at the regional level for the Cree School Board in Education Services, before supporting public education at Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute.

Our future is bright as a nation; our youth have great potential. As a solutions-oriented, results-driven leader, I will advocate for – empowerment, engagement, and accountability.

We will empower our students, parents, teachers and communities: their voices must be heard. Innovative approaches must be taken to ensure that all students are supported: elementary, secondary, post-secondary, exceptional, and those with special needs.

We will engage students at all levels, parents, teachers and communities, and collaborate with regional entities. Our issues are unique and require innovative approaches.

Working together we will base our school system in Eeyou/Eenou culture and worldview, as we uphold high standards for teaching and learning in our schools.

As Chairperson, I will ensure accountability and transparency; students, parents and communities deserve no less.

I believe in collaboration, determination and a standards-based, goal-oriented approach to improvement. Together we will empower our students and schools, and continue to develop our school board as a powerful tool to create our future!


Robert Auclair

I was raised by a single mother who valued education for herself and her children. My late mother Emily Masty dedicated more than 30 years of her life to Cree education. She retired as a Cree school principal. She obtained a master’s degree in education and co-wrote the book, The Mind’s Eye, documenting the stories of our Elders. My mother spent many hours with me discussing the challenges, hopes and dreams for Cree children in education. I wish to honour my mother and continue her legacy. My mother’s love and support for those in need are qualities she has instilled and why I have spent my life being of service to our people.

We must transform Cree education to meet the needs of this generation and for future generations. The voices and contributions of youth and their representatives need to take a continued and greater role in this process. We must find solutions to the greatest challenges together and improve upon our current successes. It is the foundation to the greater empowerment of all Iiyuu. We must forge the path towards an all-inclusive education and support system that meets the current and future needs of all Iiyuu. We must study and culturally adapt educational best practices.

We all have a role to play in raising, developing, supporting and educating strong, powerful, confident, intelligent children who are proud of their heritage and who are strong in their culture, traditions, language and identity. Let’s stop sprinkling culture on education and let’s start bringing education into our culture.

As the next generation of workers, governance, parents, health-care workers, lawyers, athletes, activists and stewards of the land are those young people sitting in the classrooms of each community, your opportunity to cast your vote will come soon. Raise your voice with your vote and go with the candidate that captures your beliefs!

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