Innovation in Education Program: National Program Guidelines 2023 to 2024

Table of contents


The Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed, nation-to-nation and government-to-government relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership as the foundation for transformative change. The implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires transformative change in the government's relationship with Indigenous peoples.

These efforts must be guided by Canada's obligation to respect and uphold First Nations' inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights, including those rights to education referenced in specific treaties and self-government agreements. The nation-to-nation relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations is rooted in historic treaties, the Numbered Treaties, self-government agreements, section 35, guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and informed by the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action.

1. Program introduction

The Innovation in Education Program is designed to support regionally-driven, First Nations-defined processes that enable First Nations-led organizations to manage and oversee First Nations education innovation project selection and funding allocations.

The program supports the development and implementation of First Nations innovative education program pilots. For example, projects related to:

which aim to improve education outcomes for First Nations communities, schools and students.

This program replaces the Innovation Activities Program that was offered under the discontinued New Paths for Education. Innovation in Education is 1 of several contribution programs, along with Research and Learning and the Education Partnerships Program, which complement Indigenous Services Canada's (ISC) funding efforts towards First Nations elementary and secondary education.

The investment in this program reaffirms the Government of Canada's commitment to working collaboratively with First Nations to ensure that all First Nations students receive a culturally-responsive, high-quality education that improves student outcomes, while respecting the principle of First Nations control of First Nations education.

These guidelines were developed in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations and the National Indian Education Council and are intended to help eligible beneficiaries in the development of their costed work plans.

These guidelines set out the program delivery requirements for funding recipients that enter into a funding agreement with ISC for the delivery of the Innovation in Education Program.

These guidelines are effective as of April 1, 2023 and replace the Innovation in Education: National Program Guidelines 2022 to 2023.

These guidelines are to be read in conjunction with the funding agreement signed by the funding recipient.

2. Objective

The program's objective is to lead to the development and implementation of best practices in innovative education programs and services for First Nations students.

3. Expected results

The program is a small part of broader efforts to improve First Nations elementary and secondary education. Activities are expected to help improve the overall quality of education in First Nations and contribute to the following specific expected outcomes:

Outcomes may also be identified by regional education agreements.

4. Eligible recipients

Recipients eligible to receive funding include:

Depending on the nature of the regional agreement, funding may be allocated to a First Nations organization to administer the program regionally and distribute funding to specific projects based on available funding and First Nations decisions.

5. Eligible components and activities

The program supports activities towards the development and implementation of innovative education program pilots. For example:

Eligible activities include those which lead to:


6. Expenditures

6.1 Eligible expenditures

Eligible expenditures must be directly related to the eligible activities set out in the work plan that has been approved through a First Nations-led regional process.

Eligible expenditures may include the following:

  • salaries, fees, tobacco and honoraria for professional services, for example:
    • researchers
    • language professionals
    • advisors
    • Elders and guest speakers
  • salaries, benefits and wages for employees
  • transportation and accommodation costs for eligible participants incurred as a direct result of participating in an eligible activity not already covered by elementary and secondary program funding
  • learning materials, including those required for land-based education
  • materials and equipment purchases or rentals
  • printing and publishing costs including online publishing costs
  • facility rentals
  • hospitality
  • curriculum and instructional materials development costs
  • diagnostic, testing and evaluation tools
    • professional services
    • professional development and support activities
  • costs associated with coordination of region-wide education programs and services
    • program modification or adaptation
  • funding for liaison with:
    • First Nations education and community service providers, for example, child and family services and employment programs
    • provincial service providers
    • education organizations to support improved education outcomes

Administration costs include, but are not limited to:

  • management of regional program processes such as travel, honoraria
  • clerical support
  • office supplies
  • collection, maintenance and reporting of data and information in accordance with program and financial reporting requirements
  • costs associated with ensuring that personal information is appropriately managed and safeguarded during its collection, use, disclosure and disposal

Administration costs must not exceed 15% of the sub-total amount requested before administration costs.

Further distribution of funds by ISC's funding recipients:

When a funding recipient further transfers to a third party funds that were received under this program, the 15% allowed for administration costs must be divided between the parties, as agreed to between the parties.

The total administration costs retained by all parties must not exceed 15% of the sub-total amount requested before administration costs.

Travel expenses are to be claimed at actual cost but cannot exceed the rates and allowance established in the National Joint Council Travel Directive in effect at the time of travel. Expenses which exceed the rates and allowance set for in the directive are ineligible and will not be paid.

7. Proposal process

First Nations partners will drive the development or the selection of costed proposals. If the total costs of identified projects are lower than the total program budget allocation, final decisions regarding the release of these funds will be made together by First Nations and ISC.

First Nations partners are accountable for coming forward with proposals which include the following:

8. Managing conflict of interest

Recipients that manage the adjudication and administration of the funding of the program must demonstrate transparency and accountability in their policies and processes.

This includes having a:

Individuals cannot participate in the evaluation of a proposal in the following situations:

Conflicts of interest may arise during the review of proposals. These situations need to be managed in an open and transparent manner.

Should a situation arise that presents a real or potential conflict of interest during the review process, the impacted individual must recuse themselves from the deliberations concerning the specific proposal.

9. Funding

9.1 Maximum amount of funding

The Innovation in Education Program provides $6 million in national funding annually. The distribution of this funding will depend on:

  • the availability of funds in the overall Innovation in Education Program funding level
  • the regionally-based allocation methodology jointly developed between ISC and:
    • First Nations: Assembly of First Nations
    • National Indian Education Council
    • Chiefs Committee On Education

9.2 Funding approaches

Transfer payments to funding recipients of the Innovation in Education Program may be made using fixed contribution or flexible contribution depending on the recipient's eligibility and the service to be delivered.

Set funding may be used if the recipient so wishes.

ISC regional officers can provide information on the eligibility requirements of these funding approaches and on the requirements related to the management of the funds.

The funding approach used to transfer funds to a recipient is identified in the recipient's signed funding agreement.

The following specific program directions for the management of transfer payments complement the directions provided in the recipient's signed funding agreement and are to be read in conjunction with the funding agreement.

Set contribution funding

Reallocation of funding:

  • reallocation of funds is not allowed with transfer payments made using set contribution.

Fixed contribution funding

Reallocation of funding:

  • during the fiscal year, recipients may reallocate a reasonable percentage of funds among the eligible activities and expenditures of their ISC-approved proposal for the Innovation in Education Program.

Unexpended funding:

  • recipients may retain unexpended funding from a fiscal year, to expend in the 1 year period immediately following the fiscal year for which it was provided, on eligible activities and expenditures outlined in these guidelines.

Flexible contribution funding

Reallocation of funding:

  • during the fiscal year, recipients may reallocate a reasonable percentage of funds among the eligible activities and expenditures of their ISC-approved proposal for the Innovation in Education Program.

Unexpended funding:

  • recipients may retain unexpended funding remaining at the end of each fiscal year to expend in a subsequent fiscal year, to further achieve results toward their ISC-approved proposal for the Innovation in Education Program.

10. Reporting requirements and monitoring and oversight activities

10.1 Reporting requirements

The reporting requirements, such as program reports and financial reports and their respective due dates are listed in the recipient's funding agreement and details on these requirements are available in the Reporting Guide, Activities and Expenditures Report (DCI number 4548549).

Recipients must report on all funds received and expended, including the use of unexpended funding they were allowed to retain to use in another fiscal year. Consult the funding approaches section of these guidelines for details on the use of unexpended funds.

All recipient reporting requirements are subject to monitoring and oversight activities to determine the accuracy of the information provided to ISC.

10.2 Monitoring and oversight

To ensure that the program or strategy outcomes and objectives are being met and opportunities for continuous improvement with a goal to improve results for Indigenous peoples are being identified, activities including audits, evaluations, as well as targeted program or strategy reviews may be conducted in collaboration with the recipient (for example, desk and on-site reviews).

11. Personal information

ISC's collection and use of personal information and other records for the purposes of targeted program reviews (for example, desk and on-site reviews) will be limited to what is necessary to ensure that the program delivery requirements are met.

ISC is responsible for all information and records in its possession. The confidentiality of the information will be managed by ISC in accordance with the Privacy Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. P-21 and other related policies on privacy.

Recipients are responsible for the protection of personal information as per provincial privacy statutes and regulations, and the recipient's policies up to the point that the personal information is transferred to ISC.

12. Accountability

ISC is committed to providing assistance to recipients in order to help them effectively carry out their obligations under these guidelines and their funding agreement.

Regional offices and other ISC contacts are available to answer questions and provide guidance related to ISC programs and funding. Recipients must:

First Nations partners and recipients are expected to make information about their projects available for sharing in order to allow for exchange of learning and knowledge.

13. Contact information

To find out more, visit Innovation in Education Program.

The Innovation in Education Program is a regionally-based program. Visit the ISC regional offices page to find your regional office contact.

You can also write to:

Education Branch
Indigenous Services Canada
10 rue Wellington - Suite 1455, Mailstop 25E-19
Gatineau QC K1A 0H4


To learn more, consult the national program guidelines.

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