Seven Generations Education Institute receives funds to add tuition free health programs

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Students enrolled in nursing and Personal Support Worker programs to have tuition waived

On Wednesday April 20, MPP Greg Rickford announced that the government of Ontario has earmarked over $12.9 million over the next four years to help Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI) to increase the number of indigenous and non-indigenous students in their Nursing and Personal Support Worker (PSW) programs.

According to a release from SGEI, the Ontario government is allocating funds to indigenous institutes to support learners in becoming registered nurses, registered practical nurses and PSWs in an effort to combat the current province-wide critical shortage of healthcare workers.

SGEI has three campuses across northwestern Ontario, in Fort Frances, Kenora and Sioux Lookout.

CEO of SGEI Brent Tookenay says the funding will allow the school to run multiple groups of students through various programs at different times where they would be otherwise limited by class size.

“You can’t have 50 people in a PSW program at once,” Tookenay said. “So this allows us to run multiple cohorts, starting at different times and expand our opportunities for people.”

More than just opening up the space for students, the funding will allow students to go through the programs without incurring large amounts of debt that usually come with post-secondary education.

“It allows people not to have to worry about the finances and the details around gaining tuition,” Tookenay said. “So everything is covered and we’re able to train these people. I’m pretty confident they’ll be hired before they’re even finished.”

The funding is spread over four years, starting with $2 million for the current school year, then $4.2 million for the ‘23-’23 school year, another $5.6 million in ‘23-’24, and over $900,000 in ‘24-’25.

SGEI also prides itself on being able to offer its programs from an Indigenous point of view. Director of Post-Secondary Education and Training at SGEI Angela Mainville says the school works to represent the culture and values of local Indigenous groups.

“SGEI prioritizes engagement in Anishinaabe culture and exposure to Anishinaabemowin to shape the student experience at our campuses,” Mainville said. “We know this enables our students to better serve our people and communities in the Treaty Three area. When the needs of Anishinaabe learners are centred, all learners benefit.

MPP Rickford knows just how valuable the nursing profession can be in the region having spent time working as a nurse in the area before going into law and proceeding to get into politics.

“As a former nurse with experience working in communities across the north, I know that Indigenous people have faced barriers to accessing effective and culturally safe health, mental health and addictions care,” Rickford said. “The pandemic has shown us that improved access to these services is of utmost importance for communities.”

According to SGEI the funding is applicable to their two-year practical nursing diploma and the one-year PSW certificate. These programs are run in partnership with Canadore College. The support is also available to a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree program which is offered in partnership with Lakehead University. All of the programs are open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Anyone interested in the programs can apply at