Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve (AHSOR)

In 1995, the Government of Canada established the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) Program to help enhance child development and school readiness of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children living in urban centres and large northern communities. An expansion component of the Aboriginal Head Start program for First Nations communities was announced on October 19, 1998. This expansion was a result of commitments made in Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan, Securing our Future Together, and the September 1997 Speech from the Throne. The goal is to provide funding for a focused approach with six program components that are integrated, viable and sustainable.

The Government of Canada provides $47.37 million annually to support AHSOR Programs in First Nations communities on reserve (excluding BC). The First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia delivers this program with communities as they have taken over federal responsibilities for First Nations health in BC.

In the 2015-16 reporting year,  over 14,000 First Nations children on reserve participated in an AHSOR Program  (excluding BC).

What is Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve?

The Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program funds activities that support early intervention strategies to address the learning and developmental needs of young children living in First Nations communities. The goal is to support early child development strategies that are designed and controlled by communities.

AHSOR Programming is centered around six components: education; health promotion; culture and language; nutrition; social support; and parental/family involvement.

Children in the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program gain opportunities to develop self-confidence, a greater desire for learning, and an excellent start in their journey towards becoming successful people.

Parents, guardians and other family members are the most important teachers in a child's life. The Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program knows this and provides support.  It helps parents and other caregivers learn and improve skills that contribute to healthy child development. It also works with families to help strengthen family relationships.

The Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program encourages parents, families and community members to play an important role in running the Program. The Program also builds relationships with other community programs and services so that children get the best care.

Linkages with Federal Child Development Programs

The Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program is part of the federal network of programs that directly address early learning and healthy development for First Nations children living on-reserve. These programs include: Employment and Social Development Canada's (ESDC) First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative (FNICCI) and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) - funded daycares in Alberta and Ontario.

The Program complements the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) Program, which is a Public Health Agency of Canada-funded early childhood development program for First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and their families living in urban and northern communities. Both Aboriginal Head Start programs share similar program mandates and objectives, as well as the six program components.


The Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve Program is part of four community-based programs* aimed at improving the health status of First Nations and Inuit individuals, families and communities through strengthened maternal and child health services and support.

The 2008-2009 to 2012-2013 Cluster Evaluation Report , which includes the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program, was completed to address the 2006 Federal Accountability Act requirements that the relevance and effectiveness of all grant and contribution programs be reviewed on a five-year cycle.

*The four programs are: The Maternal Child Health Program, the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program-First Nations and Inuit Component, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Program and the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program


For more information on the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program, call 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) and ask for the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program contact in your region.

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