February 25, 2009 16:44 ET

AFNQL Chief sees promising signs in Education Ministers' meeting on First Nations education

WENDAKE, QC, Feb. 25 - Meeting of the Ministers of Education in Saskatoon from February 23 to 25 to discuss strategies with Aboriginal leaders for bridging the persistent gap in educational attainment levels between the First Nations and other Canadian citizens.

The purpose of these summit talks bringing together all the Ministers of Education in the country is to come up with a response to the major crisis affecting First Nations education.

At the meeting, Pierre Corbeil, who is Quebec's Minister for Native Affairs, expressed his government's support for the First Nations: "The Quebec government considers it to be the federal government's responsibility to adequately fund the First Nations' education systems so that they can exercise their jurisdiction on the basis of standards equivalent to those of the provinces. We are also wholly prepared, in keeping with the goal of this meeting, to promote collaboration and sharing of expertise with the First Nations in order to reduce the gap in educational attainment levels."

Quebec's position was welcomed by AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard: "The position put forward by Minister Corbeil recognizes the need for adequate funding of our education systems and thus points the way towards the possibility of partnerships which are responsible and which take account of our respective areas of jurisdiction. Previously, in July 2008, Premier Charest himself expressed concern about the under-funding of First Nations education and I am very encouraged to see Minister Corbeil bring up this same concern."

Several studies, including those by the First Nations Education Council, document the chronic under-funding of First Nations schools. Furthermore, the federal government recently announced an investment of $268 million over five years for all of Canada. But the funding of First Nations schools has not been indexed since 1996 to account for the increase in their student populations or of the increase in the cost of living. Analyses have been produced showing how this will lead to a real loss in monetary value of $267 million in 2009-2010 alone for the schools of the First Nations in Canada.

Contact Information

  • Raymond Sioui, Assistant Director of the FNEC, (418) 842-7672; Alain Garon, Communication Officer of the AFNQL, (418) 842-5020