FIRST NATIONS EDUCATION COUNCIL

November 19, 2009 13:36 ET

First Nations education: Leaders call for equity, rights and action on First Nations education

QUEBEC, Nov. 19 - At a press conference held in the school gym in the Mi'gmaq community of Listuguj in the Gaspesie region, Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), gave his support to the call for greater attention to address inequities in First Nations education and the rights of First Nations students. National Chief Atleo accompanied Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) Chief Ghislain Picard and Listuguj Chief Allison Metallic calling for a new approach to First Nations education.

"The First Nations education System has been chronically underfunded for 20 years, with schools receiving at least $2,000 less per student compared to provincial schools. Too often our students go without basics like safe buildings, libraries, vocational education, sports and recreation programs or even gyms. It is time that we work together to resolve these long-standing inequities and offer our children the same opportunities, hope and prosperity enjoyed by every other child in Canada," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.

AFNQL Chief Picard noted in his remarks that "year after year, the government asks us to conduct studies to tell it what should be done and its bureaucrats congratulate us for the quality of our studies, but they inevitably tell us there is no funding to take account of what the studies have to say. This answer will no longer suffice. Action is needed now to allow First Nations schools to offer our students the same number of services, with the same quality, as those offered by the non-Native schools."Chief Picard added that these many studies clearly show that the funding formula used by the federal government since 1988 is out of date and does not meet current needs in education.

Frustrated by the inaction of the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Chiefs are now turning to the public and the media with their message concerning the underfunding of First Nations schools and demands for immediate action to address the inequities which are impeding efforts to make progress. "For more than 35 years now, the Canadian government has consistently ignored a stream of studies and consultations and the conclusions of numerous working groups in which it has nevertheless participated. By refusing to take account of this work, the government is maintaining our schools in a very difficult situation," said Chief Metallic.

Finding a solution has not been on the agenda of INAC, as the department continues to pay at least 100 analysts to study the issue.

National Chief Atleo believes that the time for studies has passed. "We have already studied the issue, and we know what needs to be done. It is time for the government to do the right thing - to join with us in charting this new path for First Nations education."

First Nations education is subject to a funding formula which dates back to 1988 and has not been updated for more than 20 years. It is obsolete and wholly inadequate for taking account of new developments. In addition, the funding of all our social programs, including education, has since 1996 been held to a maximum annual increase of 2%, which takes no account of the strong population growth of First Nations and the increase in the cost of living. "There is simply no justification for this and we cannot tolerate this situation any longer," concluded Chief Picard.

Contact Information

  • Raymond Sioui, First Nations Education Council, (418) 842-7672