September 19, 2006 14:30 ET

Important Demonstration on Parliament Hill - Ottawa Must End its Underfunding of First Nations Education

OTTAWA, Sept. 19 - Some 300 people took part earlier today
in an important demonstration intended to denounce the underfunding of the
First Nations education system. First nations schools (funded by the federal
government) are severely disadvantaged compared to the majority of schools
that are funded by provincial governments. "We know what challenges are
important for our peoples; we know the issues and the problems; we also know
the solutions. All that we are asking today is that the federal government
change its funding policy for First Nations education so that it matches our
realities and allows us to invest adequately in the future of our peoples,"
stated Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and
Labrador (AFNQL).
Chiefs of a number of Canadian First Nations, including the Deputy Grand
Chief of Ontario, Mr. Terry Waboose, took part in the gathering, which was
immediately preceded by a 3km mini-marathon in the streets of Ottawa. A
hundred runners answered the call, including many young students, and there
were more than a hundred spectators present from different communities in
Quebec and beyond. "Running is good for your health. Today we ran for the
health of our peoples, for our youth and for our future," said Grand Chief
Conrad Polson from the community of Timiskaming.
First Nations hope that original activities like this one will be able to
convince the Conservative government to use the upcoming Speech from the
Throne, as well as the new parliamentary session, to make clear its intention
to change the funding formula that has been used by the federal government
since 1988, and which has not even been indexed since 1996. "The formula is
completely outdated and cannot meet current needs in education. How are we
supposed to lower the dropout rate when there is no money for sports programs,
vocational training or the running of school libraries?" asked the Director of
the First Nations Education Council (FNEC), Ms. Lise Bastien.
Over the last few months, the FNEC and a number of Chiefs from Canada's
First Nations have been urging the federal government to look again at funding
for First Nations schools. First Nations are able to count on the support of
organizations such as Amnesty International, Kairos and the Centrale des
syndicats du Québec (CSQ) from the civil society, all of whom publicly
demonstrated their support today.

The FNEC is a not-for-profit organization, which defends First Nations
interests in education. For more information, please visit the Web site

Contact Information

  • Thanissa Lainé, Communications Officer, First
    Nations Education Council, (418) 842-7672, Cell. (418) 932-4351