February 28, 2008 23:59 ET

The FNEC and the AFNQL assess the 2008 Federal Budget

QUÉBEC, Feb. 28 - The First Nations Education Council has used the occasion of the announcement of the 2008 budget to condemn the Canadian government for breaking its commitments in First Nations education right across the board.

Over the last five years, a number of Joint Working Groups brought together representatives of the Government and First Nations to carry out studies on First Nations education funding. Each and every study came to the same conclusion, namely that there are serious deficiencies at all levels of First Nations education funding. A Joint Working Group on the funding formula for schools showed clearly that they were severely underfunded. Another group on post-secondary education, as well as the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, informed the government that almost 3,000 students wished to carry on into post-secondary studies, but could not do so because of a lack of funding. The Federal Government says that it wants to increase First Nations success, but it completely ignored their insistence on the importance of increasing the funding of this program.

Chief Paul-Émile Ottawa from Manawan expressed his frustration at the


I find it extremely disappointing that after all these Working Groups and

studies and reports on education, that the Federal Government completely

ignores all this in its budget. It keeps our schools in the same

precarious financial situation as they were before. There is still no

funding for libraries, technology, for competitive salaries and so on, as

the FNEC requested in its Awareness Campaign ( The

Government is fully aware that the conditions for success are not in

place. We feel moved to ask whether this is not in fact a deliberate

strategy to discredit our institutions.

Lise Bastien, Director of the FNEC, wonders just how accountability is going to improve results if the resources are not there in the first place. She sees this as an attempt by the Federal Government to discredit First Nations and justify a transfer of responsibilities to the provinces. Ms. Bastien adds that she is in favour of partnerships with the provinces and that the FNEC has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the MELS. However, she sees in the Federal Government's announcement a measure that is intended to promote provincial institutions to the detriment of First Nations ones.

In a press release that it published today, the Canadian Labour Congress reaches the same conclusion. "The government intends to integrate Aboriginal education and health systems with provincial/territorial systems by signing agreements with Aboriginal and provincial/territorial partners, This item conforms to the Federal government's willingness to step away from one of its major responsibilities in the provision of public health care, and it reinforces other assimilationist and market-based policies with respect to Aboriginal people throughout the budget."

Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL, concludes in these terms:

We will not be taken in so easily. Leaving First Nations schools in such

a precarious state is an attempt to discredit us. It is clear that the

Federal Government is following a strategy to assimilate First Nations,

going against the Canadian Constitution, which recognizes our inherent

right to autonomy in education as do all the documents and official

speeches where the government claims to be committed as regards our


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