COO press release¬
OTTAWA, Sept. 23 /CNW/ - oday, the Chiefs of Ontario join First Nations across the country in an urgent call for an end to the chronic underfunding of First Nation elementary, secondary and post secondary education and the impacts of this harsh reality on First Nation children everywhere.
"There is no question in our minds that First Nations children will continue to be at a real disadvantage if the current approach of the government of Canada with respect to First Nation education is allowed to continue," said Ontario Regional Chief, Angus Toulouse.¬† "First Nations have stated time and time again, that they are ready, willing and at a strategic advantage to lay out the way forward with the federal government.¬† More importantly, First Nations have the experience, the expertise and a vested interest in enhancing the quality of life and opportunities for our children."
First Nations have long called for action in the area of education and assert that the resources needed to develop the supports required to help children be successful in school are a good investment in both First Nation and Canadian economies.¬†¬† Their assertions are backed up by numerous reports, including one from the Canadian Council of Living Standards which estimated that with a focussed effort to close the education gap, the gross domestic product of Canada could increase by up to $71 billion dollars in a 17 year period.¬† And after the legacy of residential schools, First Nations recognize that the onus is on First Nation communities and organizations to take the lead in developing culturally relevant and academically solid programming and education support structures that are critical to the success of First Nation students.
"The fact of the matter is that First Nations have had to make do with far less to achieve results.¬† To pretend that an education or funding gap does not exist is unproductive and unhelpful.¬† An antiquated funding formula has been in place for over 20 years.¬† To toss around blame or shirk responsibility while more reports tell us the same thing - that the federal government's approach is continuing to fail First Nation students, is not going to change outcomes for First Nation students," stated Chief Toulouse.¬† He emphasized that First Nations are interested in solutions, quality, equity, and results - none of which exist under the government's current funding or policy regimes.
Regional Chief Toulouse points out that there are many practical actions that can take place immediately, such as lifting the 2% cap on funding that has been in place since 1996.¬† He points out that post secondary education is one of the priority issues for First Nations in Ontario. The impact of the 2% cap on funding in the Post Secondary Student Support Program has resulted in thousands of eligible students being denied every year. "First Nations have the fastest growing population in this country and there is an economic imperative to do the right thing by investing in education and the labour force of tomorrow.¬† It makes sense to lift the cap," said Chief Toulouse.
The Regional Chief indicated that First Nations are clearly and collectively saying to government that First Nations will not tolerate second rate education for their children any longer.¬† Instead of accountability from the federal government, all First Nations hear are denials and attempts to place the blame on First Nation governments that have struggled with chronic underfunding in all areas while trying to provide the most basic services for their people.¬† "Our governments are constantly being told to do more with less.¬† The federal government has to do the right thing and admit that First Nations education is badly under-funded and that they will make it a priority to start to adequately invest in First Nations education which will yield positive results both for First Nations and all of Canada both now and in the future," stated Chief Toulouse.
For further information:
Andre Morriseau, Communications Officer