Aboriginal Education Agreement signed in Quebec

John DuncanODANAK, PQ – The federal government continues to work to boost educational opportunities for Aboriginal youth. Today, the governments of Canada, Quebec, and the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), on behalf of the First Nations Education Council of Quebec (FNEC), have signed an agreement to support and improve the academic success of First Nation students.

Ghislain Picard, Chief of AFNQL, said, “It is my hope that this partnership will give us a better understanding of the needs of First Nation students and help the parties, within the scope of their responsibilities and jurisdictions and in the spirit of co-operation and sharing of expertise, to prepare these students so they can take their rightful place in society in general and as citizens of First Nations. There is still a great deal to be done to improve the living conditions of First Nation peoples, and to achieve this we share the firm belief that education must be viewed more as an investment than as an expense. Also, I would like to emphasize the current government’s recent decision to support a motion that includes a commitment to adequately fund First Nation schools, so that all First Nation children, without exception, have access to quality education. I am eager to see this commitment fulfilled, and the AFNQL and FNEC will be pleased to lend their support.”

“This agreement is another concrete example of our determination to work together to ensure First Nation students receive the education they need to succeed—whether their classroom is located on or off reserve,” said John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. “Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012 confirmed an additional investment of $275 million over three years in education, giving an added boost to current efforts being made to provide First Nation students with an education that will enable them to fulfill their aspirations and take an active part in a thriving Canadian economy.”

“Many obstacles await Aboriginal students as they go through school. I am pleased with this agreement, which will provide students with the learning tools and conditions necessary for achieving academic success,” said Quebec’s Minister responsible for Native Affairs, Geoffrey Kelley. “I believe that what we are doing today demonstrates our commitment to the success of our young people and our readiness to deploy all means necessary to support them in their studies. We likewise affirm our desire to see young Quebecers and Aboriginals learning and developing their skills together. This will enable them on their way to enrich each other’s language, culture and knowledge.”

“All strategies invoked in support of school success depend on collaboration and solidarity. In signing this memorandum of understanding, we are giving clear expression to our intent to strengthen dialogue and cohesion in our actions on behalf of First Nation students. Wherever they may be, young people need encouragement and unflagging support if they are to embark confidently on an educational path that will enable them to develop their full potential,” declared Quebec’s Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports, Line Beauchamp.

This tripartite agreement formalizes the commitment of all the parties to work together as partners. This agreement also includes a joint action plan, whose primary objective is to promote the academic success of students, particularly those who make the transition from one education system to another. A key objective under the agreement is to develop a process through which the First Nations and the provincial educational systems can work together more effectively.

The FNEC represents 22 of the 40 First Nations in Quebec, including 10 that are signatories to this agreement, which will benefit close to 3,200 students. The agreement includes an opt-in clause allowing other First Nation communities to participate in the agreement in the future.

This agreement was established under the federal Education Partnerships Program. Other tripartite education agreements have been concluded in several provinces, including New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. A sub-regional agreement has also been signed in Saskatchewan.