THUNDER BAY – One of the issues that has not made it atop the list of priorities during the provincial election are Aboriginal issues. The Canadian Federation of Students are concerned over this lack of engagement or action from the major party leaders.
“Students are disappointed at the lack of commitments that have been made to improve the lives of Aboriginal youth in Ontario during the current Ontario election,” according to a statement issued by the CFS on Monday. “Aboriginal youth have been most affected by poor economic policies and need to know that the winner of the Ontario election will work with First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth in Ontario to improve the opportunities available to them”.
“As a university student, I know that the current government’s policy of increasing tuition fees is placing a greater strain on me, my family and my community,” said Pat Smoke, Ontario Aboriginal Students Commissioner for the CFS. “My struggles are similar to the struggles faced by other First Nations youth as well as the struggles faced by youth from both the Métis and Inuit communities. We’re calling on all parties to make meaningful commitments to improving the lives of Aboriginal people while maintaining respect for their local autonomy.”
The Status First Nations students in Ontario who obtain funding for post-secondary education through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program have had their funding slowly eroded through rising tuition fees. The PSSSP, a federal program, grows by two per cent each year. The Ontario government has increased tuition fees by five per cent on average leaving less money each year to fund First Nations students. Despite increased demand, conflicting governmental policies has meant that fewer students have been able to go to college and university.
“We are calling on the leaders of the Progressive Conservatives, the NDP, the Greens and the Liberals to make substantive promises to improve Aboriginal students’ access to higher education in Ontario and to commit to strengthening relationships while respecting the autonomy of Indigenous communities,” said Smoke.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario unites more than 300,000 college and university undergraduate and graduate students in all regions the province.