“This was a goal envisioned by Shannen Koostachin” – Greg Rickford MP

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Greg RickfordOTTAWA – Leader’s Ledger – This government remains fully committed that first nations children achieve the same educational outcomes as other Canadians. This was a goal envisioned by Shannen Koostachin.

As part of our commitment to Shannen’s dream, we are working to provide first nations children and youth with a safe and welcoming learning environment, so that they can reach their full potential and acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and fully share in Canada’s economic opportunities.

I am happy, also, to assure the hon. member that we have been extremely active in this regard. In March 2011 the Government of Canada, in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations, confirmed the appointment of a national panel on first nations elementary and secondary schools. This engagement process would result in recommendations on how to enhance the elementary and secondary education systems and, importantly, the outcomes for first nations children living on reserve.

The panel has completed regional meetings throughout the country. Recently, the panel wrapped up its extensive hearings with its eighth and final round table on first nations education held here in Ottawa.

The panel will then present a report and recommendations to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and to the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations on possible avenues for improving education for First Nations students. We are anxious to get the report and the recommendations from the panel, and we should have them by January.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development invests about $1.7 billion a year in education for First Nations, including $1.4 billion for elementary and secondary education and over $300 million for post-secondary education.

Through targeted programs like the education partnerships program and the First Nation student success program, we are investing an additional $268 million over five years and $75 million in the following years to lay the foundation for long-term improvements to First Nations education.

I am pleased to report real progress on tripartite partnerships. Since 2008 we have signed five tripartite education agreements with the provinces of New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and the Saskatoon Tribal Council. These join pre-existing tripartite partnership arrangements in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, with 40% of first nation children on reserve attending provincial schools. These partnerships are designed to help first nation students transfer between both school systems without academic penalty.

We also have a responsibility to treat taxpayers’ money prudently, which is why Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s approved annual growth rate for a bundle of basic services remains at 2%. However, the annual overall growth is larger, due to significant new investments made in priority areas through successive budgets since 2006.

Finally, this government continues to make long-term investments in priority areas to improve the quality of life and education for first nations.

Greg Rickford MP
Kenora

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