OTTAWA – Monday night in Parliament, MPs voted unanimously to commit the federal government to boosting financial support for First Nations students to bring them to par with provincial schools. “It is a national shame that First Nations’ students have been neglected by the federal government for so long,” said MP Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North). “In many ways, the future of Northwestern Ontario is tied to the successes of our Aboriginal youth, and access to a good education is the first step towards a better future. This is why we must level the playing field for First Nations children. If they do well, we will all do well. If they don’t, we won’t. The massive gap in education can no longer be ignored.”
Hyer relayed, “Aboriginal students on reserve have long been underfunded by the federal government, receiving as little as half the educational funding that non-Aboriginal students get off-reserve from the provinces”.
“Adopting this NDP motion is a good first step, but the current government has a poor record when it comes to respecting the will of Parliament,” stated Hyer. “We have seen it virtually ignore motions before. So we must remain vigilant to ensure that our First Nations’ students have the same opportunity as all other students when it comes to education.”
The text of the motion reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should adopt Shannen’s Dream by: (a) declaring that all First Nation children have an equal right to high-quality, culturally-relevant education; (b) committing to provide the necessary financial and policy supports for First Nations education systems; (c) providing funding that will put reserve schools on par with non-reserve provincial schools; (d) developing transparent methodologies for school construction, operation, maintenance and replacement; (e) working collaboratively with First Nation leaders to establish equitable norms and formulas for determining class sizes and for the funding of educational resources, staff salaries, special education services and indigenous language instruction; and (f) implementing policies to make the First Nation education system, at a minimum, of equal quality to provincial school systems.
Hyer concluded, “There is now both a legal and moral obligation for the government to step up and assume its responsibilities. Motions passed by Parliament are legally binding, but do not have a deadline for implementation. So we will be watching. I expect to see real movement soon towards ending education inequality for First Nations’ children.”