AMC Chief Derek Nepinak Seeks Fair Treatment
WINNIPEG – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) & the Keewatin Tribal Council (KTC) are calling on the federal government and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) to ensure that all school age children and youth from remote communities are afforded the same standards and access to a basic high school education as enjoyed by other Canadians.
“The Government of Canada has treaty obligations and human rights standards to ensure that all children receive a basic education,” charges AMC Chief Derek Nepinak.
[sws_pullquote_right]“The government of Canada continues to deny the right to education to our students in remote communities” – Chief Walter Spence of the Fox Lake First Nation [/sws_pullquote_right] Education a Priority for First Nations
“With a population boom amongst our young people, coupled with unprecedented opportunities to engage in a balanced approach to developing the resource equity of our ancestral lands, our young people represent the greatest opportunity for the future success of our communities and the Manitoba and Canadian economy,” added the Chief. “With a 2 percent funding cap in place since 1996, and the prescriptive approach used by this federal government to impose new education legislation without the requisite investment in real and tangible solutions, capitalizing on our opportunities for prosperity appear very limited,” continued Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.
The Private Home Placement Program under DIAND, allows for an increasingly smaller number of students to attend basic high school programs that are not offered in some remote First Nations communities.
“The Government of Canada continues to deny the right to education to our students in remote communities”, stated Chief Walter Spence of the Fox Lake First Nation. “It is completely unacceptable that Canada continues to underfund the Private Home Placement Program. In previous years, KTC has been forced to underwrite the costs of the program, taking scarce resources from other underfunded programs. In the past three years alone KTC has incurred a deficit of $1.2 million dollars to ensure that at least some of our First Nations students realize their right to an education. With the funding cuts announced by Canada to all Aboriginal Representative Organizations (ARO’s) in September 2012 and to take effect April 2014, this will greatly impact our ability to ensure our students’ Treaty right to an education,” concluded Chief Spence.
KTC management has attempted to address the funding shortfall with the DIAND since June of 2013 to no avail. A definite commitment from DIAND to cover the shortfall of funding has yet to occur, leaving many northern school age youth without any degree of certainty as to whether they can attend high school programs this year. With the start of the 2013-2014 school year, KTC has reached out to leadership at both MKO & AMC to provide political support to the regional department of DIAND to address the escalating funding deficits.
“In my view, the lack of critical infrastructure is at the core of the issue. Our children continue to leave our communities to attain an education, which is their right to do so; however our First Nations continue to face the challenges of ensuring the appropriate community infrastructure facilities in our communities are in place. A vast majority of the natural resource wealth that Canada enjoys is not shared equally with our First Nations. This practice of governments to allow supervised neglect of proper investments in our community infrastructure has to end” stated MKO Grand Chief David Harper.
“In the interim, we are seeking a firm commitment from the Federal government to ensure our children have the adequate financial investment to attain an education. We stand by KTC in their call for adequate funding for the Private Home Placement program” remarked Grand Chief Harper.
The four KTC communities involved with the Private Home Placement Program include God’s Lake First Nation, Barren Lands First Nation, War Lake First Nation and York Factory Cree Nation. KTC presently underwrites the full amount of sponsorship dollars required by the Private Home Placement students to ensure all high school students from the KTC communities are provided an opportunity to attain their education. With unprecedented and devastating funding cuts to aboriginal representative organizations, the government of Canada also announced that the cuts would not affect or impact service delivery at the community level. This statement does not hold true when underfunded programs were drawing from other underfunded programs to ensure access to education for youth. The ability to cover the shortfall with the funding cuts is now impossible, causing tangible and detrimental outcomes for youth in the remote communities. KTC is also the most severely impacted by the impending funding cuts to RMO’s in Manitoba for the 2014 fiscal year.
The academic year for 2013-14, KTC had 160 total applicants seeking funding to attend high school in schools across Manitoba (at a full year cost of $3,864,159.14). Funding for at least 91 students has been identified by KTC; however 61 students remain unfunded (at a full year cost of $1,538,266.32) representing 45% of all students not being sponsored for high school, while 8 students have been enrolled with the South East Collegiate program that attains funding for its students directly from government.
KTC therefore has had to cover the shortfalls in the Private Home Placement program for the past 3 years of $1,227,599.32 by other means.