NEWS RELEASE · 28th February 2012
MP Nathan Cullen - Ottawa
Unanimous support in Parliament last night for an NDP motion calling for the federal government to fund reserve schools to the same level that provinces do public schools is welcome and overdue news, MP Nathan Cullen said today.
“Reserve schools are shockingly underfunded and far too many are simply unfit as places of learning and growth,” said Cullen, whose northern riding, one of the largest in Canada, is comprised of approximately 30% First Nations.
“A solid education is essential to a good start in life, to prepare students to enter the workforce, and for economic independence. It is immoral that so many reserve schools are unable to provide their students with a quality education because of severe and chronic underfunding.”
Monday’s NDP motion calls for the government to declare that First Nations students have an equal right to quality education, and to work with First Nations leaders to ensure students on reserves receive properly funded, culturally sensitive schooling.
The motion is non-binding but Cullen said it will be difficult for the Harper government to backtrack on the support it expressed last night. Improved education was a key topic at last month’s first-ever summit with the prime minister and First Nations chiefs. Stephen Harper has also spoken frequently recently about the need to dramatically improve education on reserves.
Cullen said the upcoming federal budget will be the first test of the government’s commitment to increased funding for reserve schools. He said the Official Opposition will also be watching closely to see this funding does not occur at the expense of others branches of First Nations learning, such as adult education.
Cullen praised the efforts of sixteen-year-old Chelsea Edwards, a Grade 11 student, for Parliament’s unanimous support of improved education on reserves. Edwards, whose elementary schooling occurred in chilly portables next to contaminated land on her reserve near James Bay, launched the Shannen's Dream campaign to continue the work of her friend Shannen Koostachin, who died in a car accident in 2010 at the age of 15.
A recent federal-First Nations task force found at least 100 schools are unfit for learning and less than half of reserve students ever graduate from high school. On-reserve schools are funded at between $2,000 and $3,000 less per student per year than provincial schools.
The Assembly of First Nations estimates Ottawa would need to spend about $500 million a year more to bring reserve schools up to provincial standards.
Teachers for Aboriginal Schools
Comment by Ken Ryan on 15th March 2012
Sounds like an excellent idea however I'm concerned with the question of "what quality of teachers?'. For the past many, many years a person could take a light course in teaching and gain status quickly by teaching in a Northern school. Once the status of teacher was reached they headed south. The level of education the northern students received was very, very low. The aboriginal leaders should drive this point home as surely by now they must realize the politicians have "used" them before!
Comment by Janice Robinson on 29th February 2012
Who will be responsible for the allocations of said funds? My hope is that these monies will be at the mercy of the same school boards as your education funding....and NOT irresponsibily handed over to the same chiefs and councils who receive the other monies from the government.
Comment by Shelby on 28th February 2012
I hope they are then able to teach children, during their "critical years" (the first 6 years of a child's life), in the language of their community. Studies have shown that bi-lingual children do better in school and have higher self-esteem when taught this way. An interesting article I suggest is from the March/April issue of Briarpatch Magazine, entitled "Linguicide". It is time to end the continued colonization of these children, and time to teach in a way that respects all way is of being.