National Week of Action on Education in Ottawa - First Nations are rallying for better education

OTTAWA, Sept. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Several First Nations of Quebec under the leadership of their Chiefs are taking part in the National Week of Action on Education to denounce the shocking attitude of the federal government regarding the education of First Nations. "By maintaining a system based on colonial tenets, the Conservative government is keeping our children and our communities in an unfair situation. This is a shame for the Canadian society", declared Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador (AFNQL).

Chief Picard and other Chiefs from Quebec, Ontario and other regions of Canada undertook a week of action to denounce the discrimination suffered by First Nations children in education. This discrimination speaks for itself regarding the underfunding of First Nations schools at the elementary and secondary level. The Chiefs also denounce the impending threat of the federal government to terminate the Post-Secondary Student Support Program. In Quebec, students and parents from First Nations communities will be undertaking actions, such as sending letters to the federal government, holding awareness raising activities, distributing flyers, and dispatching regional press releases. The main event is a walk from the community of Kitigan Zibi to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in view of making the federal government react and grant the attention necessary to the important issue of First Nations education. A great national gathering of First Nations organizations and communities is also scheduled to conclude the National Week of Action on Education on September 23rd, on Parliament Hill.

On September 21st, the Chiefs will be present at the Parliament to meet with parliamentarians, senators and members of the political scene to present their vision of education and discuss the stakes and issues regarding the future of First Nations education. "The time has come to go beyond The Indian Act and build a new relationship with Canada. A relationship built on mutual respect instead of colonialism", stated Chief Picard.

Other initiatives will be held across the country in addition to the activities scheduled in Ottawa and within the First Nations communities of Quebec.

Underfunded schools

"Our schools are striving to survive with an obsolete funding formula that hasn't been revised since the last twenty years. This is simply unacceptable and intolerable", indicated Lise Bastien, Director General of the First Nations Education Council (FNEC).

Developed in 1988, the federal formula for First Nations education is highly discriminatory as it allows for a considerable gap in funding when compared to the much higher funding received by Quebecer schools from their provincial government. The federal formula ignores the following costs:

  • Costs relating to the integration of technology in the schools.
  • Costs relating to school libraries.
  • Costs relating to vocational training.
  • Costs relating to the sports and recreation.
  • Costs relating to keep pace with provincial reforms, with considerable impact on the curriculum, teaching hours and support measures, such as homework help.

What is more to it, the funding of First Nations schools has not been indexed since 1996.

Contrarily to the provinces which have been investing since several years in modern systems for their schools, the federal government disregards this crucial need for the First Nations schools under its fiduciary responsibility. This does not prevent the government from accusing First Nations of withholding data, even though they are deprived of the tools to obtain the requested data. "By denying First Nations the means and access to quality education, the government of Canada is fully aware that it is closing the doors to their future", added Lise Bastien.

Threats to abolish Post-secondary financial support
The federal government recently announced its intention to terminate the Post-Secondary Student Support Program. This support is crucial for the First Nations youth to undertake collegial and university studies and thereby increase their socioeconomic conditions and that of their families. "This threat is clearly based on ideological doctrines instead of common sense and good judgement", pointed out Lise Bastien.


For further information:
SOURCE: Éric Cardinal 
Communication consultant 
(450) 638-5159 
Cellphone: (514) 258-2315     
INFORMATION: Lise Bastien
Director of the FNEC
(418) 842-7672