AFN National Chief Welcomes Report by Parliamentary Budget Office on First Nations Schools: "The Government is Literally Failing First Nations Students"



    OTTAWA, May 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine stated that today's report by the Parliamentary Budget Office on
funding for First Nations schools should be seen as an urgent call to action
by all parliamentarians to address the government's mismanagement of First
Nations schools and First Nations education in general.
    "The Parliamentary Budget Office's report is an independent,
peer-reviewed piece of research that validates what First Nations have been
saying for years: the government is literally failing First Nations students,"
National Chief Fontaine said. "The report shows that First Nations schools are
critically under-funded and, further, that the government has no plan at all
when it comes to providing for or maintaining First Nations schools."
    The report was prepared by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO)
following a request from NDP MP Charlie Angus that it examine the government's
approach to school construction for First Nations communities. The PBO found
there was an utter lack of data or baseline indicators in this area, which
means that funding decisions for school construction and repairs becomes a
purely random exercise. The PBO found that resources for First Nations schools
are not "fenced in", which means the federal government can re-allocate the
funding and spend it in other areas. The PBO report found that First Nations
schools are under-funded by at least $200 million annually, and that this
shortfall grows each year.
    "This report clearly shows that government is mismanaging its resources
and short-changing First Nations," the National Chief stated. "We need better
data and better management and First Nations can play a lead role in improving
the situation because the schools are in our communities. Education is a
treaty right for First Nations and Indian Affairs shouldn't view funding for
education as 'discretionary'. The report by the PBO provides some very useful
recommendations and we hope that elected officials and the government will
work with First Nations to find solutions because education must be a
non-partisan issue. Our position is and always has been that First Nations
should be in control of First Nations education."
    The National Chief pointed to an internal audit carried out by Indian and
Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) on the Post-Secondary Education programs
released in March that had similar conclusions: INAC was mismanaging the
program and the program is under-funded. As a result, there are less First
Nations students graduating from post-secondary institutions.
    "These are difficult economic times and Canada is about to face a
shortage of skilled and educated workers. Canada should be doing all it can to
ensure First Nations - the youngest and fastest growing segment of the
population - are getting a quality education comparable to other Canadians,"
the National Chief said. "The PBO report makes the case that we must move away
from an attitude of 'spending' towards an attitude of 'investing'. In part,
this means removing the arbitrary 2% cap on growth in base spending for First
Nations that has been in place since 1996 and only works to ensure our people
fall further and further behind. Investments now save money in the long term
and, equally important, ensures First Nations are equipped with the skills and
education they need to improve their lives and communities and ensures that
Canada remains a strong and competitive country."

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.




For further information:

For further information: Don Kelly, A/Communications Director, Assembly
of First Nations, (613)241-6789 ext. 334, cell: (613) 292-2787, dkelly@afn.ca


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