OTTAWA, Dec. 14 /CNW Telbec/ - Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl has committed to working with First Nations leaders to address the root causes of funding inadequacies that are crippling First Nation schools and failing to provide a safe and supportive environment for First Nation children and learners.
The Minister made the commitment to work with first nations last week at a Special Chief's Assembly as First Nation leaders stood together in a united call for action on First Nation education confirming that it is a central priority for all First Nation governments.
"First Nations leaders and children welcome the Minister's commitment to fairness and equity for First Nations learners. We are ready and willing to work with the Minister to achieve our shared goals," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. "Too many of our children do not have the opportunity they richly deserve. Our kids must be guaranteed a safe environment and the tools they need to learn. It is simply unacceptable that our children, in some parts of this country, do not even have a school or that their classrooms lack the basic equipment and supports needed to learn. Our communities are the youngest and fastest growing population in this country. Investing in First Nations education is an investment in the future - everyone's future."
Minister Strahl made the remarks during a question and answer session with Chiefs at the Special Assembly. Chief Gilbert Whiteduck, a member of the Chief's Committee on Education, and AFN Youth Council Co-Chair Colby Tootoosis asked the Minister to work with First Nations on a "comprehensive, sustainable funding approach" for First Nations education from early childhood through to the post-secondary level, and work towards First Nations control of First Nations education.
The Minister responded: "What we need to do when we sit down and have that discussion is just to chart the way forward on it. I have no problem saying, as you heard me say before, that education makes everything else we are going to talk about easier. Everything else - the preservation of your languages, the preservation of your culture, economic opportunities, ability to engage in national-international discussions, all those things become easier with education, standard of living, every measurable social indicator. It's hard to find something more important than education. I absolutely agree with it and I am eager to engage with you on those discussions."
Currently First Nations are funded under an outdated formula created by the Department of Indian Affairs in the 1980s. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, in his recent report estimates that there is currently a gap of $184 Million in capital funding alone between what Indian and Northern Affairs provides and what is needed.
Minister Strahl also announced, that at long last, Attawapiskat First Nation will finally get a new elementary school. This announcement marks the successful conclusion of an extensive advocacy campaign by the leadership and children of Attawapiskat for almost a decade. The AFN congratulates Attawapiskat First Nation and Chief Theresa Hall.
"I am confident that the events of this week, including the Minister's commitment to Attawapiskat and to working with us to review the funding situation, along with the united resolve of our leadership are the beginnings of a new movement that will continue to grow. A movement that puts our kids first, and one in which all Canadians can join us in saying 'never again' to the residential school system of the past, but rather a full commitment to hope and opportunity for all," concluded National Chief Shawn Atleo.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations in Canada.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations
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