NORTH BAY, ON, June 5 /CNW/ - Grand Council Chief John Beaucage has been
honoured with an honourary Doctor of Letters from Nipissing University. During
his convocation address to Faculty of Science graduates, Beaucage outlined the
education elements of his campaign for the office of National Chief of the
Assembly of First Nations.
"I want to thank the Chancellor, the President, the Board of Governors,
and the Senate for this great honour and opportunity to address you today. I
am grateful for this recognition and am very honoured to carry with me this
distinction from Nipissing University," said Beaucage, who was joined by
supporters, wife Bonnie, their three children and eight grandchildren.
"Education is of the highest priority for me, and it will be front and
centre in my platform to become the next National Chief," said Beaucage, who
holds an economics degree and has served for the past five years as Grand
Council Chief of the 42 member communities of the Anishinabek Nation.
During his address, Beaucage referred to an internal review by Indian and
Northern Affairs Canada of its Post-Secondary Student Support program, since
the authority for the program must be renewed by 2010. First Nations have
learned that some recommendations point to drastic policy changes to all
facets of the program, including changes to administrative processes and
program-delivery structure, and perhaps a change from grants to a loan system
administered by an outside agency such as Canada Student Loans.
"It is my position that such unilateral changes will be disastrous for
the success of the program for First Nations, as these changes will result in
even less access and opportunity," said Beaucage. "I am strongly recommending
that the Government of Canada renew the existing authority of the
Post-Secondary Student Support Program with enhanced dollars.
"More resources are needed to ensure more First Nations students can
attend college, university and skilled trades programs, including
apprenticeships. The importance of education for our people, and our people's
right to education, cannot be stressed enough," he added.
Beaucage is advocating that the government evolve the Post-Secondary
Student Support Program into a legislated program. Currently, this program is
considered "discretionary" by the federal government, while First Nations
assert that lifelong education is a right.
"First Nations need to play a leading role in the evolution of the
post-secondary program. The overall goal of such a legislative initiative will
be to increase the number of post-secondary graduates exponentially over the
next 10 years as a means of eliminating poverty and enhancing First Nation
economies," said Beaucage.
Beaucage also proposes removal of a two-per-cent federal funding cap on
post-secondary education that has been in place since 1996, in favour of a
two-per-cent annual increase in funding over ten years.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the national organization
representing First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation
communities in Canada. The elected Chiefs from each First Nation will cast
their vote to elect the National Chief in Calgary, Alberta on July 22, 2009.
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage is a citizen of Wasauksing First
Nation, and has led the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation in
Ontario since 2004.
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