First Nations Education Crisis



    LONDON, ON, June 10 /CNW/ - "There is a crisis in First Nations
education," the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) Grand Chief
Randall Phillips commented after reviewing the report of the Parliamentary
Research Office. "This confirms what First Nation leaders have been saying for
years, that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) is a
hindrance, not a help in improving the education system for our people."
    "In almost every area of education, from operational resources, second
level supports, salaries, facilities, post secondary, special education, the
government has failed our children. It is time to take some positive steps to
change this situation." The Grand Chief stated that there are a number of
government sponsored reports that have highlighted the concern in this area.
    The Parliamentary Research Office, examined the long term capital plan of
Indian and Northern Affairs and found it sorely lacking, in terms of number of
schools constructed. In the last three years, only 8 schools were built in
Canada for First Nation students. When questioned why the reduction, despite
the need in many communities for renovations or new schools, the Grand Chief
stated, "it's simple, INAC unilaterally decided to transfer the money
elsewhere."
    What First Nations, and Canadians would agree on, is accountability on
how these resources are being utilized. "First Nation communities are the
first to hear the criticism, the first to hear about the deficiencies, the
first to be blamed...when in fact, INAC controls everything."
    Grand Chief Phillips went on to say, "It is almost comical that the
Parliamentary Research Office, which was created when the Federal Progressive
Conservatives passed the Accountability Act, would find that Indian and
Northern Affairs is unable to account to Parliament on how many schools in
First Nations should be constructed."
    An internal audit by Indian and Northern Affairs also lambasted the Post
Secondary program earlier this year.
    The Head Indian Agent in Ottawa, Minister Chuck Strahl has decided that
the officials in Ottawa know what is best for the First Nations. They have
determined that they do not need to talk with First Nations about any aspect
from post secondary education funding to education capital construction to
Band operated school funding. This despite the Supreme Court's ruling that
First Nations must be consulted on matters that directly effect them. "We have
a current government that is unwilling to talk to us about resolving any of
these issues, instead, they want to have confrontations. This is how the
current government wants to change the relationship, lets move backwards a
couple of hundred steps."
    First Nations have been told that there are no more resources to put
towards First Nations education; in fact, INAC has imposed a 2% cap on
spending for many years. This cap has had a significant impact on the level of
educational services available.
    Grand Chief Phillips went on say that, "Ironically, First Nations leaders
have been fighting against the 2% cap on federal funding since it was
announced. This cap has greatly reduced our spending power. It was never
enough to begin with to operate a comparable service, but to come to find out
that INAC routinely transfers money out of the education capital fund. It
makes me a bit angry when INAC tells First Nations they don't have the
resources, and they don't even spend what is in their budget for the purpose
it is intended for. Then First Nations are portrayed in the news as the ones
who mismanage."
    A total of $121 million was transferred between 2002 and 2007 to other
areas.
    A recent press report indicates that INAC has been asked to accept a 5%
budget cut. "We have been working hard at getting government to recognize that
a 2% cap on spending is detrimental to First Nations - now - the summer months
may well be spent in trying to maintain current spending levels."
    Canadians need to know how the federal government is actually treating
First Nations. "This is not about political whining; it is about trying to
safeguard the future of our people, especially our young people. If our people
were to reach the same standards in education that other Canadians routinely
take for granted, we would not only contribute approximately $7 billion
dollars to the Canadian economy, but it would help change the current
socio-economic conditions that exist in many communities. That is a win-win
situation that I hope we obtain."
    The Grand Chief concluded by saying, "What I'm talking about is
investments, not handouts."
    To emphasize the point, the Grand Chief of the Association has announced
that there will be a public rally at Victoria Park in London, Ontario. The
Rally starts at 11:00 am on Thursday, June 11, 2009. The rally is being held
to try and bring public attention to the issues in First Nation Education.

    The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians is a political
organization, based out of London, Ontario and represents eight First Nations
with a population of 20,000 people.





For further information:

For further information: Grand Chief Randall Phillips, Association of
Iroquois and Allied Indians, (519) 434-2761 or rphillips@aiai.on.ca

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ASSOCIATION OF IROQUOIS & ALLIED INDIANS

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