Submission of a petition concerning post-secondary education

OTTAWA, April 1 /CNW Telbec/ - The First Nations Education Council (FNEC) is today submitting its petition on the funding of First Nations post-secondary education to the House of Commons. This petition was officially launched on November 14, 2008 in reaction to the revision by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) of the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) without the participation of the First Nations, who now fear that the possibility of post-secondary education for First Nations students has been compromised. In just a few months, the petition surpassed its objective of 10,500 signatures. The figure of 10,500 was set because it corresponds to the number of students on wait lists. The petition has now obtained more than 23,000 signatures from people throughout Canada.

"The First Nations are resolutely determined to improve the level of education of their members. Doing so will be to the benefit not just to their communities, but also of Canadians in general, and making cuts to funding, which is already clearly insufficient, is certainly not the way to achieve this goal," said Chief Conrad Polson of the Timiskaming First Nation.

Chief Gilbert Whiteduck of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation is also alarmed by this situation: "In the early 1970s, there were only about 200 First Nations students registered in post-secondary studies. The current program, which is managed by the communities, has helped to bring about a significant increase in their numbers. The problem is that the federal government refuses to lift its ceiling of a 2% maximum increase in funding. The government imposed this ceiling in 1996. That has meant less funding over the past 12 years because the increase in the cost of living and in the number of students has well exceeded this figure of 2%. Another problem is that the government refuses to implement the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development; it is instead endangering the continuation of this program run by the First Nations."

"Between 1995-1996 and 2004-2005, the number of students began to decrease and the waiting lists got longer (going from 27 000 to 23 000). It is estimated today that more than 10,500 First Nations students in Canada have been prevented from embarking on post-secondary studies, due to a lack of funding," added Chief Whiteduck.

"The Conservatives speak to us about the importance they place on results. But here we have an example of a program that has proven its effectiveness and can continue to increase the number of our students who complete post-secondary education provided that they are adequately funded. The results we have achieved leave no room for any doubt in this regard," said AFNQL Political Advisor John Martin.

"Post-secondary education is not the only education program to have suffered due to non-indexation since 1996; it is affecting all levels. For the communities' schools, this is catastrophic," added FNEC Director Lise Bastien.

The First Nations throughout Canada are hoping that the Conservative government will not carry through with its projects for transferring a post-secondary funding program which has demonstrated its effectiveness. They want instead to see the government follow up on the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

The FNEC has been representing the interests in education of 22 communities for over 20 years. For more information, visit www.avenir-future.com

SOURCE First Nations Education Council

For further information: For further information: Thanissa Lainé, FNEC, (418) 842-7672, Cell phone (418) 932-4351

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