National Chief contender calls for enhanced education support

    Over 250 supporters attend AFN campaign event

    SUDBURY, ON, May 8 /CNW/ - A contender for the office of Assembly of
First Nations' (AFN) National Chief says there is an urgent need for federal
funding to support the education and training of First Nations students.
    John Beaucage, Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation, took the
opportunity of a sold-out campaign dinner attended by 250 supporters to
outline his vision for the educational success of First Nations youth.
    "The importance of education for our people, and our people's right to
education, cannot be stressed strongly enough," said Beaucage. "More resources
are needed to ensure more First Nations students can attend college,
university and skilled trades programs, including apprenticeships."
    One of the most pressing issues for First Nations across Canada is
post-secondary support funding, currently the subject of an internal review by
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). The authority to renew the
Post-Secondary Student Support Program is due for renewal by 2010. First
Nations have learned that some of the proposed recommendations point to the
implementation of drastic policy changes, including the possibility that the
program could 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 for those who want to attend college or
university," said Beaucage. "Therefore, I am strongly recommending that the
Government of Canada renew the existing authority of this program with
enhanced dollars."
    "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, speaking on behalf of the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek
    The Grand Council's AFN election platform proposes that the federal
government transform the Post-Secondary Student Support Program into a
legislated program from its current status as a "discretionary" initiative,
subject to unilateral changes by any given Cabinet.
    "First Nations need to play a leading role in the evolution of the
post-secondary program," said Beaucage. "We are calling on the government to
consult with us directly on this important matter."

    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.

For further information:

For further information: Marci Becking, Communications Advisor, (705)
497-1721; Bob Goulais, Campaign Manager,, (705)

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Anishinabek Nation

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