Support to First Nations students: Conservative ideology kills the
development of Native youth

WENDAKE, QC, Nov. 26 /CNW Telbec/ - "The ideology of the Conservative party is responsible for driving the federal government to make cuts in the support that is allocated to First Nations students who wish to undertake post-secondary studies", denounced the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), Ghislain Picard, after being informed that the Harper government intends to surreptitiously modify the financial support program for First Nations students.

The AFNQL and the First Nations Education Council (FNEC) are nothing less than outraged by the attitude of the government following the latter's decision to modify the criteria for the program without prior consultation with First Nations organizations. "This position is in complete opposition to the recent report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development", added Chief Picard. Said report (published in 2007) not only recommended to keep the current program, but to enrich it as well by indexing the program to take the increase in the cost of living and the increase in student population growth into account. "The government prefers to be demagogical by implying that the fall in the number of students receiving support is due to the management of the program. It is, however, evident that this program is successful since it has led to an increase in the number of graduates, and the decrease in the number of students receiving support is due to its non-indexation, as indicated in the report", stated Raymond Sioui, FNEC Assistant Director.

It is through a press release published on November 20 under the heading "Stephen Harper's conservatives are deviously modifying the funding of students", which quoted MP Jean Crowder, NPD spokesperson on Native issues, that the AFNQL and the FNEC learned that the government had outsourced a company to establish and propose a list of options in the scope of the revision of the post-secondary program.

This confirmed what the FNEC had been denouncing for several months, notably that the conservatives were acting unilaterally, despite an engagement of the federal government to never again elaborate policies concerning First Nations without their participation and despite the resolve of the FNEC to take part in the on-going revision of the program. "By acting in such a way, the conservatives are blatantly showing that they have no intention of living up to the commitments of the institution they represent, but instead prefer to play party ideology. This is exactly what they do when they deal with the issue of global warming and when they refuse to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The party ideology scorns the rights of First Nations", declared Chief Ghislain Picard.

The truth is that, for ideological reasons, the conservatives are questioning a successful program with proven results. "This is a program which can contribute to eliminating the persistent gap in education and socioeconomic conditions between First Nations and the mainstream segments of the Canadian population. Now all this is compromised. This constitutes a serious failing, a blight on the honour of Canada", concluded AFNQL Chief, Ghislain Picard.

SOURCE First Nations Education Council

For further information: For further information: Raymond Sioui, (418) 842-7672

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