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Immediate funding increases needed for reserve schools, says national panel

Friday February 17, 2012

A national First Nations education panel is calling on the federal government to increase funding for First Nations schools immediately to attempt to deal with serious gaps between education success rates of First Nation and non-Aboriginal students in Canada.
The panel’s report, released Feb. 8 in Ottawa, also calls for the creation of a national First Nation education commission and regional education boards.
“Our government recognizes that education is crucial to improving the quality of life for First Nations,” said Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring Aboriginals can prosper in Canada and take advantage of the opportunities that exist.”
The report recommends the creation of a new First Nation Education Act within the next 18 months. According to the report, the act would ensure the rights of First Nation children to “quality education” and to cultural lessons and language.
The report also wants teachers in First Nation schools to receive equal pay to what teachers in province-run schools earn.
Included in the panel’s recommendations was a call for a national commission on education. The commission would resemble education ministries in provinces, the report said.
The panel also called for regional First Nation education organizations set up across the country, resembling school boards and operating under the proposed education commission.
The panel was created in June 2011 by the federal government in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). It was chaired by Scott Haldane, president of YMCA Canada. George Lafond, a First Nation consultant, and Caroline Krause, a former faculty associate with the education department at University of British Columbia, also sat on the panel.
Despite AFN’s involvement many regional First Nations rejected the national panel, including Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and Chiefs of Ontario (COO). Between them NAN and COO represent 88 First Nations in Ontario.
NAN Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose said the national panel’s mandate failed to include reviews of pre-school and post-secondary education, and did not address the funding gap between native and non-native students.
“The National Panel is a flawed and deficient process established without input from First Nations,” Waboose said.
Besides increased funding, NAN is calling for a completion of self-governance negotiations on education, so as to take control over how and what is taught in schools in NAN communities.

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