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Inequal Opportunity - Politicians are neglecting aboriginal education Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Simon, Canada Sep 29, 2008
Human Rights , Education , Peace & Conflict   Opinions
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Politicians should be treating the causes not the symptoms when it comes to problems with the aboriginal education system

As British Columbian students returned to school last month, some students returned to schools with new renovations, a promising curriculum, and expectations of excellent grades, others returned to the neglected and under funded schools that resemble something that you wouldn’t expect to find in a developed nation.

In May of this year the Fraser Institute published their annual report card on Canada’s schools, rating them on various criteria especially the progress that has been made with test scores and graduation rates over the last couple of years.

In the B.C. report cards for secondary schools three Vancouver private schools were tied for first place out of the 296 schools graded. Tied for last place were George M. Dawson Secondary, and Nisga’a secondary, both of whom are schools located in rural B.C. and are predominantly aboriginal.

Nisga’a secondary is located in the small town of New Aiyansh where a third of the population is under twenty years old and more than ninety percent of students are aboriginal.

Over the last couple of years the situation has improved, with the gap between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal students in grade 10 shrinking slightly, but there has been no substantive reduction in the non-aboriginal gap and other problems such as high drop out rates. Mel Hurtig’s book “The Truth about Canada” informs that

“From ages 20-24 the average number of people who haven’t finished high school is 16 percent, for aboriginals it’s 58 percent,” says Michael Mendelson of the Caledon Institute for social policy in Mel Hurtig’s book “The Truth about Canada”

“Also (Stat. Can. 2005) only 4 percent of Aboriginals have a university degree.”

There is an obvious problem with Aboriginal education and opportunity. What has the government done? Both the federal and provincial governments have offered short-term “band-aid” solutions to treat symptoms, instead of substantive long-term plans to reduce and eliminate the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal education conditions.

Aboriginals make up a tenth of the secondary school population in BC but they only receive a hundredth of the BC government’s education budget ($52 million out of a total $5.6 billion dollar budget for 08-09).

BC public schools fall under the jurisdiction of Gordon Campbell’s Liberals, but Stephen Harper and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs also share the accountability in not providing the resources to develop these schools.

In January the First Nations Technical Institute’s federal funding was reduced,

“As you are aware, the majority of postsecondary institutions have private-sector support, as well as alumni support, to offset the rising costs of postsecondary education,” said Minister Strahl.

The current government has failed to fulfill it’s obligations with aboriginal education by not continuing the Kelowna Accord, (which was never budgeted by Prime Minister Martin) which promised $1.8 billion for Aboriginal education over ten years, much more than twice the figure in the 2008 Federal budget ($70 million for all of 2008).

Politicians are only exerting a fraction of the resources needed and in return the results they are producing are only diminishing a fraction of the problem.

The government did give royal assent to Bill C-292 the “Kelowna Accord Implementation Act” but according to a press release from the Metis National Council, “the Kelowna Accord Implementation Act cannot compel the federal government to spend their funds…”

Progress is slowly being made but the progress made is small and insignificant compared to the work that still needs to be done to shrink the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal students, let alone get rid of it.

Canada prides itself in offering equal opportunity for everyone, but most Canadians do not consider that opportunity and education in this country is equal and of a high quality for almost everyone, but a sizable amount of Canadian students go to school in near third world conditions and are stuck in the poverty cycle because of federal and provincial neglect; this resulting in 21st century oppression and a serious inequality problem. Canadian policy makers have responded with mediocre solutions that only address symptoms of a bigger problem: how Canada has failed part of it’s population to the right of a decent education.

The gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadian secondary students is an example of a bigger concept, and the gap in infrastructure, opportunity, and standard of living between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

Those gaps lead to another gap, if our law makers are a true representation of our interests then that shows that non-aboriginal Canadians consider aboriginal Canadians unequal and that Aboriginals don’t deserve the attention their communities need, or if the majority of Canadians believe that all people are equal and equal opportunity is a natural-born right which should be guaranteed to all, then there is a vast gap between the public’s will and public policy.

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