House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post-secondary.

Topics

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my presentation, the amount of $300 million is something that I believe can be more efficiently allocated. I think that efficiencies are the most important part of making this allocation work better for first nations people. I know that some of those recommendations are in the report and hopefully possibly will advance this outcome.

In relation to human rights violations that might be occurring in Canada, I think that as a government that is one of the reasons why we are bringing forward Bill C-44. We are not going to stop because there might be a flood of complaints. We do not think that is going to be the case, but that is no reason to put off such important efforts.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to come back again to the McIvor decision, which my colleague opposite raised. It is a very important decision. It is a decision that will have far-reaching implications for first nation communities and indeed for Canada.

It is important that the parliamentary secretary be able to elaborate on what kinds of efficiencies could take place in post-secondary funding. When we look at the potential for 200,000 more people to be recognized as having status, we do not know what the numbers will be in terms of those eligible for post-secondary education, but given the demographics of the community, we know it will be substantial. We need to know a little more about what idea the government has as it relates to efficiencies in education. What we are hearing about over and over again is lack of opportunity and lack of capital funding.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, of course the member opposite has spent some time at the aboriginal affairs committee with me on this very topic. I also have focused much of my interest on the fact that this dollar amount of some $300 million does get invested into general revenue within the communities.

Occasionally it does not even make it to said communities, so this is where I think efficiencies can be brought about. When these dollars can be tied to specific spots, it will be a great improvement, so I hope that as time proceeds we can see a model like this in the future.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion presented by the member from the New Democratic Party. I sat with her on the aboriginal affairs committee for a period of time.

I rise because this issue is very important to me. I probably would not be standing here today if not for the post-secondary program in my community. My wife and I were the first university graduates from our families and we were both the first in our families to graduate from grade 12. If not for the post-secondary program, I honestly and truly really would not be here. The quality of life that my children and my family enjoy today is key. The key to that quality of life has been the support I got from the post-secondary education program.

With both our families coming from poverty and being raised in northern isolated communities, we did not and could not afford the opportunity to attend post-secondary education. I feel that I serve my country and my people much better as a productive member of Canada by having secured an education and by contributing to what needs to be done to make our country even better.

This is what the post-secondary program has done for me, my wife and my kids. My two eldest children are now going to university as well. I know that they both are going to be a tremendous success and will continue to contribute to their community, their province and their country in the way that I hope I am doing in the role I am enjoying today as a member of Parliament in this great House of Commons.

When I look back at my situation and the situations back home, this is the aspiration of many first nations, Métis and Inuit youth in this country: to secure an education and to secure the support, because many of my people, whether they are first nations, Métis or Inuit, unfortunately find themselves in a situation where poverty is a daily reality. Education is the key to being able to rise from that poverty, as the parliamentary secretary spoke about and as my hon. colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan and many others have spoken about.

Having grown up in a community where poverty and such things are unfortunately the norm, we are starting to see a change. We are starting to see an emerging reality where there is a positive attitude, where people can see a light at the end of the tunnel. One of the biggest ways to support achieving that new pinnacle or that next level, moving out of poverty, is by securing that education.

I agree with the parliamentary secretary that the K to 12 system is key to this, but we cannot ignore post-secondary today, and I will speak a bit more to that as we move on.

For the most part, aboriginal people have existed on the margins of this great country. I will speak very briefly about three modern phases of aboriginal-state relations and I will put into context why post-secondary funding and institution support funding are key today.

From shortly after the world war ended until about 1969, aboriginal people were in their communities. Governments knew we were there, but there was never any response unless there was a crisis. Until a crisis occurred, the government response was usually ad hoc. There was no real resolution in the short, medium or long term. It was just an ad hoc crisis. That is the name of that phase. It was just an ad hoc crisis relationship between the aboriginal peoples of this country and the state.

Something changed in 1969. The spark that caused an upwelling within the aboriginal community was the issue we are talking about today: education. The white paper was introduced in 1969. One of the keys in that document, aside from language that our people did not like, was that in order for us to be contributing members of Canadian society, we needed to access post-secondary education, or our education system needed improvement.

That launched the next phase. Aboriginal people were tired of being marginalized. It was only in recent memory that they were able to hire lawyers and able to leave the reserves to shop or do anything. They needed a permit from the Indian agent. They all still remember not being able to vote until just recently. Coming out of that phase into the next phase, they challenged, stood up and wanted their rights recognized. The key issue that arose at that point was the Indian control of the Indian education document that came out in 1972.

From about 1970 until the early 1990s, it was very much a phase where aboriginal state relations were best characterized as confrontational. Aboriginal people used the courts to identify, protect and advance their rights. Unfortunately, blockades and other events occurred in Oka and Ipperwash where lives were lost. This was not a very positive time in that relationship phase from the early seventies to the mid-nineties.

However, out of that came some clarity. The Supreme Court, the Federal Court and the provincial courts said that enough was enough. They said that there were enough case law and decisions that the government and the first nations, Métis and Inuit people should use to guide the next stage of the relationship. They told all parties to take those tools and use them as a framework to establish a new relationship between Canada's aboriginal people and Canada.

With RCAP in 1993, we began to see a bit of a change in the relationship that began as an ad hoc crisis. It was “we know you're there but we really don't care if you're there” attitude. It was a phase where there was confrontation. The early nineties started with a more collaborative approach, in part fuelled by RCAP. We saw an increase in the devolution of programs to aboriginal communities. We saw over 100 self-government tables spring up across the country.

What we saw from the nineties to now was an emerging consensus that we were here to stay in this country and that we all needed to work together. We needed to build on the rights that were there. We needed to put them within the Canadian context so we could be Canadian together.

Having been a chief at the time that the Kelowna accord was negotiated, the Kelowna was the high-water mark in that relationship. The political accords signed between the first nations, the Métis and the Inuit were key documents which spelled out how the Government of Canada should proceed in its relationship with first nations, Métis and Inuit people to discuss issues of mutual concern, such as post-secondary education, housing, economic development, health and so on.

Unfortunately, that high-water mark was erased. What concerns me today is that we are starting to see a relationship going back to the middle phase, a phase that nobody wants. Certainly the first nations, Métis and Inuit people do not want to go back to that more confrontational phase after they have invested blood, sweat and tears to get to the relationship where collaboration ruled the day.

The number one priority achieved with the Kelowna accord and the political accords was to break the back of poverty in aboriginal communities. That had to be the number one pressing issue we had to address. Having said that, I am concerned that we are moving backward after achieving so much.

That is characterizing a bit of where we are at. It helps to set a context. I want to speak about aboriginal people themselves. I do not know how many of us in this House understand that 50% of the aboriginal population is under the age of 18 for the most part, for sure under the age of 20. In communities in my riding, 50% are under the age of 18. That represents potential that cannot go wasted, a potential that, if we mobilize this young population properly, could help break the back of the poverty that I spoke about earlier. This is a population we cannot ignore.

Yes, $305 million were talked about but I, respectfully, wholeheartedly disagreed with the parliamentary secretary's comment that the money could be spent in a better way. Sure, that could probably happen, but there is not enough there to meet the demand we have today. Any money can be spent in a more appropriate way but it is important to point out that what the parliamentary secretary and the government ignore is that government has not provided the infrastructure for proper data collection to occur.

We then have irrational numbers that people pick and choose and use against each other. The fact is that today we have the highest number of young people that we have ever seen in the history of the country who need support to go to post-secondary education because, unfortunately, many of them living in poverty. Start of story, end a story.

Therefore, we need that investment, they need that investment and Canada needs that investment today.

I am also concerned about some of the messaging coming from the government side that aboriginal people are to blame for the mess they are in. I think it is absolutely critical to understand that government policies, not necessarily just the Conservative government, but the past government, have forced aboriginal people, more particularly first nations people, to implement policies that discriminate against their own. Therefore, we have discrimination between on reserve and off reserve, between men and women, between children with disabilities and children without and between what status one was born with under the Indian Act membership code and what one was not born with.

It is those policies that have contributed to painting a real negative picture because people do not understand. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, which is what we have across the floor. It is that little knowledge about the realities that gets assembled to point the finger specifically at aboriginal people for the situation they find themselves in. That is what concerns me the most.

It must be understood that aboriginal people across the country are out there getting jobs. They are going to work in the morning. They are seeing their kids off to school, registering them, if they can, in minor hockey and minor sports, and they are paying their bills trying to do what Canadians do every day.

However, the future has them worried because the opportunities for success are extraordinarily narrower for aboriginal people than they are for the average Canadian because of the poverty they find themselves in.

What concerns me is that we see the media and many others profess that the sins of the aboriginal people are their own. However, they go too far when they say that. We have people who confuse the culture of poverty with the culture of the aboriginal people. The culture of poverty does not discriminate between the colour of our skin. Poverty wreaks havoc in one's life. Sometimes I get concerned with the messaging from all sectors of Canada that confuse the two and say, “It's your fault that you're in the situation that you're in”.

The good news in the aboriginal community is that we are seeing some of the highest rates of graduation from grade 12 in the history of this country and some of the highest rates of graduation from post-secondary institutions in this country. We are seeing the highest rates of business development, new businesses, successful businesses being developed in aboriginal communities by aboriginal people in this country that we have never seen before. It is unprecedented.

There is good news out there and I would like all members of the House to take the time to find out about that good news because it is simply too easy to find out the bad. When we confuse the bad with the message of connecting cultural poverty with the culture of aboriginal people, we are doing a huge disservice to aboriginal people and to Canadians in general. There is good news out there and there is a tremendous and positive amount of things happening.

Where is Canada at? This country is going through an economic boom in many sectors but mostly in the resource sector. Economic activity in the resource sector typically occurs near aboriginal communities. That economic activity provides the opportunity for skilled jobs in many different areas. It provides an opportunity for business development. When we talk about this economic boom in the resource sector, trades, professional training, management training, all these things become available. Skilled labour is needed within the mines or in whatever the resource activity. There are joint venture partnerships in business, partnerships in general and sole ownership. Opportunities present themselves. We need to look at where we are today and line up the resources to capitalize on the youthful population.

Canada is experiencing a labour shortage. Baby boomers are retiring at an alarming rate. Within the next five years I hear that up to 50% of teachers in the Canadian Teachers' Federation will be retired. We are seeing similar numbers in the nursing profession, doctors and in the trades. One just needs to look at the cost of building a house in Saskatoon now.

We have a tremendous opportunity before us and we have the circumstances lining up in the best possible way. The economic boom, the labour shortage and the healthy state of the country's fiscal capacity all line up to state very clearly that if we see investing in post-secondary education as an investment, we will see a huge payback to this country in the form of increased productivity and, at the end of the day, we would begin to break the back of poverty.

Investment in post-secondary training for our aboriginal youth is an investment in Canada, in the provinces and in rural Canada even more today as we stand here but, more important, it provides the opportunity to break the back of poverty.

I will now switch gears and talk about student funding. The parliamentary secretary mentioned some numbers a few minutes ago. A 2% cap on post-secondary funding was implemented in 1996 and it has prevented thousands of first nations students from attending post-secondary education just in that short few years. In 2007 and 2008, at least 2,858 students, first nations students in particular, will be denied access to post-secondary funding.

Since 2001, that is 13,000 students. Think about what 13,000 young people, working and contributing to Canada's productivity, would do for their families, their communities and Canada. Instead, unfortunately, many of them are still in their communities collecting social assistance because there are very few jobs. The cost of doing nothing is huge.

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples said that by 2016, if we maintain the status quo, it will cost government 47% more. That is a drawdown on Canada's productivity. Instead, if we invested we would see an increase in Canada's productivity.

This response today is extremely disappointing. It fails first nations youth who aspire to pursue their dreams of post-secondary education by not investing in the youth to ensure their success. We are seeing the government off-loading some of its fiduciary responsibility to the provinces. First nations, Métis and Inuit institutions are extremely successful but they need investment.

The government's response to the report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, “No Higher Priority: Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education in Canada”, is a complete, wholehearted, huge disappointment. I could not express it in words, from the phone calls and the correspondence I get from across the country. People are very disappointed that it is abandoning our youth.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for outlining so clearly the importance of post-secondary education in the country. I appreciated the fact that he said how important it was we talk about the positive aspects currently happening in many communities. In fact, part of the recommendations the committee made was to put together some data so people in communities could take advantage of best practices.

In his speech the member touched on the allegations by the government that $300 million-plus was plenty and what we really needed to do was look at efficiencies in communities. Could he expand on and give his observations, from his personal experience, on the very good students who simply do not have access, no matter how efficient a community is, under this funding cap? He mentioned something like 13,000 since 2001.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 18th, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I point out that the minister, in his report, stated that the government would rather be forward-looking than looking at the loss of these 13,000 kids who could have gone to school because the it wanted to maximize opportunities for all qualified learners.

The minister needs to understand that these are qualified learners. They have their applications in, and they are waiting. Thirteen thousands students were denied funding, and way more than that have applied. Thirteen thousand is only the number of students who have their forms in, through the various stages of approval, only to be turned down at the end of the day.

That is only back to 2001. If we were to go back to 1996, it would be at least double that, I suspect. As we move forward, my biggest concern is that baby boom, which is bulging its way up into that 15 to 24 age bracket. It is that bubble that is coming up and if we keep the 2% cap, I am very concerned. This is where we are headed. This is why the investment needs to occur now.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, this is something that interests me very much. It is really important to also look at our elementary education as well. Has the member examined the agreement British Columbia has put together? How does he see it happening? This would be an excellent opportunity for Saskatchewan to build.

As the member said, the population is growing. One of the fundamental things that is important for us as citizens of Saskatchewan is to ensure that our young people, our young aboriginals are well educated and have very good footing in fundamental education.

What problems does he see and can I help him to advance that interest or can he can help me? I would like to see us all get together to try to duplicate what has happened in British Columbia. Can he see this happening?

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government has to understand that the B.C. agreement fits a B.C. reality. The devolution of school control, or self-administration as I call it, in the prairie provinces happened almost 30 years ago. In the prairie provinces we have the primary level of education delivery. Joint parallel developments of secondary and third level services in Saskatchewan in particular and Manitoba far exceed where B.C. is at right now.

In many respects, the prairie provinces are further ahead with their educational system development than British Columbia. That is why the British Columbia chiefs who were here said that the B.C. model would not work in the rest of the country because this is a specific B.C. solution.

I would be more than glad to meet with the member to talk about what we could do in the prairie provinces and in many other parts of the country to make the system stronger. We are seeing huge success levels coming out of the first nations system in the prairie provinces.

My former tribal council did an education indicator's report that showed 92% of the students from grade 12 graduated versus the provincial system which was in the 80% range. I get concerned that first nation systems are being held up as not as good as the provinces, and that is completely wrong and misinformed.

I want to pass one compliment on to the minister and her department. I understand some people met with some representatives from the department, who are being very proactive in the aboriginal human resource sector development area trying to get some positive, forward moving initiatives done. I would be happy to contribute there if I can.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I always listen with interest to what my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has to say. He is in the unique situation of being the only former chief of a Canadian first nation in the Canadian House of Commons, and we should all take note and pay heed to what he says on these issues.

The former minister of Indian affairs under the Liberal regime identified education as his number one priority. He was very public and very open about that, saying it was the only way to go from poverty to middle class in one generation. I remember those speeches. However, during his tenure, the government took steps to start to tax the tuition and living out expenses of first nation students while they were going to school.

Given there is an appalling shortfall of funding and resources to send first nation students to university and given if they start paying tax on that money as earned income, they will have less to spend and the first nation will have to give them more to live on then even fewer people will go to school.

Could he explain the Liberal government's logic at that time to address the shortfall in funding for post-secondary education by slapping this tax on tuition and living out expenses? Is there any rationale for having done that?

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, we have to understand that the actual machinery of government operates separately from the executive in many cases. This is an example where the bureaucracy decided to undertake this path. Once the first nations, Métis and Inuit community across the country spoke with the previous Liberal government, measures were taken to begin to rescind and move away from that.

In fact, the member for Prince Albert successfully got the money that a Saskatchewan junior hockey league team received not to be taxed.

These are things that we have to work on as we move forward.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Valley Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just came back from my riding. The Governor General visited a couple of schools. I happened to visit schools in Mishkeegogamang and Fort Hope. I saw the future of Canada in the eyes of first nation students who want to proceed with their education. They want to have a chance at post-secondary education to see what they can do.

My colleague mentioned a number of times the bubble, the massive amount of youth who are coming up. These young people want to be involved. They have seen what happens to students who have nowhere to go. They know they are left in their communities with no work or anything else. They have seen what they can get into when there is nothing to do. If there is no work, then there is no future for them. This bubble, this massive amount of youth, will serve Canada well.

My colleague mentioned poverty many times. It is abject poverty. Many members of the House would not believe the poverty on reserves. Would he talk about the poverty that these people face every day.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I guess the best way for me to answer is to say that I watched a documentary about northern Ontario reserves. It probably was a reserve in the riding of my hon. colleague. The reporter asked a little girl, who was about 12 years old, if she had money what would she buy. The little girl said food. She did not say an iPod. She did not say a cellphone.

This is the situation in which many of these young people find themselves. This is why that bubble about which I speak is a huge, perhaps unfathomable to many members in the House. We must invest in that bubble because it will help Canada at the end of the day.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise in this very important debate on post-secondary education for the first nations.

We in the Bloc Québécois have studied the main issues concerning the first nations of Quebec, Labrador and the rest of Canada of course. After a thorough analysis of the situation, we agreed that education was one of the most important issues facing the first nations. We discovered that there are a lot of studies dealing with primary and secondary school education. These aspects are quite well covered and well dealt with by the government, regardless of the party in power.

We were astonished, though, to discover the major shortcoming that exists in regard to post-secondary education. The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and I realized that this major deficiency existed when we were helping to create a First Nations Pavilion in Val-d’Or, as we are still doing.

The First Nations Pavilion in Val-d’Or is supposed to help educate the aboriginal leaders of tomorrow. It is a university building, therefore, that is supposed to be established and managed by the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue. It is noteworthy that the president of the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue is Ms. Édith Cloutier. The hon. members are probably not very familiar with her, but the people who live in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and are listening to me today know that Édith Cloutier is aboriginal and the director of the Native Friendship Centre in Val d’Or. On the strength of the university courses that she herself took, she is working now on setting up institutions to help her brothers and sisters in the aboriginal communities.

A First Nations Pavilion seemed to us to be very obvious and self-explanatory. The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and I were in favour and supported it before the committee to ensure that it was recommended. When we submitted this recommendation to the committee to get it adopted and brought forward, we were astounded to discover that the government is only obliged under the Indian Act to provide elementary and secondary school education to Indians. I use the words “Indian” and “Inuit” advisedly because the Indian Act is probably the most retrograde piece of legislation that exists under this government and in this country called Canada. This act must be changed because it keeps the first nations in a state of total poverty. Nothing in the Indian Act requires Canada, as the trustee of the native peoples, to provide them with a post-secondary education. Absolutely nothing.

My hon. colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who had worked so hard on establishing the First Nations Pavilion was absolutely thunderstruck, as was I, to discover that nothing in the budget or in the legislation required the government to help the first nations go beyond a secondary school education.

That is why we began our work, and it was the Bloc Québécois that was responsible for the adoption of the motion that this should be examined immediately once the committee was established. In considering the work to be done, we decided that our focus would be on post-secondary education, because we felt there had already been quite a few, not to say many studies into elementary and secondary education.

The government indicated in its response and the minister told us that by spring 2008, they would be implementing a new policy dealing with elementary and secondary education for first nations. It did not refer to the essential role of post-secondary education.

My colleague from the Liberal party, who spoke just before me, gave some examples and I will give some as well.

In my riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue, there are five Algonquin Anishnabe communities—whom I salute by the way—including several communities that have experienced unprecedented population growth.

The government has put nothing in place to train these young people who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are equally to blame. When it comes to post-secondary education, first nations have been left for too long to manage on their own.

Yes, there is a budget of $308 million. The hon. parliamentary secretary said that this year’s budget provides $308 million for post-secondary education. I asked him a question and I did not receive an answer. Will the government promise to include recurring amounts—I emphasize recurring—for post-secondary education of aboriginal people? Do I have to spell it out for him to understand? If so, I will say it again slowly so that the translation is clear. Will the government include in its future budgets recurring amounts for post-secondary education of aboriginal people? There are none at present. There should be and there must be recurring amounts of money because the survival of the first nations depends on it.

I read the following statement somewhere. I do not know who said it but I will quote it: “Education is the beginning of freedom; education is the beginning of independence; education is the beginning of taking control”.

Let us imagine post-secondary education. I remember what we were told in our history courses. We, French Canadians, were not allowed to get ahead. It would be dangerous to give us too much schooling or we would recognize the way we were being treated and do something about it. That is exactly what is happening in terms of first nations. That is how the country is treating them. They must not get too much education or they will know too much and they will be able to take control of their lives.

If we train too many aboriginal lawyers, they will know their rights. They will be able to sue the federal government, which has kept them in the dark for too long. We must therefore be careful. We must not train too many. We must not train too many therapists. It would be better for white people to take care of that.

Do I need to provide an example? What about the schools where aboriginals were imprisoned? Young aboriginals were imprisoned to make them forget their knowledge, their language and their culture. I am referring to the residential schools.

That came to an end in 1975. I did say 1975. We are not talking about 1875, but 1975. That went on for almost 100 years. Had these peoples been informed in their language and their culture of what was going on in the residential schools, I do not believe that—and I will say it—they would have become as assimilated as they have. That is what happened. The first nations have the right to receive appropriate education.

That starts with post-secondary education, which is the door to the future. That is where doctors are trained. In committee, we met with many people and someone told us that you could not train enough first nations doctors because it takes too long and there was not enough money in the budget. It takes seven to ten years to train a doctor. They have a budget every year.

This is how it works. If a student wants to become an engineer, lawyer, doctor or dentist, he or she must be on a list. Every year, the government awards bursaries, but the bursary must be given out by the band council. The council decides that it does not need a doctor, because the training takes too long. How are the doctors trained? There is not enough money and the first nations are left behind. According to the government, there are not enough aboriginal doctors. An appropriate investment must be made in order for the first nations to develop.

Let us return to the minister's reply. I did not say it, the minister did. This is what he said:

The Government believes that a concept of shared responsibility must apply in providing support for Aboriginal post secondary education and that this entails exploring the range of resources available from public, institutional, non profit and private sector sources.

What I just read means that they want to put the report on a shelf to collect as much dust as possible, and to never talk about it again.

I would like to thank my colleague from the NDP for bringing this issue up today in the House. On the contrary, we must talk about it, because post-secondary education for first nations people is very important. The minister went on to say, and it is worth listening to this:

Issues of funding for post-secondary education will be considered as part of the required review of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's education programs.

This means that nothing will happen at all.

It is not complicated. Will the government commit to recurrent funding in next year's budget, or will it not? I asked the minister that question and I am awaiting an answer. I am also waiting if the answer is no. This would mean that he did not understand anything, that he does not understand anything and that he does not want to understand anything. Education for first nations people is a priority. This is 2007. Post-secondary education is a priority. I agree that this must be done according to the rules. I do not think we should send the money just anywhere. I agree. This is taxpayers' money. We must give some thought to how we spend it. There must be some control.

I have another story. There are 648 first nations in Canada, and the federal government does not know whether each of these communities has an information system linked to the federal government. Something is not working here. This is why we are asking first nations to provide multiple reports. I will not name names in case I am wrong, but a first nation told us that to receive $39,000 it had to produce nine reports for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Nine reports is a little excessive.

We are told that $10 billion has been spent on the first nations and that this is too much. The problem is that the departments do not communicate with each other, as we have seen.

The representatives of the Departments of Justice, Health, Transport and Natural Resources do not talk to the representatives of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, and vice versa. Everyone stays in their own corner, and then the point comes when it blows up.

I would like to read another excerpt from the minister's response. This is worth listening to:

To this end, the Department is working with interested parties including First Nations and Inuit representatives on a broad review of its education policies and programs in preparation for renewal of the Department's education programming authorities in March 2008.

If that is not a bureaucratic response, I do not know what is. The public who are listening to us surely cannot imagine anything worse than that.

The problem is that in that sentence the minister is replying only with regard to elementary and secondary education. Not a word is said about post-secondary education. My question to the minister is still the same: are we going to put a recurring item in future budgets that will be called “post-secondary education—$308 million”?

I would like to address another subject. It is unacceptable in 2007 that we would be freezing the increase in the ceiling on first nations spending at 2% a year. When the aboriginal population is climbing by 3.4% a year and the first nations budget is rising by only 2%, something is going to happen. Something will rip, will crack, will break, will be destroyed, I do not quite know what, but we are going to have some very tough days ahead.

Think about it. What is going on in post-secondary education? There is not enough money to send aboriginal people to get training. We are being told that the private sector will have to do its part. I am choosing my words carefully. Education for the first nations is the responsibility of the federal government. If it wants to transfer money to the provincial governments and hand over its role, that is fine. I agree with that. As long as things stay they way they are, however, education for the aboriginal people is the responsibility of the federal government, which has a fiduciary duty, and the government must absolutely shoulder those responsibilities.

My colleague talked about the Kelowna accord. We had an opportunity to hear the former Prime Minister, and the Minister of Finance and Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs who were involved in 2005. They are still members of this House, but I have forgotten the names of their ridings, except for the former Prime Minister; we know that his is LaSalle—Émard. They all said in committee that $280 million per year had been earmarked for education in the budget, in addition to money already budgeted. That would at least have been a start, to get things moving.

I do not want to take more time, but I want to remind this government of its duty. If we want the aboriginal people to develop, to take charge of their future, if we want the aboriginal nations to become self-governing and to be capable of planning their own development so it is not imposed on them by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, we absolutely have to invest large amounts of money, right now. That money has to be recurring in future budgets.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Before moving on to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, Regional Economic Development of Canada.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order, the normal hour of daily adjournment today shall be 6:30 p.m. and when no member rises to speak today to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act, or at 6:30 p.m., whichever comes first, the question on the motion relating to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-31 be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested, and the vote deferred to 6:30 p.m. today.