This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Valley Liberal 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP 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 HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2007 / 4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative 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.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to present the motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for outlining some very good points regarding the report of the standing committee on post-secondary education and the government response.

I wanted to touch on a brief issue. I know that in Quebec this is also a very important issue as it pertains to funding for first nations post-secondary educational institutions. Certainly this report and the government's response basically said it is a provincial responsibility.

Yet, we know the importance of first nations post-secondary educational institutions. We know that there are 64 currently in this country. Some of them are affiliated with other colleges and universities. One or two of them are stand alone. We know how important it is that the funding is in place so that the curriculum is culturally relevant, that it is within an important social context, and that it recognizes some of the challenges that the students have in terms of leaving their communities and the kind of isolation that they have from their own communities.

Could the member specifically talk about the shortcomings and the government's response to funding for first nations post-secondary educational institutions?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. I can almost say that the answer is “nothing”. Almost. Currently, in Quebec, when a person from an aboriginal community wishes to pursue post-secondary studies, it is a problem. In a nutshell, this is how the system works in Quebec: we have primary and secondary education, and then something special that we call CEGEP, the college of general and professional instruction, and then university. However, once people complete their fifth year of secondary school, there is nothing to help them move on to CEGEP or university.

Not only is there no support, but people have to apply to the federal government for a scholarship. That means that all aboriginals from Abitibi-Témiscamingue and northern Quebec have to go outside, and that is why we are asking for an aboriginal campus or university centre to train the leaders of tomorrow in the region.

For now, nobody is giving us any answers, we keep getting their voicemail and nobody knows what is going on. It is clear that first nations need help overcoming this obstacle. They need leaders. The future of first nations depends on first nations people having role models when it comes to post-secondary education.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's statements about post-secondary education. I certainly applaud his efforts in bettering the lives of aboriginal people all across Canada.

One of the statements he made and previous speakers have made is in reference to the $308 million that is available for post-secondary education. I think it is important to point out to the House that in addition to those funds, budget 2007 also more than doubles the funding for the aboriginal skills and employment partnership.

I think we all agree that there is more to education than simply college and university, and many people have found meaningful employment in some of these initiatives.

I point out just a few of them: the aboriginal mine works project; the people, land and opportunities project; the Northwest Territories oil and gas aboriginal skills and employment partnership development; and many others that I could list.

The member, near the beginning of his speech, mentioned something to the effect that the Indian Act was a retrograde piece of legislation. He went on to say that the Indian Act needed to be changed.

As a lawyer who probably has a much deeper knowledge of the act than I do, I was wondering if he would make any suggestion as to where the government would begin in replacing the Indian Act. What kind of process would he envision in that matter?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, you will have to cut me off, because I could talk on about how to replace the Indian Act for 30 or 45 minutes.

One thing is crucial. The Indian Act could not possibly be replaced without consultation. I know this does not please my hon. colleague who asked me the question, but real consultation with first nations people is needed to see how they envision the abolition of that act. We cannot and must not impose any amendments to the Indian Act without first ensuring real consultation. That will take some time.

For this, first nations people must be educated. Major investments are needed in post-secondary education, including college and university, as well as at the post-graduate level.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, earlier we heard the parliamentary secretary talk about the fact that some of the opposition members were looking at the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and were not particularly supportive of it.

One of the statements that the parliamentary secretary made was the fact that a repeal of section 67 would actually improve educational opportunities on reserve. Yet we know about the 2% funding cap and the very serious issues that are facing first nations on reserve around funding that is available for things. Could the member comment on a simple repeal of section 67 and its impact on educational opportunities?

We know for example that the United Nations has issued a report that said a simple repeal of 67 without adequate remedy would actually not improve the human rights situations on reserve. Could the member comment on that in terms of the educational aspect?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have much to say on this matter. It is true that Bill C-44, which we are currently studying in committee, contains only nine operative words. Those nine words, however, will have serious repercussions on first nations people. Once the Canadian Human Rights Act applies in a community, this means that, immediately, anywhere in Canada, legal action can be taken against a band council or against the department any time there is no water, no hospital nearby or if people are not receiving the same level of care as anywhere else in Canada.

Earlier, in my response to another colleague, I said that real consultation is absolutely essential. The government must go to first nations communities to hear how first nations people want to repeal this retrograde legislation. Everyone wants to repeal it. We must find the mechanisms to ensure that this is done in full respect of the wishes of first nations people.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan for this motion because it is very important that we speak to this issue.

I represent the Churchill riding where there are 33 first nations. I am a first nations person myself. I am Cree from Norway House Cree Nation, which is in the Churchill riding, and on my mother's side I am from the Treaty 9 area in a community called Muskrat Dam. As a first nations individual and member of Parliament representing a riding which has a large first nations population, this is an issue which of course is very dear to my heart.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Nunavut.

I would like to begin this debate by speaking about the context. From my perspective and the perspective of people in my riding, the context is very important when we speak about first nations education.

Today we have heard the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River articulate very well the historical context and the culture of poverty. This is often mistaken for aboriginal culture and people have often utilized it to advance agendas which are not fair. Not only are they not fair, but they are not practical and do not respect the honour of the Crown nor the relationship that should be in place, a conciliatory relationship of respect and dignity between first nations and Canada.

I would like to elaborate on the culture of poverty somewhat because it is really important for Canadians to understand that it has been a matter of systematic and systemic policies and legislation in this country which have contributed to the culture of poverty.

I am a direct descendant of a signatory. My great grandfather was a chief who signed the addendum to Treaty 9. I received an email today from a person who is from my riding and a direct descendant of one of the chiefs who signed Treaty 5. It is part of our history. It is part of our oral history and the history of our communities and cultures. We are very politicized within our first nations history as well.

People have to understand that just as Canada has its written history, we have our own history as well. Within Canadian post-secondary institutions that history has been finally deemed, in the last 15 years, as valid. Although we as first nations people have respected it and know it is true, that shared history is very important. That is what is really important about first nations education and how we move forward.

The government's response to first nations education is very disappointing because, as we heard today, what is the cost of doing nothing? If we look at first nations history in terms of policy and legislation, it does not even have to come from within the first nations perspective in terms of our own oral history.

However, throughout history we have seen that there has been a systematic attempt to put barriers in place in lieu of the successes of first nations people in this country. It is that dynamic that I believe contributes to these types of responses today.

As I said, I am from Manitoba. It seems that the parliamentary secretary is not familiar with first nations education. He misrepresents the picture of first nations education in Manitoba. I am very proud to say that in 1971 our leadership wrote a book called “Wahbung: Our Tomorrows”. It addressed first nations education. It became the basis for the education framework agreement which was signed in 1991.

My Liberal colleague mentioned Saskatchewan. In Manitoba we too have had control of first nations education at the community level, and we are talking about K to 12. First nations education was understood to be a treaty right and it was understood in terms of the context of lifelong learning, which includes post-secondary. We have had that for over 30 years. In 1971 we articulated that in written form. It has been part of how we understand our lives. As we need to make transitions into different systems, we have done so with clarity.

The B.C. model, which is indeed a fantastic model for B.C., is not suitable for Manitoba. It is an absolute misrepresentation to say that Manitoba does not have that type of framework. We have had an education framework agreement. We have had a framework agreement at the self-government and education sectoral table. The government walked away from negotiations. It is appalling that there has been an absolute misrepresentation of what first nations people want, what first nations people have accomplished so far. It is negligent to insist upon that type of representation.

In Manitoba it is absolutely critical and not only for the sake of integrity, but also there is the cost of doing nothing. Each year in Manitoba we have to defer 1,000 students who are seeking to go to post-secondary institutions. We would have to have 2,000 students in post-secondary education to close the gap between the average Canadian in Manitoba and first nations in Manitoba. The member opposite mentioned vocational trades and the efforts the government has made on HRSD, but in Manitoba, we would need 2,300 additional spots for first nations students in vocational trades and colleges to close the gap.

In Manitoba we have an enormous population and the quickest growing population. It is absolutely critical that we start to address these issues in a way that will have a profound effect not only for first nations youth and for first nations communities, but for Canada.

The government in response to this report said:

--it is troubling that the percentage of Aboriginal youth that enter post secondary studies is significantly lower than that of non Aboriginal youth. This gap exists for a myriad of reasons, and a link must be drawn to other socio economic factors that affect some Aboriginal communities like poverty, housing issues, and unemployment--

I would argue that is quite common. The government went on to say:

The most serious problem creating this gap is that not enough Aboriginal youth are completing high school--

My problem with that statement is that socio-economic factors, such as poverty, housing and unemployment, are significant issues. We have to deal with them. We have to address these issues. The approach has to be holistic in terms of building a bright future. This is what first nations have wanted. This is what first nations in my riding have been saying for over 30 years. The cost of doing nothing is despair. It is inhumane.

I was in a community in my riding, Shamattawa, where a child had taken his own life. There is no reason on God's green earth that children in Canada should be faced with such despair. How we address this issue is that first nations education and post-secondary education has to meet the standards. We should look at post-secondary education as being an answer to closing the gap for aboriginal people in Canada.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Churchill made a very eloquent presentation. I would like the member's opinion on a question that I raised before. We have seen that the funding for first nations post-secondary educational institutes, specifically ones run by first nations, is absent from the government's response. It basically says that post-secondary education funding is a provincial responsibility, yet we know there are very good institutes including the First Nations Technical Institute, FNTI, which is on life support because of inadequate funding.

I wonder if the member could comment on the importance of first nations control of first nations education and post-secondary institutes in this country.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a critical point when we talk about first nations education. First nations control over first nations education is essential.

I would like to speak about a number of different things but I want to talk about the issue of self-determination. People understand inherently that in our language we interpret self-determination as what makes us human. Self-determination in Canada has to be understood not within the context of becoming non-Indian, non-first nations or non-aboriginal. It has to be understood within the context of being aboriginal within Canada. Study after study, report after report, individual after individual, community after community have demonstrated that culturally appropriate teaching models, education models and institutes which are designed and run by first nations are critical to the success of first nations education.