SIX NATIONS — Among the stops made by federal Liberal candidate Danielle Takacs and former Prime Minister Paul Martin was a round table meeting at Six Nations Polytechnic.
Councillor Helen Miller opened the discussions which focused on Six Nations education funding, showing the former PM and possible future MP that due diligence in evaluating the needs, and working within the limited budgets is no longer possible to ensure a quality education to Six Nations students.
“If we are going to do our own education, we want to do it right. We have to do it right,” said Miller. “It’s a matter of knowing the cost it will take to do it right. We are not going to take over education if we don’t have the money to do it right.
She and elected Chief Ava Hill were asking for more lobbying at the federal level on behalf of Six Nations funding as relative to education.
“We can’t get a straight answer out of them at INAC,” said Miller.
There was also a plea for funding to help build Six Nations a new library and repository which would also contribute to the education of Six Nations young people.
Since leaving political office, former Prime Minister Paul Martin has been quite active advocating for a better relationship between the federal government and First Nations across Canada. It was his government that introduced the $5 billion Kelowna Accord and received support from all provincial MPPs, before the Harper government arbitrarily quashed the deal.
As a private citizen, Martin began the Paul Martin Education Initiative, a charitable organization to help in the education of First Nations people, which has made a significant impact on literacy within more than 40 Native communities to date. It is also an education initiative that offers business apprenticeship programs to young aboriginals, which qualify for high school credits.
Following reports of similar funding issues presented by a number of councillors and educators Martin seemed to be on the same page as he too recognized the futility of the Conservative cutbacks and even status-quo in Onkwehonwe education.
Brantford-Brant Liberal candidate Danielle Takacs added, “There are very few things in life that can’t be taken from you once you have it, and one of them is an education.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau recently released his aboriginal education program that calls for spending $515 million a year, which is to rise to $750 million for First Nations Kindergarten to Grade 12 education. $500 million over three years will be allotted for First Nations education infrastructure, and $50 million in additional annual support for post-secondary students.
“I don’t believe there’s a higher rate of return on investment that a dollar spent on a person’s education,” the former PM told the round table. “The First Nations have demonstrated a capacity to run their own education system, but I’m not sure Canadians understand that,” he added.
“Aboriginal students should not leave their cultural heritage or identity at the door of the classroom. We believe that aboriginal students have a right to the same quality education as non-aboriginal students. Aboriginal youth, like all other youth around the world, will rise to the challenge and succeed when given hope, support and opportunity.”
While in the riding, Takacs and Martin had lunch at the Mississaugas of the New Credit Community Hall with guests New Credit Chief Bryan LaForme, Six Nations elected Chief Ava Hill, Brant County Mayor Ron Eddy, Brant MPP Dave Levac and Brantford Councillor Cheryl Antoski, who is representing Brantford Mayor Chris Friel’s office.During the various stops throughout the day, Takacs made copious notes and answered questions as well, however, her main purpose was to introduce herself and listen closely to understand the unique needs of young Onkwehonwe people of today.
Other issues discussed included a hope for some kind of timeframe for the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be fully implemented.
He and Takacs’ whirlwind tour also included a visit to the Mohawk Institute where a plea for funding to restore the school as a museum of the Canadian government’s misguided attempt to force assimilation of First Nations children over several generations.
Further on the education theme, the Liberal delegates also toured Grand River Employment and Training and in particular, the Ogwehoweh Skills and Trades Training Centre.
Martin promised to return to the Six Nations and New Credit communities following the October 19th federal election to talk further about these and other issues.
NDP candidate, Marc Laferriere, alongside NDP Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jean Crowder, were in the Six Nations community two weeks ago gathering support as well.