Good News or a Set-up for Failure?

Dear editors,

Recently, the West Hill United Church got an answer from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to its Petition (see Two Row Times, Sept. 4, 2013, P. 5). While analysing it, we took time to delve into the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act announced February 7th, 2014, in Calgary.

West Hill is one of many non-Onkwehon:we and Onkwehon:we groups to protest the education funding gap for students on reserves. The Walpole Island Elementary school principal wrote in the Toronto Star, January 14, 2013, that $11,000 per student is spent on education in Ontario compared to $6,000 per student spent by the feds for reserve students.

The West Hill Petition demanded the 2% limit on yearly increases to Aboriginal Affairs core programs be lifted. The 2% cap has slowly strangled native communities since 1996. We called for increases for primary and secondary education, housing, potable water, child and family services, health and social programs and other basic needs to a level that attains equality between Onkwehon:we and non-Onkwehon:we people in Canada.

Naturally, we were glad to see the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act purports to: give greater control over First Nations Education to First Nations; and, lock in a new 4.5% yearly increase, ending the 2% cap.

When we saw that the increase is not to start until 2016-17, we were reminded of the Kelowna Accord. That was when a Liberal government promised to deal with the urgent needs on reserves. Once the Liberals were defeated, Harper cancelled it. The right of native children to an education equal to their peers in Canada should not depend on any government party being re-elected. Since Canada is a story of treaties broken and promises not kept, the time for words has run out. It’s time for action.


Steve Watson

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