Education International
Education International

Canada: Deficit is not an excuse for underfunding Aboriginal education

published 13 July 2012 updated 16 July 2012

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin has delivered a keynote address at the Canada Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Annual General Meeting held under the theme, “Teacher organisations: charting the course for democracy,” from 11-13 July in Halifa, Nova Scotia.

“Government can defer the construction of building but it is wrong to defer Aboriginal children education. The deficit is not an excuse for underfunding education of the fastest growing segment of this population,” said Martin.

Aboriginal education is one of the CTF priorities, which recognises the inherent Aboriginal peoples’ right to self-government within Canada and the Aboriginal peoples’ right to set the education goals for their children.

In this country, forty-three per cent of Aboriginal students off reserve do not graduate high school. Sixty per cent on reserve do not graduate. The gaps – between Aboriginal Canadians and other Canadians, as well as between Aboriginal men and women – are not acceptable in the twenty-first century. They never were acceptable, and must be closed.

Martin also mentioned the long-standing inequities because of gaps in education and skills, in health care and housing, and because of limited opportunities for employment.

He explained to CTF members how his initiative works and presented its successful pilot experiences.

The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative is one of the supporters of the award-winning pilot school twinning project organised by CTF in cooperation with the Assembly of First Nations through the CTF Imagineaction program. The project aims to twin First Nations schools and publicly funded schools across Canada starting in the fall 2012.

He also raised the importance of non-Aboriginals understanding that we should work in partnership, that not our views should prevail, work to turn what is really a tough education system around and make it work to everybody’s benefits. Martin called for the inclusion of Aboriginal culture in all provincial/territorial curricula in publicly funded schools.

“We appreciate Mr. Martin’s message, as a friend of teachers and as a champion for Aboriginal education in Canada,” said CTF President Paul Taillefer. “His foundation seeks to enhance learning opportunities and improving educational success for Aboriginal students. He recognised the key role that education unions play. We heard his call for action to work together to move aboriginal education forwards.”

CTF supports ongoing campaigns, such as Shannen's Dream ( www.shannensdream.ca) for “safe and comfy schools” and quality education. This campaign was presented at the EI Indigenous Caucus held in July 2011 in South Africa.

Last year also, the CTF Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Education endorsed the Initiative of Ashoka Changemakers, a global online community, aiming at sharing ideas or projects about supporting First Nations, Métis and Inuit learners to succeed.

EI Coordinator, Rebeca Sevilla said: “EI recognises that the public education systems in different states have not always met the needs of Indigenous Peoples. CTF has been working with and providing support to the Aboriginal community. The EI Congress to be held in Ottawa in 2015 will be a great opportunity to learn from local trade union experiences and improve our understanding on Aboriginal education.”

The Resolution on Respect for Diversity adopted at the EI 6th World Congress, held in 2011, recognises that “education is a basic human right which should nurture fair treatment and respect towards all others regardless of race; colour; language; sex; sexual orientation; religion or ethnicity, finding policies and practices to overcome marginalisation, prevent attitudes of fear of the other and enhance inclusion for all into citizenship, work, democratic political processes and other areas of social and cultural participation.”

Paul Martin’s presentation is available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ctf-agm-aga-fce-2012

For more information on CTF activities on Aboriginal education are available here


To read the Report of the Indigenous Caucus held before last year’s World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, please click here

To learn more about EI action on Indigenous peoples’ rights, click here