Chief Madahbee speaks out on education gap

NIPISSING— In a press release received by The Recorder from the Anishinabek Nation, Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee accused the federal government of not putting money where its mouth is when it comes to First Nations education.

The release notes that in June, Indian Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt was quoted as saying that “the greatest legacy that we can leave to First Nations in Canada is an education system that will give those young Native people the chance to get the education they need.  We need them to be full participants in our economy.”

The release continues to assert that based on the 2010 provincial funding allocations, the school in Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (Rocky Bay First Nation) received $4,781 less per student than a provincially-funded school in the Upsala School Authority. Both schools are located in the same geographic area and had the same amount of students, said Mr. Madahbee in the release.

The Anishinabek First Nations have been negotiating a self-government agreement with Canada for the last 18 years to establish the Anishinabek Education System. The release notes that the Anishinabek Education System is holistically-rooted in community involvement, Anishinaabe identity and meaningful First Nations curriculum and goes onto state that this system will provide educational success for Anishinabek First Nations students.

According to the release, Canada recently tabled its fiscal funding offer to the Anishinabek Nation. The offer was presented in response to the proposal submitted by the Anishinabek Nation to close the education funding gap and to ensure sufficient funding to run the Anishinabek Education System.

“Canada’s fiscal offer does not address the long standing gap in band operated education funding which currently stands at about $11 million,” said Chief Madahbee. “Our schools are already struggling with the lack of financial resources. We’re looking for comparable funding to the provincial school system. No matter where a school is situated, the school should receive the same education funding.”

“Canada’s fiscal offer was a slap in the face,” said Chief Madahbee. “The gap in education funding will perpetuate the gap in learning. The government’s own statistics consistently show that First Nations students do not advance in school as far as other Canadian children. Lack of funding is a major reason why.”

The release concludes with the statement that, “According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to which Canada is signatory, the Anishinabek, as indigenous peoples, have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions. Anishinabek children have a right to education without discrimination and a right to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.”