Some headway is being made at a national conference on Indigenous education in Ottawa, but the real test will come next month when the Liberal government delivers its first budget.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced funding for about 20 First Nations education projects yesterday, up to an including new schools.
The Meadow Lake Tribal Council is among nine groups getting funding, but the tribal chief says it won’t amount to much.
Chief Eric Sylvestre says the money will be used to do an education assessment on the nine First Nations that are part of the MLTC. He says it’s a small start on what is really needed.
“We want to find out what state they are in, to find out what repairs are needed and what needs to be upgraded,” he says.
Sylvestre says the real test will come next month when the Liberal government delivers its first budget. During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to increase First Nations education funding by more than $500 million during its first year in power. Sylvestre says that comes nowhere near closing the education funding gap, estimated at about 30%, but he says it would be a step in the right direction.
“We have been underfunded in all the areas,” he says. “You know, school operations per capita funding compared to the provincial average, major underfunding in child welfare, in health, in all areas.”
The federal budget will be delivered March 22. The government is already projecting an $18.4-billion deficit and that is not accounting for the costs of its election promises.