According to a Fraser Institute study released on August 7th, more than 60 per cent of First Nation people aged 20 to 24 haven’t completed high school compared to 13 per cent of all other Canadians. Yet, the study, Myths and Realities of First Nations Education, found federal funding for First Nations education grew from $1.3 billion to more than $1.5 billion. If funding is increasing, and the problems remain, what can be done to improve First Nations education?
Akisqnuk First Nation councillor Marguerite Cooper believes schools are underestimating the abilities of First Nations students, and when a student does perform exceptionally well, there is a complete lack of family and community support for their efforts. And if ongoing prejudice against Aboriginals in the workforce means job prospects are slim to none, motivation to finish school and go on to post-secondary training or study is understandably hard to come by.
The conditions of Aboriginals across Canada vary greatly, but countless oppressive forces continue to burden many people and communities. The recent murder of Tina Fontaine, the 15-year-old aboriginal girl whose death has prompted renewed calls across the country for a public inquiry into the disproportionate number of missing and murdered aboriginal women, is a tragic example.
The federal government is taking a huge stride in the right direction by inviting discussion at the grassroots level on the barriers aboriginal people face and how to bridge the gaps. More of these sessions need to take place, and more often. The success of this recent roundtable should be enough incentive to strike a tri-cultural committee for the valley that continues to explore community partnerships, seeing as the Regional District of East Kootenay’s Columbia Valley Directors Committee is woefully lacking a First Nations narrative despite the Shuswap and Akisqnuk being economic players in the region.