I write to you regarding the growing critical concern of First Nation education in Canada. In particular, I call on the Government of Canada to confirm an education guarantee for a secure and sustainable fiscal framework for First Nation education that will be based on real costs and needs.

The Band Operated Funding Formula (BOFF) for First Nation schools was developed in 1988 by the federal government and has never been revised. While Provincial educational reforms constantly move to improve – First Nation funding for education is frozen in time. The 1988 BOFF does not include costs to provide modern essentials for student learning such as integrated information technologies, books for school libraries, or other costs associated with provincial education reforms. In 2005, an internal INAC report on the Evaluation of the Band-Operated and Federal schools made this statement: “The current funding formula is an archaic instrument for achieving public policy ends and meeting the needs of First Nations people.”

In 1996, INAC placed a 2% funding cap on programs and services to First Nations, including education spending. In contrast, several provincial governments have invested significant amounts of funding into provincial education well beyond a 2% annual increase. For example, total expenditures in public schools nationally increased at nearly twice the rate of inflation between 2000-01 and 2006-07. Specifically, expenditures increased 4.5% between 2005-06 and 2006-07, to $49.6 billion; and up 27.9% over the six-year period, while the rate of inflation over the same time period was 14.4%. And, INAC pays without question all tuition costs for First Nation students attending provincial schools.

This clearly illustrates a disconnect with respect to comparable funding for expected comparable outcomes between provincial and First Nation schools.

All stages of education require attention and support. As the fastest growing population in Canada and as confirmed by countless studies, enhancing investment in First Nation post secondary education is a critical requirement that will return significant dividends to both First Nation and Canadian societies and economies, as stated in the Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs And Northern Development (2007).

And finally, a 2009 report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer indicates how serious the gap is between actual funding and the funding needed to meet the needs in educational infrastructure. How can we accept that such a basic and fundamental right for all children to have a safe and healthy school be compromised in a country such as Canada?

I join my voice to the voices of the Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Shawn Atleo, leaders, educators, parents, students, and First Nation communities throughout Canada, that there be a clear commitment heard in the coming speech from the throne that recognizes the problem and resolves to act decisively in the interest of First Nations and all of Canada. We seek specific commitment to a focused and short-term process to review the funding formula, in collaboration with First Nations, and to swiftly introduce mechanisms leading to a sustainable and secure fiscal framework for First Nation education.

Education is certainly not the only issue facing First Nations and requiring attention, however, it represents a critical first step towards accomplishing the goals of reconciliation established by your Government in the Apology to former students of residential schools. We join together to urge your Government to take this first necessary and essential step to generate hope and opportunity for First Nation youth and communities.

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