Whereas it is well established that Aboriginal people are among Canada's most impoverished and vulnerable populations;
Whereas education is a powerful contributor to improved economic and social well-being and individual empowerment;
Whereas Aboriginal youth continue to lag significantly behind the rest of Canada in terms of the completion of secondary and post-secondary education;
Whereas Canada's current programs aimed at getting more Aboriginal youth into post-secondary education are not meeting their goals;
And whereas this policy paper is non-political and its sole purpose is to provide common sense solutions to address this issue;
We, the co-signatories of this statement, urge that policy toward Aboriginal post-secondary education should be guided by the following principles and goals:
- Treaty rights must be respected, but the ultimate goal of those rights is to promote the interests of individual Aboriginals;
- The federal government must remain committed to the principle of "Indian control of Indian education," and the best way to do this is to empower individual Aboriginals;
- Money intended to support Aboriginal post-secondary education should only be spent for that purpose;
- Current levels of federal funding for Aboriginal post-secondary education should be maintained if not increased;
- Federal funding must be disbursed in a manner that is equitable, open, transparent and accountable;
- Federal funding must be available on the same basis to all Registered Indian students;
- The best way to achieve these goals is to ensure that the funds are controlled by individual students and that the funds may only be spent on bona fide post-secondary education;
- Funding for Aboriginal post-secondary education should include economic incentives for young Aboriginals to complete secondary and post-secondary education;
- Getting young Aboriginals into work through higher education is in the interests of every segment of Canadian society in the context of population aging and projected labour shortages;
- Aboriginal education should be a priority for the Canadian nation since improvements there may be the most optimal expenditure to ensure its continued prosperity and competitiveness.
The Aboriginal Post-Secondary Savings Account (APSSA), a policy proposal put forward by Calvin Helin and Dave Snow in their paper "Free to Learn" for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy, meets all these criteria. We support the authors' proposal to phase out the Government of Canada's Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) and replace it with Aboriginal Post-Secondary Savings Accounts at the earliest possible moment.
Senator Patrick Brazeau
Jacquelyn Thayer Scott
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