The Macdonald-Laurier Institute opened its doors on March 15, 2010. Our launch coincided with the release of our first policy publication, Free to Learn, written by Calvin Helin, a prominent aboriginal author, lawyer and entrepreneur, and Dave Snow, a University of Calgary doctoral candidate. Making the issue of aboriginal post-secondary education the very first priority of the new Institute demonstrated our resolve to put new ideas onto the agenda in Ottawa.

The key proposal of the study is to create an Aboriginal Post Secondary Savings Account that would be opened at birth for every registered Indian. This policy of empowering aboriginal students to educate themselves would replace the government's Post-Secondary Student Support Program, which gives $314-million annually to Indian band councils who distribute it as they see fit, with little accountability.

This week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated in a letter to the Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo that he, like MLI, will also be making aboriginal education a priority for his government. The PM has suggested a Crown-First Nations meeting to focus on education. Let's hope that aboriginal post-secondary education is part of the coming discussions.

All participants would do well to recall the words of MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley, commenting on the release of Free to Learn, "Existing federal aid to aboriginal post-secondary education works badly, even though it is in a realm that's critical to the success of individual First Nations students and important to the Canadian economy. It is way past time to do better – and Calvin Helin and Dave Snow have shown us the way today."

Posted by GY

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