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The sad truth about Aboriginal post-secondary funding

Gabrielle Castilloux

October 22, 2012

As an aboriginal student, who works three part time jobs to pay her tuition fees and rent I often get stopped and asked why don’t I get free post secondary funding? Is that not what the government promised the aboriginal people of Canada? The sad truth is that although this was promised, many aboriginal students are not seeing their fees paid, and it has gone to a point where last year 19,000 aboriginal students were not funded for post secondary studies and because of this many of them were unable to attend schools.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students: “The federal government provides funding for Status First Nations and Inuit people (as defined by the Indian Act) through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP). Funding for the PSSSP is distributed by band councils under their own eligibility criteria. For example, some bands fund more students at a portion of the total cost of their education, whereas other band councils give a grant covering all of a student’s expenses.”
However, the government funds each band differently, depending on several factors including population, incomes, revenue etc. Therefore some bands may not have the funding to send their youth and adults to post-secondary schools, for several reasons such as spending their money on other objectives or simply not having enough in their budget to fund students because the government has not given them enough funds.
Even more frustrating is that since 1996 funding for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada‘s (INAC) Post-Secondary Education Program, which includes the PSSSP, has been capped at 2 per cent.
The aboriginal population is the fastest growing population in Canada with aboriginal youth counting for the highest youth population, and with these growing rates comes a halt from the government to provide funding. It is complete backwards thinking to cap funding when there is a much higher demand especially with a rising population.
The Harper government apologized for the downright disgusting treatment of aboriginal peoples, but has yet to recognize the genocide that the government inflicted upon these people. Harper stated that “the Governement of Canada would like to sincerely apologize for failing the aboriginal people so profoundly.” Yet, the government still continues to fail us.
When it comes to the aboriginal population on Carleton University campus, most of the people that I know are getting funded. However, what concerns me more, is the people who live on my reserve or other reserves who do not attend post-secondary institutions due to the fact that they will not get funding and do not think that they can make ends meet while attending school.
The sad truth, is that the Canadian government is still perpetuating the genocide that began hundreds of years ago.
Currently, aboriginal youth in high schools receive $2,000 less per student per year than non-aboriginal high school students in Canada. Not only is there an attack on our post-secondary funds, but also at our secondary school level—which already puts aboriginal students at a disadvantage when attending university to take notes and do assignments at the level of other students.
Access to a degree or diploma is a way to be successful in life to not only ensure that you can create a career for a betterment of your future, but to attend a space where you can learn to think more critically and to pose questions about the world that surrounds you.
Canada promised to give us access to free post-secondary education as part of their apology for the horrible treatment that indigenous people have suffered through for generations and continue to suffer through. They have yet to uphold that promise and even further are going against their word.
It is time for the government to be held accountable for their promises. To realize that the first people of this land matter, and to realize that without us, this country would not be as it is.

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