Halifax was the site for this one day PSE forum. This Forum focused on clarifying on what the proposed National PSE Policy should look like. The problem historically was, due to our small numbers (about 6 % nationally) we were sort of ignored. Policy direction is then basically set by regions with larger populations. The importance of this forum is that it allows us to frame our views, which makes us harder to ignore.
Dawn Maracle, from AFN National, helped set out issues that communities are facing in the area of PSE. The day focused on Policy issues or the framework that guides how the program should be run and eligibility.
A common concern that was expressed by the group was the Government saying that PSE is not a guaranteed program and is only available as a social policy and that the government is only required to provide “p-12 or secondary education” that the Federal government will and only has to match what the provinces provide. Since the provinces do not provide free PSE then neither will the Feds. The message from the group was it is a Treaty Right and a fiduciary responsibility of the Canadian Government.
A UN report released in early April compared the living conditions faced by First Nation people on and off reserve. They took these conditions using Data provided by Canada and came up with statistics that set out our standard of living as if we were a separate country. The UN researcher then compared these standards of living and placed us at 49th in the world. Yes, forty-ninth in the world, which puts us with some of the poorest countries in Africa.
As stated in a previous newsletter the Government is providing forums/conferences/ and even a Royal Commission (RCAP) to explore and not do anything. MK stated then and will continue to do so that the time for talking is over. It is time to act and the group expressed great concern at what the situation will be in 4 years when this work finally goes off to Treasury Board. I just hope that we don’t get a repeat of what happened to us with Special Education. There the “JOINT” INAC/AFN committee came up with a proposal to Treasury Board for a request of $280 million to properly address Special Education. In the end the Government provided $40 million of this amount $10 million were re-profiled existing dollars.
Again MK asked “What is the Federal Government waiting for; another UN study that puts us at 50th, or 60th or worse in the World?”
MK reminded the Group that even when the Government processes have identified how their funding is so sorely lacking in PSE, Social, Housing, Health, Education, etc the Government has not moved to remedy the situation.
The time for waiting is gone, no more lip service. These PSE notes were to prepare for the fall meeting of the Government and the First Nations.
I wonder what will happen, maybe the lies will stop and the Government will wake up.