Update on First Nations Post-Secondary Education
The work and progress in the area of First Nations post-secondary education (PSE) is guided by direction from Chiefs-in-Assembly and the long-standing goal of achieving First Nations control of First Nations Education. First Nations control of First Nations Education means respecting, protecting and enforcing First Nations inherent rights and Treaty rights, title and jurisdiction. It means First Nations education systems designed by First Nations, under First Nations control and supported by direct transfers from the Federal Government.
Consistent with a number of national resolutions, most recently Assembly of First Nations (AFN) resolution 48/2018, First Nations Post-Secondary Education Policy Proposal, the Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE), National Indian Education Council (NIEC) and the AFN submitted a policy proposal to the Cabinet of Canada that recommended a new way forward for First Nations PSE whereby the jurisdiction would remain with the First Nations.
Prior to that submission, Budget 2019 allocated $327 million dollars over five years to First Nations for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program. This falls far short of the $1.7 billion required to close the gap in post-secondary education.
On June 18, 2019, the AFN was informed that the First Nations Post-Secondary Policy Proposal was approved by the federal cabinet. While the approval did not increase the investments in Budget 2019, it confirmed support for First Nations-led Treaty-based and/or regional based processes to develop models that will best support First Nations PSE. Alongside the approval of Treaty and/or regional based PSE models, Budget 2019 provided $7.5 Million over three years to support First Nations in exploratory discussions, engagement, partnership tables and model design with their members. First Nations will begin to transition from current restrictions in PSE to more holistic approaches that support the unique needs of every Nation.
First Nations can now begin the important and essential work of designing their own approaches to PSE.
In addition to significant changes in First Nations PSE models, further amendments to programs and policies include:
- Residency Clause: Eligible recipients for PSE funding were previously subject to restrictions that included mandatory Canadian residency. New changes amend and broaden eligible recipients to Band Councils, organizations designated by Band Councils, and self-governing First Nations in the Yukon.
- Post-Secondary Partnerships Program: Eligible recipients previously included mainstream institutions that were receiving First Nations funding. New changes amend eligible recipients exclusively to include Band Councils, organizations designated by Band Councils, community based regional bodies and the First Nations University of Canada.
- Eligible Expenditures: The previous conditions contained overly prescriptive language around eligible expenditures in all First Nations PSE programs. New changes amend the prescriptive language and broaden expenditures to allow more flexibility for what each First Nation considers an appropriate expenditure.
While the AFN continues to advocate for Post-Secondary Education to be funded as a Treaty and inherent right, based on the needs of all First Nations post-secondary students, amendments to policies and programs that support First Nations Control of First Nations Education are a welcome change.
We will continue to advocate and prioritize First Nations jurisdiction in education that is reflective of our Treaty and inherent rights. If you would like more information please contact the AFN Director of Education, Janice Ciavaglia, at 613-241-6789 ext. 206 or by email at [email protected]
Hiy Hiy, ekosi
Regional Chief Bobby Cameron, AFN
Chief – Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations
Witcheken First Nation, Treaty No. 6 Territory