AFN National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak Statement on Education

Published: Jan 26, 2024Press Release

(January 26, 2024 – Unceded Algonquin Territory, Ottawa, Ontario) – Following this week’s United Nations International Day of Education, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak issued a statement regarding First Nations education and the upcoming federal budget:

“This week, as we marked an international day to recognize the role of education in global peace and development, we are reminded of the disparities in educational access and quality faced by First Nations in Canada. That is why our Assembly is united in calling on the Government of Canada to prioritize and enhance funding for First Nations education and close the gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous Canadians. Critical action is needed in the upcoming federal budget to not only achieve equity and fairness, but also to uphold the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 14, which promotes Indigenous education rights, including the establishment and control of their education systems supporting language and culture.

Investing in First Nations Education is not only the right thing to do to achieve equity and fairness, it is also the right thing to do for Canada’s economy.  The 2022 Centre for the Study of Living Standards Report, “Closing the First Nations Education Gap in Canada: Assessing Progress and Estimating the Economic Benefits,” commissioned by the AFN, highlights the substantial economic benefits of eliminating the education gap by 2041. The report projects that First Nations GDP rises by about $30 billion, and First Nations employment is boosted by over 100,000 additional jobs.

First Nations are already facing program funding shortfalls in post-secondary education, with current funding set to expire in less than three months. Without a funding renewal in the upcoming federal budget, more than 7,900 First Nations students across the country will lose their supports, further increasing the education gap.”

With this, the AFN is calling on the federal government confirm the following investments in the upcoming budget to close the First Nations education gap and help build a productive national economy:

  1. $4.7 billion for Education Infrastructure, covering the capital needs to immediately build, replace, repair, and expand First Nations schools and teacherages and eliminate overcrowding. 202 schools need immediate repair or replacement. Federal funding for school capital will be at historical low if the funding is not renewed in the 2024 federal budget.
  2. $9.23 billion for K-12 Education, covering a variety of means to close the educational attainment gap, and address critical funding shortfalls in language, education transportation, and facilities.
  3. $10.33 billion for Post-Secondary Education (PSE), that includes investments for students, institutions, community-based programming, and ongoing technical tables to advance First Nations PSE models.
  4. $767 million for Adult Education, which is focused on expanding adult education programming to meet the unique needs of First Nations adult learners.

“First Nations post-secondary and K-12 education must be recognized as an Inherent and Treaty Right that will make Canada more prosperous country, not as a social policy. First Nations priorities are Canada’s priorities. We urge the Government of Canada to address the immediate funding needs of First Nations, including addressing the shortfall of funding available to First Nations students and institutions in the upcoming federal budget.”


The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization that works to advance the collective aspirations of First Nations individuals and communities across Canada on matters of national or international nature and concern. 

Contact information:

Ayman Hammamieh
Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
343-573-1771 (mobile)
[email protected]

Nicole Robertson                                                   
Senior Communications Advisor
AFN National Chief’s Office
(403) 616-4999                                             
[email protected]