First Nations chiefs in New Brunswick say their communities need more control over education, and more opportunities for economic development if they are to break the cycle of poverty.
The provincial Assembly of First Nations Chiefs released their plan "Restoring Hope for First Nations" on Tuesday in face of the grim statistics facing aboriginal students.
A child born in a First Nations community is twice as likely to live in poverty and half as likely to graduate from high school.
"It's a damn shame when you think about it when somebody is living on $85.00 a week, and they get up Monday morning, and one of the options that they have is suicide. But that's the reality of poverty that some people find themselves in, and that's the very problem that we want to change," said Tobique First Nation Chief Stewart Paul.
Former MLA Kelly Lamrock, the research and policy director of the project, said one of the recommendations is to improve education by giving First Nations more power over their curriculum and by developing more First Nations teachers and guidance counsellors.
"We ultimately all learn better in a community that reflects who we are as a person and how we can fully be ourselves. Those who know best how to do that are First Nations governments, but what we've done too long is we’ve [hid] them off without the knowledge and resources that are necessary to have the high quality schools that any of us would want for our kids," he said.
Lamrock said the plan also includes a framework for economic development, which includes giving First Nations control over their natural resources.
"One sector of the population that is youngest and fastest growing are First Nations. If we do a good job of skills training there, everybody wins. There is going to be a chance to meet with school districts. Essentially going around the province, educating people on what the plan is, looking for people willing to help and hoping to turn some good ideas and political consensus into action that may change a few lives and benefit us all."