Here's a tough statement from a report that was just delivered to the UN: "a disproportionate number of First Nations people still lack the most basic services that other Canadians take for granted." The report is called "Honour the Children", and it focuses on the access to educational funding that First Nations children can expect: on average, a child on a First Nations reserve receives between $2,000 and $3,000 less per year in government funding than children at other Canadian schools do.
The report was created by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada (the Caring Society) in concert with KAIROS Canada, a religious aid organization. Although KAIROS may be less than impartial where the Harper government is concerned - they were involved in a contentious funding dispute earlier this year - the "Honour the Children" document focuses on Canadian and international recommendations that go back to well before Harper's government taking power.
The authors take a tough stance on the Canadian government's responsibility for the disparity in spending on First Nations kids, stating bluntly that "The Government of Canada's discriminatory treatment of Indigenous children represents a failure to meet its obligations under the UNCRC" (the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child).
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the Caring Society, presented the report's findings on Parliament Hill today. She pointed out that many First Nations schools are in need of serious repairs: "I'm not talking about getting a new chalkboard. I'm talking about getting rid of black mould and getting rid of snake and rat infestations." The report is based on research from a number of sources, including reports from the Canadian Auditor General and UN Human Rights Committee research on Canada.
One strong advocate for improving Aboriginal education is former Prime Minister Paul Martin. He spoke to students at Opaskwayak Cree Nation on Saturday about the crucial importance of education and training for Aboriginal youth. He was also on the show recently to explain his approach to this important problem - watch that interview here.