Students rally for more on-reserve education funding
First Nation education top of mind for University of Winnipeg protest group
A group of University of Winnipeg students are calling for an increase in education funding for First Nations students.
Students held a round dance on the campus Tuesday and handed out reading materials on the so-called First Nations Education Act.
The students want to put pressure on the provincial and federal governments to increase funding for on-reserve education, and they’re asking others to get involved.
"Students themselves can speak to that and maybe we will be able to improve things in that act, and we can have a voice in that act," said student Priscilla Maud.
Maud relocated from Skownan First Nation to Winnipeg to get a post-secondary education four years ago.
Maud is among a larger number of First Nations students who want to see more on-reserve education funding made available.
The group wants to see the government lift a cap that limits funding from increasing more than two per cent per year.
The cap hasn’t been lifted since 1996, but students say due to inflation and population growth, the amount of funding available to students is shrinking.
Maud said removing or increasing the cap would improve the lives of aboriginal students.
"We will be able to improve things at the social, economical and political level and the overall health and well being of people," said Maud.
Schools in a number of Manitoba First Nation communities are deteriorating.
The Oxford House Elementary School on the Oxford House First Nation is covered in mould.
The building was condemned in 2010, but the First Nation doesn’t qualify for a new school for another two years.
And it may not see a replacement built even then, as there are over a dozen communities in Manitoba on a waiting list for a new school.
Student Jordan Poitras was passing by the protest Tuesday and said the demonstrators had a compelling message.
"This is a responsibility that’s been passed back and forth between the provinces and the federal government, and the feds need to step up," said Poitras.
Carl Balan sits on the university’s aboriginal student council. He said the lack of funding sends a clear message.
"It's assimilation policy," said Balan.
"They are saying that everyone has a chance, and it's about this Canadian dream that's supposed to provide equality, and it's not there and hasn't been there."
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada did not respond to requests for an interview.