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Underfunding endangers education for First Nations children, youths: educators

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Native educators have accused the federal government of placing the high school year in jeopardy for dozens of students by underfunding their home placement costs.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), and the Keewatin Tribal Council (KTC) said they are today calling on the federal government and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) to ensure that all school-age children and youth from remote communities are afforded the same standards and access to a basic high school education as enjoyed by other Canadians.

The Private Home Placement Program under DIAND is supposed to cover the costs of room and board for students whose home reserves do not have a high school.

"The government of Canada continues to deny the right to education to our students in remote communities", stated Chief Walter Spence of the Fox Lake First Nation. "It is completely unacceptable that Canada continues to underfund the Private Home Placement Program.

"In previous years, KTC has been forced to underwrite the costs of the program, taking scarce resources from other underfunded programs. In the past three years alone KTC has incurred a deficit of $1.2 million dollars to ensure that at least some of our First Nations students realize their right to an education. With the funding cuts announced by Canada to all Aboriginal Representative Organizations (ARO’s) in September 2012 and to take effect April 2014, this will greatly impact our ability to ensure our students’ Treaty right to an education," concluded Spence.

KTC management has attempted to address the funding shortfall with the DIAND since June to no avail, the chief said.

The academic year for 2013-14, KTC had 160 total applicants seeking funding to attend high school in schools across Manitoba (at a full year cost of $3,864,159.14). Funding for at least 91 students has been identified by KTC; however 61 students remain unfunded (at a full year cost of $1,538,266.32) representing 45 per cent of all students not being sponsored for high school, while eight students have been enrolled with the South East Collegiate program that attains funding for its students directly from government.

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