Everyone knows, and everyone has known for a very long time, that education is the key to lifting aboriginal Canadians out of poverty and into good-paying jobs.
Everyone also knows, and they have known it for a very long time, that spending on aboriginal education has been inadequate, and still is. The country actually spends less on aboriginal education than it does on schooling for everyone else, which, as many people have said for a very long time, is a national disgrace.
And yet there was something important that emerged from a meeting of retired political leaders and Winnipeg's business elite who gathered here Thursday to discuss the province's future.
They agreed the provincial outlook is grim unless an overwhelming effort is made to redress aboriginal poverty and, in particular, the sub-standard education system on reserves.
It wasn't so much what was being said, since it has all been said before, but who was saying it.
It's one thing for aboriginals and political advocates to talk about a problem, but when people like Hartley Richardson, Mark Chipman, Sandy Riley and other business leaders say the province's future depends upon a particular solution, well, people listen.
More importantly, these individuals have the influence and know-how to tackle a problem and get results. They have the ability to get inside the chambers of power in Ottawa and Broadway and raise a ruckus.
That doesn't mean government alone is the solution. As Mr. Chipman explained, it's unfair to expect the public service, with hundreds of competing priorities, to solve the aboriginal education issue on its own.
The private sector needs to play a role, too. Money helps, of course, but a more aggressive apprenticeship program to help First Nations people find jobs in business, banking and the trades, which some firms are doing already, is also essential.
Mr. Riley said the business group is counting on the province's aboriginal leadership to come forward with proposals and a plan, since ultimately the success of any initiative must be acceptable to First Nations themselves.
Winnipeg will be a centre for human rights education when the Canadian Museum for Human Rights opens next year, but it will be a major embarrassment if statistics continue to show the province, and Canada, have two classes of citizens and two standards of education.