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This article was published 15/5/2019 (282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new 10-year federal government commitment to fund Métis education and training marks a significant improvement from past funding arrangements that both the president of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) and the Federal minister of Labour said were ineffective.
Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour was in Winnipeg on Wednesday at the MMF headquarters to announce funding of $325 million over five years for starters, and $67 million per year ongoing for at least 10 years, dedicated to the Métis Nation Labour Market stream.
The money is part of the $2 billion the Liberal government earmarked in its last budget for Indigenous education and training.
The new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Program, takes over from a previous program called Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS), that had been in place since 1999.
Hajdu said the federal government disperses money to the provinces and territories every year for skills training that they can spend as they wish with very little accountability but did not fund Indigenous programming the same way.
"That money (to the porvinces and territories) kept going up, of course, because the cost of living goes up, rents go up, salaries go up, the cost of education and training goes up," she said. "Here's what was happening to ASETS... it was staying the same. Not one increase. And really what that means was it was worth less because every dollar had to go further.
"Right there I saw the systemic racism," she said.
Hajdu said increasing the budget for Indigenous education and training was the first thing that had to happen to address that "systemic racism" and then the Metis and First Nation and Inuit communities had to have more flexibility.
"The provinces and territories have complete control over how they spend the money but the ASET program did not," she said."They were on very short term contracts and they were rigidly guarded in terms of what they could spend money on and how they accounted for the money. And there was no certainty. You did not really know if the program would exist in the next two-to-three years."
The new funding will provide much more flexibility both in terms of what kind of programs the MMF's Louis Riel Institute and other institutions can offer and the kind of support Métis students are able to receive.
For instance, David Chartrand, president of the MMF said in the past there were limits on how much money could be spent on one specific client and for how long. The new program will allow for wrap-around funding if that makes sense, for instance paying for day care for a single mother looking to go back to school. It will allow for a continuum of support of skills development, from essential skills to skills upgrading.
"We will be able to go a step further and deeper to actually be able to invest in family to make them stronger," he said
Although the new program creates significant new opportunities for support and program development, Chartrand said that the Metis efforts in the past have surpassed government targets.
But he said, "For too long this program has been treated like a bureaucracy with paternal oversight on us because we are not skilled or educated enough to run our own affairs."
Chartrand said the 10 year commitment means there will be more certainty all around, allowing training courses to be lined up with a longer time line in mind as well as providing certainty even to the staff at Louis Riel Institute.
The objective of the Métis Nation Labour Market Strategy is to support Métis in developing employment skills and helping students enter the workforce with the ultimate objective of closing the employment and earning, and skills gaps between Métis and non-Indigenous people.
Hajdu, who has run homeless shelters in her previous career, said, the whole idea is trying to establish the means to prevent families from falling behind.
"The cost of keeping people under is way more than the cost of lifting them up," she said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at 5:54 PM CDT: Full write through.