Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 3 - Evidence - Meeting of April 13, 2010
OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:30 a.m.
to examine the federal government's constitutional, treaty, political and legal
responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, and other matters
generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (topic: issues concerning
First Nations Education).
Senator Gerry St. Germain (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I would like to welcome all honourable senators, members of
the public and all viewers across the country who are watching these proceedings
of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC or possibly on
the web. I am Gerry St. Germain from British Columbia, and I have the honour of
chairing this committee.
The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters relating
to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. This gives the committee a broad
scope to look into issues of all types that touch on matters of concern to First
Nations, Metis and Inuit.
The purpose of today's meeting is to obtain a briefing from Indian and
Northern Affairs Canada, INAC, on the issue of education. The committee feels
that education is a critical factor that needs to be addressed if Aboriginal
peoples are to succeed and prosper. Specifically, we have asked INAC
representatives to offer an overview of programs, administration and funding for
the education from kindergarten to Grade 12 of First Nations children living on
Members of the committee, I now present to you our witnesses from Indian and
Northern Affairs Canada. A familiar face before us, it is always a pleasure to
welcome Christine Cram, Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social
Development Programs and Partnerships. Good morning, Ms. Cram and welcome.
Ms. Cram is joined by Ms. Sheilagh Murphy, Acting Director General,
Operations and Planning Support Branch. Good morning, Ms. Murphy.
As well, we have Ms. Claudette Russell, Director, Strategic Policy and
Ms. Cram, I believe you have a presentation that you wish to present to the
committee. In the usual spirit, let us keep it as tight as possible so that
questions can be posed by the Senate committee members.
Christine Cram, Assistant Deputy Minister, Education and Social
Development Programs and Partnerships, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada:
Thank you for the warm welcome, and it is a pleasure to be back at this
committee again. We very much appreciate the opportunity to appear before the
committee today and speak about Aboriginal education. I will cover Aboriginal
education generally, and then my colleague Ms. Murphy will talk about education
We know that in today's knowledge-based economy, the importance of education
is essential for improving the quality of life for aboriginal individuals, their
communities, and for Canada as a whole. It is estimated that two thirds of all
new jobs will require higher education or advanced training. Study after study
tells us that globalization and technological advances are changing the
composition of our workforce and changing the way we work.
The importance of education is even more significant for Aboriginal people
who, as a group, are much younger than the average Canadian and have much lower
education levels. Over the last decade, the population growth of Canada's
Aboriginal population has been more than five times greater than for the
non-Aboriginal population, and the median age of Aboriginal people in Canada is
13 years younger.
Although they are only 4 per cent of Canada's population, Aboriginal people
are expected to account for 13 per cent of labour-force growth for the period
between 2006 and 2026. By 2026, the Aboriginal population has the potential to
make up 28 per cent of the labour force in Saskatchewan and 22 per cent of the
labour force in Manitoba.
The Centre for the Study of Living Standards has done extensive research into
the untapped potential of Aboriginal people. It estimates that Canada's gross
domestic product, GDP, could increase by billions of dollars if Aboriginal
Canadians reached parity in education, employment and income with the general
We believe that Aboriginal students need an education that not only
encourages them to stay in school but also sees them graduate with the skills
they need to enter the labour market successfully.
I am pleased to provide a briefing today on the issues requested by the
committee including delivery, funding, outcomes, supports for learning
disabilities and special needs, and future direction/initiatives with respect to
I would also like to spend some time on the education-reform agenda and the
related commitments in the recent budget.
First, to set the context, research has indicated that between 40 per cent to
50 per cent of a school's impact on student performance measurement scores can
be attributed to factors beyond the school's control, such as income and
parental education levels.
Education alone cannot solve all the socio-economic problems of Aboriginal
Canadians. However, research has shown that education is by far the most
important determinant of labour market outcomes and also plays a pre- eminent
role in improving social outcomes.
In terms of delivery, INAC provides funding for education on-reserve, but it
is the First Nation or its regional organization that is responsible for
managing and delivering education programs and services in about 515 schools on-
For first nation students who attend provincial schools off-reserve, INAC
pays a tuition rate charged by the province. This is paid to the first nation or
directly to the provincial ministry of education, depending on the agreement in
Approximately 119,000 students live on-reserve. Of these, 48,000 — or about
40 per cent — attend provincial schools off-reserve. Therefore, significant
numbers of Aboriginal students, both status and non-status, attend schools
operated by the provinces.
In terms of funding, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada invests approximately
$1.3 billion annually in elementary and secondary education. This funding
includes $1 billion for instructional services, $128 million for special
education, $9 million for cultural education centres and approximately $130
million in targeted initiatives for First Nation learners, such as school
administration, teacher recruitment and retention, and parental engagement.
The government has an important role to play in ensuring that Canada has a
well-educated and highly skilled workforce.
That is why it invests more than $9.8 billion in post-secondary education.
That includes about $2.1 billion in grants, scholarships and loans to students;
$1.8 billion to help students and families save for education; and about $3.2
billion in transfers to provinces; as well as investments in research through
All students, including Aboriginal students, can benefit from these
resources, programs and services.
To respond to the unique circumstances facing First Nation and Inuit
students, funding is provided to First Nations or their regional organizations
to help students access post-secondary education.
In fiscal year 2008-09, approximately 22,000 students received about $292
million to help with the cost of tuition, fees, books, transportation and living
Aboriginal learners continue to lag behind other Canadians in terms of
academic achievement. According to the 2006 census, approximately 34 per cent of
the aboriginal population aged 25 to 64 years has not completed high school,
compared with 15 per cent for other Canadians.
For post-secondary education, there also continues to be an achievement gap,
but progress is being made. For example, approximately 7 per cent of First
Nation learners had a university degree in 2006, which is up from 5 per cent in
2001. Similarly, 4 per cent of Inuit students had a university degree in 2006,
up from 2 per cent in 2001. However, this compares with 23 per cent of the
non-Aboriginal population with a university degree in 2006.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's post-secondary education program is
helping to make a difference. Increasing numbers of eligible students are
accessing college and university opportunities, from 3,500 in 1977 to almost
22,000 in 2009.
The committee also asked about what supports are in place for children with
learning disabilities and special needs. The Special Education Program at Indian
and Northern Affairs Canada provides investments of approximately $128 million
for programs and services for First Nation children with identified special
needs so that they can reach their fullest potential.
The program gives them access to quality special education programs and
services that are culturally sensitive and comparable to generally accepted
provincial standards in that locality.
In keeping with the trend among provincial education systems, federal funding
supports both direct services (classroom or school-based) and indirect services
(program administration) using an intervention-based approach.
Under this approach, appropriately trained teachers and specialists are able
to use and interpret assessment instruments to develop individual education
plans and the necessary intervention programs to address the students' immediate
needs while awaiting formal assessments.
This approach gives First Nations the flexibility to employ intervention
strategies more quickly.
In terms of new directions in Aboriginal education, the Government of Canada
is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal students have comparable educational
outcomes and that they share fully in Canada's economic prosperity. Many of the
challenges facing Aboriginal education will require sustained action by all
governments, Aboriginal leaders, educators, parents and students. This is why we
are working with our partners on a comprehensive reform agenda.
The foundation for change was put in place in 2008 when the government
launched the Reforming First Nation Education Initiative with new funding of
$268 million over five years and new ongoing funding of $75 million annually
thereafter. This initiative includes two new programs: the First Nation Student
Success Program and the Education Partnerships Program.
Through the First Nation Student Success Program, FNSSP, on-reserve schools
are able to develop success plans, conduct student assessments and put in place
performance measurement to assess and report on school and student progress.
The program is helping first nation educators to plan and make improvements
in the three priority areas of literacy, numeracy and student retention. The
program is designed to help first nation schools on-reserve improve student
success. Nationally, the program covers about 84 per cent of band-operated
schools and 90 per cent of the students.
Also, under the initiative, the Education Partnerships Program is designed to
support improved First Nation student achievement — both in First Nation and
provincial schools — through a collaborative approach involving First Nations,
provinces and INAC.
This partnership approach is essential given that about 40 per cent of First
Nation learners attend provincial schools. Tripartite agreements in British
Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Alberta are already promoting
collaborative work between First Nations, provinces and INAC on initiatives to
improve First Nation student outcomes.
These two new programs represent a significant step in improving outcomes. To
date, 65 proposals have been approved across Canada: 37 in round one and 28 in
Last year, First Nation schools received almost $30 million in additional
investment. This year, more new projects will roll out across the country,
injecting additional investments to help First Nation students succeed.
Based on the partnership approach, the Government of Canada also signed, in
April 2009, the Inuit Education Accord. It is an 11-party agreement between the
Inuit of Canada, as represented by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and their
partner organizations and governments, to establish a national committee on
The committee will develop a strategy for moving forward on educational
outcomes for Inuit students.
The government's commitment to this reform agenda was demonstrated again in
Budget 2010. It committed an additional $30 million to support better elementary
and secondary outcomes for First Nation students.
The funding will support an implementation-ready education agreement for
kindergarten to Grade 12. This will help ensure that First Nation students
benefit from comparable education and achieve comparable results whether the
classroom is located on- or off-reserve.
The budget also committed to exploring "options, including new legislation,
to improve the governance framework and clarify accountability for First
Nations" kindergarten-to-Grade-12 education.
With respect to post-secondary education, the budget committed to exploring a
new approach to providing support to First Nations and Inuit students for
post-secondary education that "will be effective and accountable, and will be
coordinated with other federal student support programs."
Budget commitments also include a one-year increase in funding for the Skills
Link component of the Youth Employment Strategy, YES, to assist more young
Canadians while the labour market recovers; and investments for Pathways to
Education Canada to partner with the private sector, other governments and
non-governmental organizations to reach more young Canadians who are facing
barriers to post-secondary education.
While federal investments in Aboriginal education are significant, we
recognize that more remains to be done to make sustained progress in improving
Recently, National Chief Shawn Atleo also expressed the importance of
partnerships and shared responsibility for education in the following terms:
While clearly our primary relationship as first nations is with the
federal government, the premiers and territorial leaders can and must play
an important role in working with us, respecting our jurisdiction and
investing in critical needs to generate hope and opportunity in the future.
Therefore, to conclude, the government wants First Nation Canadians to fully
share in Canada's economic prosperity. We believe that while quality education
is not the only way to achieve this goal, it is the single most important lever
in improving life's chances.
We are working closely with the Assembly of First Nations, other Aboriginal
partners and provincial governments to help address knowledge gaps and
challenges that Aboriginal organizations face in delivering quality education.
Progress is being made, but we recognize that much work needs to be done to
help accelerate improvements for academic success in elementary, secondary and
post-secondary education. We believe that strong partnerships with First Nations
and provinces and territories will be key.
Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity to discuss these important issues
with the committee. I will now turn the floor over to my colleague Sheilagh
Murphy to address the committee's request for information about school
Sheilagh Murphy, Acting Director General, Operations and Planning Support
Branch, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada: Indian and Northern Affairs
Canada recognizes the importance of safe and productive learning environments
for First Nation students.
The department supports a range of school infrastructure projects, ranging
from construction of new schools and facilities, renovation and repair of
existing facilities to design and planning of new projects, and operation and
First Nations are the owners and operators of infrastructure on-reserve. As
such, they are responsible for the construction, renovation, operation and
maintenance of their schools.
First Nations fund their schools through primarily federal transfers, but
they also may borrow funds to have construction occur earlier and contribute
their own source revenue to additional space.
Federal funding is allocated to projects based on the national priority
ranking framework, which includes the following four priorities: protection of
health and safety and assets; health and safety improvements; recapitalization
or major maintenance; and growth. Planned expenditures for 2009-10 are $225
Since 2006, the government has invested approximately $714 million on school
infrastructure projects. This includes the completion of 93 school projects and
113 current projects consisting of 19 schools, more than 12 major renovations
and additions to schools, and 82 minor repairs, teacherage construction or
Thank you, Mr. Chair. We look forward to responding to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you. Will the committee allow me to ask a question?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: It is your committee; it is not mine. That is why I am
Ms. Cram, in your presentation on page 4, you state that the government
invests $9.8 billion in post-secondary education, of which $2.1 billion is for
grants, loans and scholarships. You go on to say that Aboriginal learners can
access these programs.
Can you tell the committee what percentage of Aboriginal students access
these programs, and do you track this data? One other thing has come up in my
travels over the years, having been on this committee for several years. One of
the chiefs advised me that he administers the funding to post-secondary
education; and he said that it is really not fair because he tends to favour his
friends' children because they support him in the political world that we live
in. I am certainly will not identify him, but he was honest enough to come
forward with that. Have we thought of any other way to make these funds
accessible on a broader range with less partisanship or however you want to term
the situation that exists out there?
Ms. Cram: I will ask Ms. Russell to answer the first question, which
is whether we know how many Aboriginal students are accessing the Canada Student
Loans Program and those other products.
Claudette Russell, Director, Strategic Policy and Planning Directorate,
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada: Mr. Chair, the short answer to your
question is that we do not know. I will explain: The programs are administered
by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, HRSDC. A relationship exists
with provincial governments for how those programs are administered, but the
reporting requirement for those particular programs does not ask specifically
for individual students to identify themselves as Aboriginal students or
otherwise. Therefore, when HRSDC and provincial governments do roll-ups of who
is accessing the programs and who is not, they have no way of knowing whether or
not a particular student is Aboriginal.
The two exceptions are Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where some of these
programs are administered through the provincial governments, and they do have
Aboriginal-specific grants. Those Aboriginal-specific grants are very much
interlinked with the types of programs that are offered at the federal level.
Therefore, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, with Aboriginal-specific grants, have the
ability to ask questions around reporting as to whether a student is Aboriginal
— Metis, First Nations or Inuit. They are able to report on the number of
students that are accessing their grants and also federal programs such as the
Canada Student Loans Program.
Ms. Cram: On your second question of whether the department has
thought of options other than having the program administered through chiefs and
council, the answer would be, yes, we have. We certainly have not come to any
conclusion as to what the best way would be. I would also note that dialogue is
taking place on options occurring more broadly. A recent Macdonald-Laurier
Institute report talked about creating savings funds for every Aboriginal
student as they were born; then those funds would be available should those
children wish to go on to university.
Also another report prepared probably almost a year ago by Alex Usher looked
at five different alternatives for delivery. We are interested in considering
different delivery options, but we have not come to any conclusions at this
Senator Brazeau: Welcome to all of you this morning.
I have quite a number of questions, so I will try to be brief, and I would
also appreciate if you would keep your answers brief as well.
Ms. Cram, you mentioned that INAC provides funding for education on-reserve
and also that the First Nation, or its regional organizations, is responsible
for managing and delivering the education programs on-reserve. You go on to say
that for First Nation students who attend provincial schools off-reserve, INAC
provides a tuition rate either to the First Nation directly or to the provincial
governments. Having said that, is the department in a position to comment on
whether the funding that is provided for education, whether directly to band
chiefs and councils or to the provincial government, is in fact being spent on
Ms. Cram: When I say that, we believe that the money for kindergarten
to Grade 12 is certainly being spent on kindergarten to Grade 12. We believe
that because we know that it is challenging for First Nations to have sufficient
money to run their First Nations schools and to pay the tuition. In some cases,
they are facing very high tuition increases. I just note that recently in
British Columbia a reciprocal tuition agreement was negotiated in which an
amount is set that the province will pay for any non-First Nation children that
are attending First Nation schools, and First Nations will pay for their
students attending provincial schools, which is a very good development.
We are fairly confident. We believe that First Nations are spending on
kindergarten to Grade 12.
The area where we do not have the same level of confidence, I would say, is
on post-secondary education. That is because post-secondary education is
allocated out to First Nations on a historical formula. It does not relate to
the number of First Nation grade-12 graduates that they would have who would be
able to access it. If no students were eligible, there is the flexibility that
that First Nation could use that funding for other purposes. In some cases, they
may use it for kindergarten to Grade 12. In other cases, they could use it for
other purposes, which is completely legitimate, I would say.
Senator Brazeau: In front of me, I have INAC's own internal audit on
elementary and secondary education, the education program. It says that the
objective and scope of that internal audit was to provide assurance on the
adequacy and effectiveness of the management control framework of the
kindergarten to Grade 12 program. The conclusions of INAC's own internal audit
are as follows. First, the internal audit is unable to provide assurance that
the program's management control framework is adequate and effective in ensuring
the achievement of programming objectives due to limitations in existing
performance measures. The second conclusion is that recipient reporting, along
with the limited compliance work performed by regional staff, does not provide
adequate assurance that targeted component funds have been spent for intended
While I appreciate the answer that you gave before, INAC's own conclusions
suggest the opposite of what you just said. It is a little mind-boggling to me
when talking about education, something so important for First Nation and
Aboriginal students — and there is substantial funding being spent on education
— that there does not seem to be any criteria attached to funding agreements by
the department once they issue the funding to the intended recipient. I would
like to know from the department's view why that is.
Ms. Cram: I will speak about the observation on performance
measurement. We agreed with that report, and we developed an action plan to
respond to that audit. In fact, we are working on the development of a more
robust performance-measurement system so that we have data.
A number of different types of reporting take place. One is called the
nominal roll. I think the provinces do the same thing. That is, they look at how
many students are actually attending a particular school, and the amount of
funding for that school reflects that. A nominal roll is done, and First Nations
are required to report on that nominal role. We have that information. We know
how many students are attending which schools. This includes both those
attending the on-reserve school and those going to provincial schools.
As a result of the concern about how resources are allocated, we were at this
committee on another occasion to talk about INAC funds for First Nations. On
that occasion, we talked about the number of programs that are funded as a core.
That core goes out to First Nations, and then, if they meet basic program
requirements, they are able to use it in the way they feel best meets their
various priorities. Kindergarten-to-grade-12 education and post-secondary
education goes out as part of this core.
We created targeted programs; the two new initiatives that I spoke about are
targeted programs. They are proposal- based initiatives for particular projects
that have reporting requirements related to the funding that they receive. The
tendency has been to have a number of programs such as the Special Education
Program, another targeted program, so the money is for that specific purpose.
The reporting ensures that the money is going for that purpose.
Senator Brazeau: In your esteemed position, do you believe that the
department is the appropriate body to administer education funding on behalf of
First Nations? Do you think that the department currently has the capacity and
the expertise to be able to continue to do so?
Ms. Cram: Are you asking about both kindergarten-to- Grade-12 and
Senator Brazeau: I am asking about education in general.
Ms. Cram: The challenge for the department is that we are basically a
funder. We provide funding to First Nations and other organizations that deliver
the programs and provide the services.
In most provinces, you have a ministry of education, school boards and
schools. Those ministries of education can be quite large, and they have
expertise. The department has probably 60 people who work on education. Thus,
they could not possibly have the level of expertise provided by the provinces.
As you know, senator, we have a single school-house model; we do not have a
system of education. British Columbia has the First Nations Education Steering
Committee that has been in place for 15 years. It has developed second-level
service capacity. That is what is needed, along with closer partnerships with
Senator Brazeau: Do you think that INAC is the appropriate body to
administer the funds going towards education on-reserve?
Ms. Cram: When you say "administer the funds," we provide the
funding. We receive the funding through parliamentary votes and put it out to
organizations. I think the question is how would you get the money there
otherwise. Self-governing First Nations get it as a grant, so you would have to
find some other entity to be the recipient of that funding and then decide on
what the best delivery mechanism would be.
Senator Brazeau: As was being proposed, for example, by the
Ms. Cram: Yes, in which case, it was post-secondary education. We do
not claim to have huge expertise in post- secondary or kindergarten-to-Grade-12
education. That is why the partnership approach or working with other entities
Senator Hubley: Welcome; it is great to see you back.
I will try to look at the gaps, which are startling. I will refer to a graph
that represents on-reserve First Nations students enrolled and graduating from
Grade 12. The graph shows the years from 1996 to 2003, but I will highlight two
of those. In the year 1997-98, approximately 6,000 students were enrolled, and
approximately 2,000 graduated. Consequently, only 33 per cent of First Nations
students graduated out of the total of those enrolled, compared to the 75 per
-cent graduation rates for non-Aboriginal Canadians — that is 33 per cent
compared to 75 per cent. That is a huge and unacceptable gap in the educational
We can move ahead and look for improvements, but, in 2002-03, approximately
6,700 First Nations students were enrolled, and approximately, again, 2,000
graduated. About 29 per cent of Native students graduated from those enrolled,
compared to, again, 75 per cent of non-Aboriginal Canadians.
We are trying to decide what is happening to create that percentage. I did
note in your presentation that on the 2006 census, 34 per cent of the Aboriginal
population aged 25 years to 64 years had not completed high school, compared to
the 15 per cent of other Canadians. I find that the ages that you have used are
high. The age group from 25 years to 64 years is past. I would like to see that
come back to what percentage from 16 years of age are still enrolled and whether
they are still pursuing a post-secondary education. If they are falling out of
the system, why are they falling out then? The 25-to-64 age group is a little
misleading for me. Could you comment on that first?
Ms. Russell: The information that was used in Ms. Cram's speaking
points was taken directly from the 2006 census. That census reports quite
effectively on post-secondary education achievement levels.
The references you made to the tables you are looking at are in the K-to-12
system. You are right that those two things are not necessarily comparable. We
do not disagree with the figures that you have put forward for the graduation
rates in the K-to-12 system. As you mentioned, the gap is quite significant and
unacceptable in many cases; people would say that, and we agree with that.
It is important to remember that many factors contribute to a child's success
in school. One of them is the school system; there is no question about that.
Quality schools and quality teachers contribute to whether a child will make
their way from early learning right through to high school graduation. If you
look just at the school system and what is happening in the First Nations
context, there is a whole range of challenges there. One of them in particular
is turnover of teachers. The other is the availability of curriculum that
reflects some of the cultural aspirations of Aboriginal students. This is
something we hear quite often. The other aspect that contributes to it is just
the nature of the school. All of those factors are important, and many
challenges are associated with delivering education on-reserve.
People who study this issue extensively will say that the school is not the
only tool one must look at to be able to achieve higher completion rates in high
school. In the First Nations context, in fact the Aboriginal context — because
some of those figures apply to Aboriginal students in provincial schools — we
see children dropping out as early as Grade 6. When you ask yourself about the
reasons for that, you have to look beyond the school system and at the community
as a whole and the socio-economic challenges First Nations and Aboriginal
communities face; such as early childhood development. Many people have
researched this quite extensively and speak about the importance of starting
early to ensure that the parents, particularly the mother, have all the tools
they need to ensure the child is healthy. The other factor that is spoken about
effectively is low income. Children in low-income families or in families that
have different mother-father structures have more difficulties in seeing school
and education as important to them.
When we try to do work with First Nations, and particularly with the
provincial systems where a number of Aboriginal students are in those schools,
we try to look at it as best as possible as a holistic model, not only in what
is happening in the school but also in what is happening in the community and at
some of the things that we can be doing more broadly to contribute to better
Senator Hubley: Thank you for your answer. Certainly educators and the
school system in itself, both on- and off- reserve, have to address and mitigate
many of the social issues facing all of our children. In many cases, counselling
is available and is provided. You touched briefly on early childhood education,
and I am wondering if Aboriginal Head Start programs would have a role in
reducing this education gap. What are your thoughts on that?
Ms. Russell: They have a huge role. The Aboriginal Head Start is run
by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and that program is seen particularly by
First Nations communities as a contributor to good health. People who work in
the field of health will say that one of the determinants to good health is
education, and the interrelationships between the two are significant. I
absolutely agree that Aboriginal Head Start and any early childhood development
programs that help to ensure that you have quality educators working with
parents, the communities and individual students help prepare them for school so
that when they start in kindergarten or Grade 1, whatever the choice of the
parent is, they are prepared and ready to learn. Those programs are absolutely
The question is whether they are being used effectively, or there are enough
of those types of programs available to Aboriginal parents and First Nations
on-reserve to be able to help them. You can probably have a debate about that
and how they can be more effective and what some of the tools are that
governments can put in place to help those communities have access to those
programs. That is certainly a viable question. Those are all things that are
part of that holistic model around education that are vital for us as public
policy-makers and parents within their own communities to have access to to help
them get their children prepared to learn and succeed throughout the years.
Senator Dyck: Thank you for your presentations this morning. We are
all aware of the horrific statistics of the educational levels of First Nations,
Metis and Inuit peoples across Canada. I was glad that you had pointed out the
situation in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where it is extremely critical because
the population of Aboriginal peoples in those provinces is growing rapidly. We
all know that education plays a key role in allowing people to break out of the
cycle of poverty.
I was looking at some of the data for high school completion rates that INAC
posted on its website. I was flipping pages and have lost the table, but more
recent data indicated that the high school completion rate gap was closing. The
data that you showed us ends in the school year 2003. Can you check to see if
you have more recent data that indicates that the gap is closing and more
Aboriginal students are graduating? Could you provide more recent data than what
is listed on this sheet of paper that we were given this morning?
When we talk about students not completing high school, you are indicating
here those who have not completed Grade 12. What are the dropout rates between
kindergarten to Grade 12? In your response to Senator Hubley, Ms. Russell, you
mentioned kids dropping out in Grade 6. Where are the biggest changes? Do we
know that it is mostly in the higher years or lower years? We cannot just throw
money at it. We have to know the scope of the problem. Where would you say the
problem resides with respect to completing high school?
Ms. Russell: There is no easy answer to that because the dropout
rates, as you call them, vary across the country and from region to region.
Provincial systems will tell you that. In fact, if you look at some of the data
for dropout rates available from provincial governments, you will see that all
sorts of challenges exist in measuring it. I will speak anecdotally on it based
on the type of work and research we have seen.
It is true that, for Aboriginal students generally, the dropout rates occur
sooner along the learning continuum than they do for non-Aboriginal populations.
I mentioned Grade 6 because that is often a pivotal year in that it is the time
when a student is getting ready to start thinking of education in a serious way,
and it becomes a little more challenging. However, generally speaking, the
dropout rates happen at a significant level between junior high and high school,
and then all the years along that high school range, so Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade
11. That is where you see the highest level of dropouts. The reasons for that
vary, and they differ from region to region and from First Nation community to
First Nation community. A number of First Nations are in very remote areas, and
it is often the case that the more remote a community is from a central
metropolitan area, the higher the dropout rates are, and they happen sooner
along the learning continuum.
I cannot give you the figures, as I do not have them at my fingertips, but it
is somewhat comparable to what you would see in a provincial system, but just
much more acute for the First Nations communities, particularly those that have
low socio-economic environments in which the school is situated and for those
that are in quite remote areas because of some of the challenges associated with
making school relevant, quite honestly, and making school seem like a viable
option to you as a student.
Senator Dyck: Is the department able to track data across the
different band-operated schools in Canada? Do you have access to current
educational success rates across our nation?
Ms. Russell: Through the nominal roll that Ms. Cram mentioned, we do
have a reporting system that requires every single First Nation community or
school or regional organization, depending on where the funding arrangement
recipient is, to report back on the number of students that are in school on a
particular day and then how they are progressing. We do have general statistics
on numbers of students and some of the reasons they may be dropping out.
There are limitations associated with that, and one of the limitations is
that we do not have a very good ability to track students. Sometimes a student
drops out of the First Nation school but in fact is at a provincial school. We
are not very confident with some of the dropout rates that we see because we
think it is not truly reflective of what is happening. That is why some of the
programs we have in place, such as the Education Partnership Program, which is
to work with provincial systems to ensure a smoother progress and transition of
students on- and off-reserve, are quite important because they will help to
ensure that we are not loosing students between systems, essentially.
I hope that answers your question.
Senator Dyck: While we always talk about the horror stories, are there
any examples of models of success in high school graduation? Where are the
schools on-reserve that are doing a good job? Do we have access to that?
Ms. Russell: That is an important point that you made. You are right
about the horror stories, but there are many good stories too. They happen in
isolation. I can speak of a few because those are the schools that I have
visited and spoken to the educators, and they do an amazing job.
There is a school called Wiky in Northern Ontario is doing an amazing job
keeping kids in school and working with the parents and the broader community.
They have an effective relationship with the provincial system and the school
I am most familiar with the schools in Ontario. Another one in Curve Lake
outside of Peterborough, a small elementary school on-reserve, is doing an
amazing amount of work with provincial systems to help kids transition from the
on-reserve school to the provincial school system. They have higher graduation
rates than those happening in the provincial system right now.
There are many examples across the country of schools doing reasonably well
and many different reasons why that happens. However, typically, it is about
leadership within the schools, effective partnerships with provincial systems
and a community-based approach to education so that it is seen as a priority
from the parents all the way to the educators and the individuals helping
You raised a good point that we talk about the horror stories, but we have
good examples of things happening effectively across the country.
Senator Patterson: I appreciated Ms. Cram's candour about the
startling admission that you have about 60 people administering about $1.8
billion and the superior resources of provinces by comparison.
I was also struck by the number of reviews that are under way relating to
these problems, including the department's own internal audits and the Auditor
General's reports such as those of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and Alex
Usher, which were mentioned. It seems to me that one of the promising
developments is partnerships with provinces. Ms. Russell just referred to that
as a factor in some of the success stories.
I note that the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, CMEC, has also
recently examined the gap problem and has issued a report. It seems to me that
maybe this is the way we should be looking at improving the gap issue. It sounds
as though you have a blizzard of reports to deal with, but what do you think of
this report? What is it recommending? If it seems to be the way of success, will
you respond to this report and the measures it is recommending?
Ms. Cram: The report of CMEC is very good report. What is fascinating
is that it was as a result of a summit that took place on education in
Saskatchewan over a year ago. It was attended by all governments, provincial and
federal, as well as all of the national Aboriginal organizations. Many regional
Aboriginal organizations were there as well. That report represented the
consensus that emerged as to the areas on which to focus.
I do not remember every single recommendation, but I will point out the one
about the need to have data to measure progress and performance. The only way to
achieve that would be to get student identifiers. I believe Saskatchewan is
working toward having a single student identifier, so if that child moves from
an on-reserve school to a provincial school, you can track that child throughout
his or her career.
Ideally, all children in the country would have an identifier so that we
could track their progress and get good data. I do not know if we could get
there, but at least within a province it would be wonderful to be able to do
All of those who attended that summit came to a consensus that there needed
to be much better data and much better tracking of students to be able to assess
what was happening to their educational careers.
I may be off topic, but one of the things about Aboriginal students, which is
very different from non-Aboriginal students, is that they do not follow an
expected trajectory in terms of their education career. The expectation is that
students will start kindergarten, go on to Grade 12, and, after that, they will
decide what they will do in post-secondary education.
Aboriginal students do not follow that. They often will eventually complete a
post-secondary education degree, but they are probably already married and have
children or may even at that point be a single parent. They are probably aged in
their 30s, and they may have dropped out a few times. They may have dropped out
a few times in kindergarten to Grade 12 and may have had a couple of tries at
post-secondary education before they succeeded.
We see that eventually they do succeed. We look at up to age 64 because we
have to take a cohort that is so long. I would say that given that is what the
population is doing, we have to think about what other supports are needed to
ensure that those individuals, regardless of whether they are aged 30 or 35,
have children or are a single parent with children, are able to complete their
I went off track and cannot remember all of the CMEC recommendations. My
recollection is that one recommendation was on early education and another on
the importance of culture and language and relevant curriculum. In terms of that
recommendation, culture and language are important to success. The question is
how to have that in the classroom at the same time as ensuring that literacy,
numeracy and other things are not jeopardized.
I will mention a couple of promising developments. Saskatchewan is ensuring
that textbooks in the provincial system have an Aboriginal component, and they
are doing that for social science and math. They are finding that all students
are doing better as a result if they can have that. Ontario is another province
that is looking at having Aboriginal content in their curriculum. We think that
is a very good development.
Senator Poirier: On page 3 of your presentation, you mentioned that
about 40 per cent of Aboriginal students attended the off-reserve or provincial
schools. Can you tell me what level is successfully completed compared to
schools on the First Nations, if there is a difference in the results?
I am not speaking for all provinces but for the one I am from. All
off-reserve schools have a curriculum that they have to follow for basically the
same method of teaching. Do the schools in First Nations have a similar
mechanism in place, where they all follow the same method or the same curriculum
of teaching also?
Ms. Russell: In response to your question concerning the outcomes of
First Nation students attending provincial schools, if you look at the census
data — and this is information collected every five years — the 40 per cent
completion rate for First Nations on-reserve is compared to a 56 per cent
completion rate for Aboriginal students in provincial school systems, and the
Canadian average is about 75 per cent or 76 per cent. Aboriginal students
generally do better in provincial schools, but a fairly significant gap in
outcomes still exists.
Senator Poirier: Do the First Nations have a structure in place where
all schools follow the same curriculum?
Ms. Russell: The funding arrangements in place for First Nations to
administer and deliver education require that they use comparable provincial
curriculums. They do have the ability to add things to it, such as a language
and culture focus, but they are, generally speaking, required to follow a
provincial standard of education.
Senator Poirier: My second question is on the level of post-secondary
education. Earlier the chair talked about whether a fair system could be put in
place, not simply based on political reasons and so on, to ensure that people
who want the programs have equal access to the programs.
At the provincial level, under departments such as post-secondary education,
training and development, programs are in place where adults wanting to return
to school do not go to the political people to access the programs, but rather
to employment counsellors. By working with the employment counsellors, adults
wanting to return to school, whether to finish their Grade-12 education or move
on to post-secondary education, have access to funds. It is a fair system
because it is open equally to everyone who needs access to that system.
Do you know if INAC provides funding to that branch of government in the
provinces to allow First Nations people access to those programs, or could such
a structure be placed within the First Nation communities so that they could
speak with employment counsellors instead of perhaps elected officials to gain
access to the programs?
Ms. Russell: I can speak to a couple of aspects of your question.
First, the current funding arrangements are that money goes directly to the
bands or regional organizations. Typically, some bands will hire or have in
place post- secondary education coordinators, or PSE coordinators. These are
community-based people who help students through the process of figuring out
what they want to do in terms of their career and how to access funding. The
approach used across the country varies. Therefore, some regions have intricate
PSE coordinators and some do not; that is the challenge of delivering PSE
financial assistance to First Nation communities.
All sorts of models are being proposed, and Ms. Cram spoke to some of them,
around changing the delivery model to make it more fair or to have an ability to
develop economies of scale so that not each individual band is administering the
funds. Those discussions continue.
However, many programs are available in provincial systems that we suspect
First Nations on-reserve and Aboriginal people in general are availing
themselves of, which allow students to look at the broad range of programming
that is available to them and how to access them. We think they are accessing
and using those programs. However, typically, First Nations students on-reserve
in remote areas do not know about those programs. They do not have the ability
to have the full plate of information in front of them. Therefore, much work
needs to happen to help them bridge what is available to them on-reserve, what
type of services are there and what other services might be available in
For example, we know when First Nations students move off-reserve and go into
a provincial system for education, they make themselves available to all sorts
of apprenticeship programs. A high percentage of Aboriginal students access
those programs and are quite successful at them. We believe those programs need
to be promoted more effectively to help First Nation students make informed
decisions about what works for them and what does not.
Senator Poirier: Maybe we need to also continue improving the partner
relationship between First Nations and the provincial governments in all the
provinces to ensure that information is out there, to ensure all people in
Canada have access to it and know that it is there. That is something from which
we need to learn to ensure we continue reaching out.
Senator Raine: I will go a little off topic. I am very concerned about
the inactivity crisis that we are facing in Canada, which involves all
Canadians, where physical education is declining in schools. What are our
standards for First Nations schools with respect to physical education from
kindergarten to Grade 12?
Ms. Cram: First Nations would be required to follow whatever the
provincial education standards are in the curriculum. I have always heard from
First Nations that they think sport and physical activity are one of the key
factors to actually encouraging students to stay in school because they find
they want an active learning situation, and they will come to school. Actually,
if you ask students why they come to school, it is often because of the
extracurricular activities. It may be the sport; it may be the music or other
things. There is great interest in having more physical activity.
If we consider infrastructure, when First Nations are building schools, they
want a gym. Part of the reason is because of their location they cannot always
do outdoor activity. They very much want a gym so that they can do and encourage
physical activity. This is anecdotal, but I have been to schools where sport is
used as an encouragement for attendance, and the students who are chosen to
represent a school at a sporting event are those who have the best attendance.
That is a way it is done, and I believe everyone agrees.
There is an organization called Right to Play, and I know a number of First
Nations that are interested in partnering with that organization to have more
involvement in sport.
Senator Raine: Obesity is an important health issue amongst First
Nations, and self-reported data shows that the rates are higher among
off-reserve Aboriginal adults compared to non-Aboriginal people; namely, 24.8
per cent versus 16.6 per cent. It is a huge problem all across Canada. The
reason I was asking about physical education is because I would think it would
be very good for First Nations schools. This is a place where the federal
government has an obligation and an opportunity to directly mandate certain
things. Generally across Canada, physical education programs are declining as
pressures from academic programs are taking away the resources from physical
I would suggest combining the cultural elements of education with physical
education. I believe every Canadian was very impressed with the dancing that
took place in the opening ceremonies at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
Certainly that is an opportunity to capitalize on and use the opportunity to
have physical education in the schools mandated daily and of high quality to
tackle the obesity issues. I would like you to comment on that. Do you think it
is possible to do a special funding program to put good physical education
programs in Aboriginal schools?
Ms. Russell: Currently, the way our funding arrangements work is that
First Nations are provided a block of money for education. They are required to
follow provincial curricula, to a certain extent, and then to do whatever they
need to do to provide culturally relevant programming. As Ms. Cram said, many of
them do put in place programs that they call land-based education. We think it
is happening quite extensively.
First Nations appreciate the fact that they have the ability to maintain
control over their education, to develop the types of curricula and programs
that they see as beneficial to their communities. A number of First Nations have
spoken about the importance of activity, sport and recreation. Yes, certainly
some provincial systems fund certain streams of education curricula, such as
sport, and some First Nations would welcome the opportunity to have additional
funding applied specifically for something such as that. The debate is always,
though, what the best way is to provide funding to allow First Nations to
maintain control over their education system so that they can develop the
programs that they see are beneficial to them.
Generally, anything that is too prescribed in that way would look as though
the federal government is controlling the education system as opposed to
providing the funding to allow their First Nations communities to maintain and
control their education system. While I agree that it is an important component
over education, I think it is also important to respect the fact that First
Nations do want to maintain control over their education systems, which means
putting in place the programs that they think are important.
Senator Raine: I think you missed my point. You do have some special
programs. Why would we not target one of these special programs with special
resources so that they can increase the components of physical and health
education? I am absolutely appalled that we have been capping education in the
core funding at 2 per cent. I think that is very dangerous. I would hope that we
would have some special funding for these programs. They can address all types
of things. The fitness programs can address the challenges that the Aboriginal
people are facing, but I do not think there is funding in it in the 2 per cent
Ms. Russell: No direct stream of funding for physical education exists
in the 2 per cent core funding. That is absolutely true. I am not an educator,
but having spoken to educators, they will say that many things contribute to
positive outcomes. Physical activity is one of them; special education is
another; parental education is another. It is always a question of where the
best place is to put additional funding to be able to achieve the desired
You can make an argument that physical activity, particularly in the First
Nations context, is the right place to put additional funding if you were to
develop a targeted program. Others would say differently. They would concentrate
on early childhood development, to Aboriginal Head Start programs. Some people
would say, no, it is about mature students and getting those students who have
dropped out back into the system. A debate is taking place as to where the best
bang for the buck is, if I can say it that way, and physical activity is one of
those, but others would argue elsewhere.
Senator Dyck: This issue that Senator Raine has raised is important.
In fact, one program — I think it was at Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon —
showed that high school students put on treadmills improved their grade-level
marks significantly and the completion of the grade at a much greater rate than
before the treadmills were introduced.
The question then is whether that type of initiative is eligible under the
First Nation Student Success Program. If a school decided they wanted to go that
route, could they put it forth through your new program?
Ms. Russell: A number of programs are in place right now that allow
First Nations communities to access funding for things such as that. One of
those targeted programs is called New Paths for Education. It is about $40
million and is available to First Nations communities to apply through a
proposal-based project to do things such as you suggested, as long as they can
demonstrate that it is improving educational outcomes.
Various types of things are being accessed under that program. With the First
Nation Student Success Program, it certainly is possible for a First Nation
community to put together a proposal that demonstrates how something such as
physical activity would help to address the three priorities under the program:
literacy, numeracy level and student retention. For example, it is legitimate to
say that a community could put together a proposal that says that increasing
activity within their community would help to retain students in Grade 8, Grade
9 or whatever the case may be. That would be a legitimate proposal that would be
assessed under the terms and guidelines of that program.
Senator Fairbairn: I have been listening very closely to what you have
been saying. It has been very helpful. I have been thinking about where I am
from, Lethbridge, Alberta, and how I have watched throughout my life a great
deal of activity with Native people in that area, and how the Blood Reserve has
continuously kept Red Crow Community College.
As it got a little older and older, they insisted on keeping it, and the
children in that area and Piikani, which is not so far away, had a real chance
and took it. When the University of Lethbridge turned up, one of the first
things it did was to ensure that they would have a Native part within the
university so that hopefully, if everyone would keep these organizations
working, they could just keep coming up the walk.
It is an utter pleasure to go to convocation, which is coming up in a few
weeks at the university, to see now the number of young people from the area and
beyond, and particularly young women, marching across that stage, not just
having reached the end of the road, but also now being the very best in the
areas that they have been working.
It has taken a great deal, but I think it has been understood right from the
beginning from the two nations that this was a very important thing to do. It
has been given help from both levels of government. The university is right
across the river. This has made a tremendous difference to the whole area of
Southwestern Alberta. It has opened a door for Native people to come forward and
do quite astounding things. It is a great story. The levels of government are
continuing to try to do this in all parts of Canada; I think it is a
tremendously wonderful thing to do.
Ms. Cram: I want to thank the senator for raising that example. It is
a good example. It has been wonderful, over the years, to see the partnerships
that have developed between post-secondary colleges and institutions. There are
some excellent examples across the country. We see more and more mainstream
educational institutions recognizing that their future clientele will be
Aboriginal. The way that they will attract them and keep them is if they make a
welcoming environment. They are expending much more effort than ever before on
that, which is great.
You also raised an issue about women. An incredible phenomenon is occurring
in terms of the statistics; that is, women are becoming more successful. We are
seeing an increasing number of women graduating and continuing on. That is a
positive sign. It is sort of mirroring what is happening in the non-Aboriginal
community. The concern now is for the boys. Are they being left behind, and what
does one need to do about that?
The Chair: That is a good observation. We need all the help we can
Senator Stewart Olsen: I have something that I am struggling with
here. We speak in terms of success — success, success, success. When we look at
the numbers that you have provided, our measure of success seems to be with
respect to post-secondary education — that is, university degrees — and getting
people through that system. I would suggest that a good many people living
on-reserves, a good many children, do not, perhaps, perceive success in those
terms. I think we have to do a mind change and a mind switch as to what we are
speaking of when we measure success. That is probably true for everyone in the
I was happy to hear you mentioning the apprenticeship programs and community
colleges. What is our measure of moving the children who, perhaps, do not want
to go on to university but see more of a viable opportunity for themselves in
apprenticeship, community-college based programs?
Ms. Russell: You are absolutely right that the question of success has
a different connotation in the mainstream world than it does for First Nations
and Aboriginal people. They often use the term "lifelong learning." A number
of studies have been done by the Canada Council on Learning around how we
measure success for Aboriginal students. It is true that it is very different
than typically how we speak of it in the mainstream world.
Predominantly, every time you talk to Aboriginal leaders and First Nation
leaders about the achievement of their students in education, they all believe
that education is hugely important, and they want to see their students
participate in post-secondary education. When we use the term "post-secondary
education," we mean the full stream. That is, university level, college,
apprenticeship and vocational programming. It does not come out as strongly as
we want it to, but we do really mean the full continuum.
Without question, we know that many First Nations in particular and
Aboriginal people generally do pursue vocational or apprenticeship programming.
Our programming allows funding to be provided to students who decide they want
to pursue that stream. A number of federal programs more broadly at HRSDC allow
for funding to pursue such things as vocational training. We absolutely support
that and feel it is hugely important in allowing students to choose whatever
stream they want in order to pursue their educational aspirations.
Senator Stewart Olsen: I think it is run in mainstream education as
well. We have to be careful to allow our young people to open doors for
themselves. Perhaps this committee might look more at apprenticeship and
community colleges. Thank you for your answers.
Senator Brazeau: I would like to ask a question on post-secondary
education. Obviously, many problems have been attributed to the program in
general. Much of it has been documented by INAC. There has been testimony from
students as well. I had the opportunity to listen to many Aboriginal students
talk about some of the barriers that they face.
Recently, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute documented that some communities
reported surpluses year over year and that funding intended for education was
spent on other issues and ineligible expenses. There have been issues such as
nepotism and favouritism. There is also the lack of progress reports and
performance indicators. Even the contribution agreements by the departments that
issue post-secondary education funding to First Nations communities have little
criteria attached to ensure that the funds are being spent on education.
Some people like to turn a blind eye and pretend that these things are not
happening; I choose the opposite. As a starting premise, I choose the position
that it is in the best interests of the students that this funding be utilized
by them, as it is intended. I think we must continue down that road.
Having highlighted all these problems, what is the department doing to ensure
that education funding is being spent on education. More importantly, if it is
not being spent on education to the detriment of the Aboriginal students, what
is the department doing to intervene and ensure that this does not happen as we
move forward in the future?
Ms. Cram: Thank you, Senator Brazeau, for that question.
First, within the current system, we are trying to figure out what we can do
to ensure that there is more accountability for the funds and that the funds are
going for their intended purposes. Audits have become more robust, more
compliance is being done, and things of that nature.
You may be aware that the federal government has a new transfer-payment
policy. At the present time, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is working on
how we will implement that new policy. It provides opportunities to strengthen
the management control frameworks of the programs. We are working very much in
However, I will admit that there is a limit to what we can do with the
current system. That is why in Budget 2010, there was reference to the fact that
the budget committed the government to exploring a new approach to providing
support to First Nations and Inuit students for post-secondary education that
will be effective, accountable and coordinated with other federal student
support programs. We are at the very beginning of looking at that issue.
However, the federal government intends to do that over the coming year.
Senator Brazeau: I appreciate your comments about what the federal
government is trying to do, but my specific question is what the department is
doing. We say that the federal government is several departments, but sometimes
they do not act in unison. I would like to know what, exactly, the department is
doing in terms of trying to highlight where these questionable practices are
happening to the detriment of the students to ensure that they do not happen.
If you say that audits have become more robust, then my next questions are as
follows: What are the new results of the audits being conducted to highlight
that? What is being done to fix some of the ongoing problems?
Ms. Cram: I should have been clear. Each recipient is required to do
an annual audit of the funds that they have received from the federal government
and indicate what it has been used for. Those audits have become more robust
with standardized reporting templates and so on. As well, a much stronger clause
is in them in terms of the department's ability to actually do audits and
evaluations on the use of those funds. That is a new development within the last
It is one thing to ask for reports, but you have to do something with those
reports once they come in. That is where I speak about compliance. The funding
services officers and the program staff are implementing much more robust
reviews of those reports to see where the funds were used.
Senator Brazeau: I am obviously not an accountant, but I am sure you
will agree with me that you can see the budget line item for education that a
First Nation community has received for education, and it could also say that
they spent that money. However, unless a forensic audit is done and you really
dig deep into the books of a given First Nation, does the department know if all
of the funding has been spent on education based on the reports you talk about?
Ms. Cram: The audits that each recipient must provide, and I do not
know the official terminology, but they have to be signed off by a certified
accountant. The professionalism of that certified accountant is dependent on the
fact that he has reviewed all the appropriate records. We rely on the fact that
we have audits come in that have been reviewed by a certified chartered
In cases where we believe there have been problems, we may not start with a
forensic audit because that is a very high-level audit, but we might start with
a financial review. Depending on what we determine, it may result in a forensic
audit. Those are done when the department is aware of particular circumstances
of funds being misused, for example.
Senator Hubley: I was certainly pleased to see that there was support
for children with special needs and a capacity to identify and address those
needs. I am wondering if programming for gifted children exists. Do they have
access to enriched programming within the on-reserve educational system?
Ms. Russell: Currently no targeted programming exists for gifted
children in the same way as the program for special education needs.
Senator Dyck: My questions are about funding gaps. Senator Patterson
mentioned the meeting of the Council of Ministers of Education in Saskatoon
about a year ago. One of the issues they dealt with was equity in funding. We
all know that a 2 per cent cap on post-secondary student support has existed
since 1996. What is the department intending to do about that? Will they remove
that cap and increase the support?
My second question has to do with the differential funding between on-reserve
and off-reserve schools. There are different levels of support. In some cases,
it can be several thousands of dollars difference per student. What is the
department intending to do about that? Will they review the funding formula and
equalize the difference in funding? On-reserve schools receive less funding than
equivalent off-reserve schools.
Ms. Cram: On the first question, it is not the department that imposed
the 2 per cent cap. The department receives appropriations. Thus, it is not in
the department's ability to change that cap. Changing the amount of increase
that occurs each year would require a budget decision. I would note that the 2
per cent does not take into account if you have a new program. For example, I
spoke about Budget 2008 where we had $268 million over five years. That is over
and above the 2 per cent.
On the second question about the differential funding, it is hard to compare
because you have to see how provinces calculate their per capita funding versus
how the federal government does it. It is a complicated task. However, we want
to achieve comparable funding. In Budget 2010, you saw reference to being
prepared to move for implementation-ready partnerships. The idea behind those is
to have a tripartite partnership where you have an arrangement with the
province, First Nation and the Government of Canada so that you have a way to
work through what would be comparable, and then you have to stay with the
comparability. Provinces are announcing in their budgets on a regular basis that
they will increase this or that, as is the federal government.
You need to have a vehicle for keeping things synchronized. There is a huge
range across the country. You have to line up with a particular province. To
give you an example, the amount we spend on kindergarten to Grade 12 is about
$1.3 billion for 120,000 students. Per capita, that would be close to $11,000
per student. If you look at what is comparable amongst provinces — and I say
that it is comparable but very roughly — using Statistics Canada data from
2005-06, it ranges tremendously, from a high of $18,500 per student in the Yukon
to a low of $7,600 in Prince Edward Island. You need to have that mechanism and
partnership approach that allows you to work province by province to determine
what would be required.
Senator Dyck: I have one more quick question about funding and the
number of First Nations students actually qualified to go on to post-secondary
education. You gave some numbers on page 5 of your presentation indicating that
the department funded 22,000 students in 2009. How many students are waiting and
qualified but did not get funding? Do we have numbers for that over the last 10
or 20 years?
Ms. Cram: Unfortunately, we do not have numbers on how many students
are waiting. Different organizations have suggested different numbers, but that
is not something that we readily have available. We also do not know how many
students who go on to post-secondary education are actually availing themselves
of other student financial assistance that is available through the other
products or programs I talked about, through HRSDC and the provinces. I would
say that we are sure that there are more than 22,000 First Nations status
Indians, whether they are resident on- or off- reserve, who are attending
post-secondary education institutions in Canada because they are availing
themselves of other opportunities.
Senator Dyck: I had numbers indicating that about 3,000 students were
waiting in 2007-08. That would make you think that perhaps there should be a
bigger budget. Is there a way of increasing the budget for that program?
Ms. Cram: The post-secondary education program has the 2 per cent
increase each year, just as, for example, kindergarten to Grade 12. As I
mentioned earlier, we do not control the amount of increment each year.
Senator Patterson: Inuit have been defined by the courts as Indians or
First Nations under the Constitution. You noted that about a year ago an
agreement was signed with the Government of Canada to establish the Inuit
Education Accord. A committee was established to develop a strategy for moving
forward on educational outcomes for Inuit students.
Could you give us an update on what has happened and where this is going?
Ms. Cram: I am sorry, I do not have all the details on the current
status of those, but I would be glad to follow up and provide the committee with
The Chair: Would you, please, and we will make certain that Senator
Patterson gets the information.
Senator Patterson: Your presentation notes that, sadly, according to
figures for 2006 on page 5, Inuit outcomes for university degree attainment are
roughly half that of First Nation learners.
I have been quite impressed with the initiative by the University of the
Arctic, which I know has received some initial funding from your department. It
provides cyber-education; it is not bricks and mortar. It will provide access
for Inuit students in remote, northern communities using the broadband Internet,
which is now in place, as opposed to having to travel somewhere to a university.
Will the funding for this initiative come under the authority of your
Ms. Cram: No. The funding for that initiative is part of the overall
Northern Strategy. It is the northern program that leads on that, and if you
would like, senator, we could follow up with more details on it.
Senator Patterson: I would appreciate that. It is a great initiative.
Senator Raine: Could you give me an update on what is happening in
British Columbia with the tripartite agreement and what the next steps are in
Ms. Cram: Thank you for the question, senator. I would describe the
current situation as being that negotiations are ongoing with the First Nations
Education Steering Committee, FNESC. I believe 13 First Nations are actively
negotiating to take up jurisdiction on education. That is continuing. It is
certainly closer than it was, but the negotiations have not concluded yet.
Senator Raine: Do you know when the negotiations will be finished? It
has been happening for quite a while.
Ms. Cram: Yes. They are certainly getting closer. The financial issues
are still being discussed. They just have not concluded yet.
Senator Raine: I understand they are having trouble when they take
certified teachers and give them additional training because the funding being
provided does not allow them to match the funding that those teachers could earn
across the river. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different
outcome. We need to have great teachers being properly compensated to teach in
the First Nations system. I am afraid that there is not the understanding that
it does take more money to have better outcomes.
Ms. Cram: We understand that very clearly, and I think that FNESC and
Nathan Matthew are very able negotiators and have put the point forward clearly.
I am hopeful that in the coming months an agreement will be reached on what the
appropriate amount would be.
The Chair: On that issue, Ms. Cram, I ran into Nathan Matthew in
Kamloops about a week ago at an Aboriginal meeting with the Metis. There is real
frustration. It is about 12 years, is it not, since its inception?
Ms. Cram: Certainly FNESC has been around for 15 years or longer. I do
not think the negotiations have been under way for that many years, but for a
The Chair: Senator Raine and I are being homers now because we are
both from British Columbia. It is something that is thrown at us every time we
are home or whenever we meet these people. As long as you are aware, hopefully,
we can resolve it.
Senator Fairbairn: When I spoke, I talked about our university. I
neglected to talk about our community organization as well, which has been
absolutely terrific. It is like going across the river to connect with that, in
one part, and that has been very helpful in keeping the one on the reserve
going. All three of these things have been offered to the Aboriginal people for
them to get in there and do what they want, and it is working. It is working,
and it is coming from other places as well. It is a helpful thing.
Ms. Cram: Thank you, senator.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Honourable senators, as you can see, and there is nothing secretive about
this, we are considering in our deliberations a possible study on education. Ms.
Cram, you have been very candid and forthright in saying that 60 people at INAC
administer the budget and try to do what school boards do across the country,
and that we have to look at tripartite agreements, which are being entered into
now, and possibly establish a legislative framework to assist your department
and people to provide the results that we would all like to see for First
Nations children at the educational level.
Thank you all for coming this morning. Once the committee has determined what
it will proceed with, we may take the opportunity to invite you back. It is
always a pleasure to see you, and we look forward to working with you.
Many questions have surfaced around administration and funding, but we must
get to the core of the situation and get a framework that is functional, as it
is difficult for 60 people to administer 75,000 students in over 500 schools.
(The committee adjourned.)