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Speaking Notes for the Honourable Chuck Strahl, PC, MP Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and
Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
Announcing a Memorandum of Understanding on First Nations Education in New Brunswick
Fredericton, New Brunswick
April 22, 2008
Check against delivery
It’s a real pleasure for me to be here today with Minister Lamrock, Minister Doherty, Minister Burke and Chiefs of the New Brunswick First Nations … in lovely Fredericton, New Brunswick.We’re here this morning to talk about an issue that is vitally important to all of us. That issue is education, and how crucial it is for all of us as partners to assist First Nations learners to achieve the best possible educational outcomes. This is crucial for First Nations people, for their communities, and for all Canadians.
It is common knowledge that the Aboriginal population in Canada is young and growing. And these young people are eager to work and to make a contribution. It is also common knowledge that this country is facing a labour shortage as the so-called baby boom generation retires. We must find ways to support First Nations students because education and skills development open doors to job opportunities and a brighter future – it is as simple as that.
Today, we’re taking an important step towards stronger schools, higher outcomes and a brighter future for First Nations students in New Brunswick.
This government is moving forward with willing partners like the Province of New Brunswick and New Brunswick First Nations to support First Nations students in realizing their full potential, whether they’re attending school on or off reserve. This Memorandum of Understanding we are signing today is aimed at improving education outcomes and closing the gap for First Nations students in New Brunswick whether they attend Band-operated schools on-reserve or provincial schools off-reserve.
This MOU also signifies the commitment by all parties to ensure that Aboriginal youth enjoy the same opportunities as other Canadians, by striking a new approach to standards, services and funding.
This is only one of the initiatives our Conservative government has undertaken with our Aboriginal and provincial partners, to improve quality of life in First Nations communities.
- Just recently we introduced a new First Nations Water and Waste Water Action Plan, which is the next step in the Government of Canada’s plan to improve the delivery of clean, safe drinking water to First Nations communities;
- Last fall we introduced legislation that was co-drafted with the Assembly of First Nations – the Specific Claims Tribunal Act – that will help speed up the claims process;
- We are moving forward with Matrimonial Real Property rights legislation to protect the interests of women and children living on reserve, when relationships go bad;
- And we are working hard to deliver full access to the Canadian Human Rights Act to all people living on-reserve.
This Memorandum of Understanding helps us work in partnership to deliver real, meaningful results like the ones I just mentioned. Together, we can ensure that First Nations students have access to the quality education they need to build a successful future for themselves and their communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, agreements like this one aren’t just words on a page. They are the means of finding the ways for First Nations students to stay in school, to succeed in school, and to establish that strong educational foundation that is so necessary for success in life. That’s why Budget 2008 included $70 million over two years to improve First Nations education and to encourage tripartite agreements, like this one.
There is key progress in British Columbia too. An agreement between First Nations, Canada, and BC enables First Nations in that province to design culturally relevant programming that also meet provincial standards.
First Nations across Canada are eager to realize the substantial benefits associated with better educational outcomes. When students succeed, it allows First Nations to build a highly skilled workforce, it means communities can attract jobs and investment—and be full partners in developing resources and ensuring that those benefits stay in the community. That’s also good news for provinces and territories – and all of Canada.
I have great faith in the positive impact of good schools, committed teachers and the hard work of students themselves.
When you ignite a passion for learning, there is no telling how far it can take an individual or their community. Education is the way for individuals to succeed, for communities to escape poverty, for societies to flourish, and for economies to prosper.
We all have a role. First Nations. Provinces. The federal government. And students.
By strong partnerships like this one, we’re making sure First Nations learners have the support they need to succeed in school and in life.
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