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Harper and McGuinty Governments Must Commit Long-Term Funding to Protect Indigenous Education
TORONTO, April 1 – The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario welcomed today’s announcement that the Government of Ontario will provide interim funding to keep the First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) operating for another year. “This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough,” said Jen Hassum, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. “Post-secondary education is a provincial responsibility and the federal government must meet its treaty obligation to provide education to Aboriginal students. Cooperation between both levels of government to develop a long-term plan for the FNTI is critical to the future of First Nations education in Ontario.”
Today’s stop-gap funding announcement follows months of squabbling over jurisdiction between the federal and provincial governments. Since the federal government ended a multi-year commitment four years ago, public funding for the FNTI has been insufficient and unpredictable; annual funding declined from $2.7 million in 2004 to $531,687 for the upcoming academic year. The FNTI is seeking a miniscule fraction (0.125%) of the $2 billion federal surplus that is currently predicted for 2008: $2.5 million with 2 per cent cost-of-living increases for each of the next five years.
Both the federal and provincial governments have encouraged FNTI administrators to increase tuition fees to compensate for insufficient government funding – a scheme that FNTI administrators have wisely resisted and students oppose. The Canadian Federation of Students remains concerned that the amount of per-student government funding for the FNTI is well below what is provided to other post-secondary institutions in Ontario and recommends that at least $3 million per year be provided to the FNTI beginning immediately.
“Aboriginal and First Nations students deserve affordable post-secondary education and government funding equal to that of other Ontario students,” said Hassum. “Indigenous students are being treated as second-class citizens by the federal government and today’s announcement means that FNTI’s doors won’t close while a permanent solution is found.”
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario unites more than 300,000 college and university students across the province and more than 35 students’ unions. The National Aboriginal Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students represents Aboriginal students across Canada.
For further information: Jen Hassum, Chairperson, CFS-Ontario, (416) 925-3825 or (416) 832-9073 (cell); Ken Marciniec, Communications Coordinator, CFS-Ontario, (416) 925-3825 or (416) 803-6066 (cell)
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