I chaired the Joint Task Force on First Nation and Metis Education in Saskatchewan and we tabled the final report in March of 2013 to the provincial government, the FSIN and the MNS.
If there is one thing that stuck with me throughout the year we travelled the province, it was how genuinely supportive everyone was to see improvements in the First Nation and Metis graduation rates. They understood that the future socio-economic health of the province relied upon mobilizing the talents, skills and passion of First Nation and Metis youth.
The other reality that quickly emerged is the dismay expressed that First Nation students have been blatantly underfunded by successive federal governments. There is no clear reason for this other than they are First Nation students. It was disappointing that the federal government did not participate in the Task Force, which I thought was a terrible decision.
In this election the federal political parties all want our vote but who has the better First Nation and Metis Education plan? I think this is a critical platform piece that each Party should be clear on. What are their strategies to close the graduation gap? How will they deal with the educational infrastructure deficits? How do they propose to consult and work with First Nations on developing joint education strategies to mobilize the talent so clearly evident in our communities?
I will give the provincial government a shout-out for funding the Task Force and for funding some of the recommendations to date. They have shown commitment not seen in a long time.
However, more needs to be done by the provincial Ministry of Education, which struggles with establishing true and meaningful relationships with First Nation and Metis educators. Culturally appropriate actions can help transition into culturally responsive relationships.