• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

editorial- Native School Funding


Reaction score
I am writing this up for submission.  Feedback is appreciated. 

Two Federal Approaches to Education

Of all the Canadian school age children attending classes this winter there remains a select few that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.  Education in Canada is a responsibility of the provinces (unlike most Western industrialized countries there is no federal department of education), with two exceptions; First Nations students and Department of National Defense dependent students. 

Canadian First Nations students attending school on reserve fall under sections 114 – 122 of the Indian Act and not under the jurisdiction of the provincial Public Schools Act(s) or Education Administration Act(s) of their home province.  Likewise, until the 1980’s, schooling on military bases in Canada was under the control of the local Base Commander (and an appointed school board of commissioned and non-commissioned members), but has since been passed into the hands of provincial school divisions through negotiated agreements.  Dependents of Canadian Forces members attending school abroad however still fall into a category equivalent to First Nations students.  They are a federal responsibility, yet are governed not by the Indian Act but by Dependent Education Management, a branch of the DND.  Being a First Nations educational administrator who in the past served in the military I was surprised to first see the discrepancies in approach taken by INAC and DND. 

            In an ideal world, the supports and standards for education in both of these groups would be roughly equivalent, as both groups of students’ education is the responsibility of the federal government.  In an ideal situation my children would have generally equal access to education whether they attended schools as dependents (if I were still in the military), or if they attended on reserve in a band-controlled setting.  In reality the opportunities are astoundingly different.

            The intent of DND’s Dependent Education Management for those serving in the military is “to ensure that their dependent children obtain elementary and secondary education which approximates Canadian standards and which enables the child to re-enter the Canadian school system with as little disruption as possible.”  In order to achieve its mission DND benchmarks its support and services on the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.  Because of this benchmarking they come close to achieving educational parity.  One predictor of student outcomes is per pupil expenditure as student outcomes are directly influenced by per pupil expenditures.   The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has a yearly per pupil expenditure of $9,400.00.  DND wisely sets a baseline for support. 

            First Nations students in Canada can only dream of supports that approximate Canadian standards and which would enable them to re-enter the Canadian school system with ‘as little disruption as possible’.  Not only is the per pupil expenditure significantly lower, for example around $6,400 in Manitoba, but the access to facilities is dramatically below provincial and federal norms.  In many First Nations communities the schooling takes place in temporary trailers, strung together row upon row.  Air problems from poor circulation are common, lack of physical education facilities is frequent and overcrowding is the norm. Further, the access to provincial advances in curricular development suffers from the lack of resources and distance from most provincial education centres.  The already insufficient Capital budgets of regional INAC offices (responsible for building First Nations schools) is often dipped in to when deficits are encountered.  Because capital expenditures are a ‘non protected envelope’ money can be taken from capital plans to fill ‘protected envelopes’.   For those of us waiting on a new school, conducting our daily routines in extremely overcrowded conditions, this means delay, after delay after delay.

            The gap in educational opportunities is frequently referred to as ‘the First Nations education crisis’.   If the solution to the First Nations educational crisis lay in taking the approach followed by DND bases across Canada in the 1980’s, and signing away First Nations authority to the provincial school boards was a viable option First Nations administrators would eagerly do so.  Sadly it is not.  For those communities that have signed away their hard fought jurisdictional control of education to provincial public school divisions there has been  little positive impact on student learning outcomes.   The Council of Ministers of Education of Canada have declared Aboriginal education to be a priority because of the poor performance of Aboriginal students in the public system (CMEC Aboriginal Education Action Plan).   Those First Nations students attending mainstream public educational institutions also suffer from lower learning outcomes than their counterparts even with the increased spending per pupil. The loss of First Nations control of First Nations education results in poor academic performance.

            So what is the solution?  Well, for a start, First Nations students have to be given access to educational opportunities and supports which ‘approximate Canadian standards’.   This means  immediately increasing the per pupil expenditures for on reserve students to rates comparable to the provincial averages (or the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board  average).     We need an indexed baseline benchmark.  Secondly, we as First Nations educators must take a role in developing and enforcing accountability measures comparable to those articulated through provincial Public Schools Acts which would ensure that our students achieve educational success – and hold ourselves and the federal government accountable if they do not.  Right now we are given either control or adequate resources, never both.  Lastly, facilities in our communities must grow and be supported at rates equivalent to our population growth.  Having a school built for 600 students holding 1100 students, and having schools run students through in shifts, as is happening in some communities in northern Manitoba, will not help our students transition into mainstream schools -- these conditions hinder their success.

           Equity in education is a right that is taken for granted across Canada, yet it is a fallacy in First Nations communities.   It is imperative that our leadership get down in the trenches with educators from their communities across Canada.  Because the education directorate of INAC headquarters has no educators on staff it is imperative that they either consult with First Nations academics, or give authority to First Nations professionals that do the job day by day. 

Reads good......if I may point out one thing though, maybe find a way to re-highlight the finincial inequality per student as that is the one thing that made me go hmmm.......

And the reason I say that is, [and I don't mean this to read as bad as I know it does but things are hard to convey on the internet,] is that the public quickly tunes out the "whine" part and needs a small fact they can relate and hold onto.
"Equity in education is a right that is taken for granted across Canada, yet it is a fallacy in First Nations communities - $6,400 does not equal $9,450.   That is 3,000 dollars worth of inequality for every kindergarten through grade 12 student in the system every year"

Hows that?
Mix that in with the last paragraph and I'm good.
You have not provided any other solution than spending money.  Although the discrepancy is painfully obvious, it isn't a solution.  My first question when I read the comparison was to ask how much money was spent on a urban child in Manitoba simply because Ottawa may spend more than Winnipeg.  You might focus on the fact that the DND has a separate act that focuses on childhood education for dependents whilst the care for Native Canadians is wrapped up in an omnibus bill which covers everything from land allocations to tax rights and for all I know whether Pepsi or Coke machines are allowed in a store.  I suggest providing readers with a place/plan to spend the money more wisely and not just a feel good throw money at the problem and it will disappear.
Accountability acts are one of the major solutions in my opinion.  Currently there is no recourse if a band chief and council decides to shut down the school for whatever reason, or fire teachers for no reason. 
UberCree said:
Accountability acts are one of the major solutions in my opinion.  Currently there is no recourse if a band chief and council decides to shut down the school for whatever reason, or fire teachers for no reason. 

That is something that needs to be rectified first. No sense putting more money into a system where it will be wasted. Money will not change anything if not accompanied by reform.
I think you have a good point, and that you have argued it well - but I also agree with later comments regarding accountability of Chiefs/Band Councils.

I agree with Cdn Aviator - the Chiefs/Band Council problem needs to be fixed BEFORE the (sorely needed) money is applied to the educational problem - otherwise it's just wasted.
I am in agreement; just advocating more money will not fix the mess. Look how well that solution works for Canadian health care or higher education for example.

Since your issue is the lack of accountability in how resources are allocated, then the thrust of your editorial should be how to increase accountability. Canadian experiments like the growth of Parental Charter Schools in Alberta, or US experiments with school vouchers show two possible ways ahead.

Of course the real problem is resources flow from the Canadian government through a byzantine bureaucracy then into the band leadership, where accountability disappears. Bypass the bureaucrats and bands, send the funds directly to band members then they do have the resources and ability to make choices.


Daniel Goldbloom on Rethinking the Reserve: Jean Allard's Big Bear solution
Posted: February 01, 2008, 3:22 PM by Dan Goldbloom
Daniel Goldbloom

When you listen to Jean Allard talk about his solution to native poverty and powerlessness, it's hard to believe that no one else has thought of it. Highly critical of what he calls the "Indian Industry," Allard argues that the agreement between unaccountable chiefs and band councils, and the department of Indian Affairs is keeping Canada's natives locked in a bleak cycle. His radical answer? A provision from a 19th century treaty signed by Cree Chief Big Bear — a promise to pay each Indian $5 per year. Allard's only caveats: skip the chiefs and pay the people directly. Oh, and account for inflation.

A Manitoba Métis, Jean Allard has been involved in politics since the 1960's, serving as an MLA under premier Ed Schreyer, the co-ordinator of the Métis National Council and the president of the Union Nationale Metisse St-Joseph du Manitoba, among numerous other roles. A non-conformist among Native politicians (on sovereignty for specific native tribes, he avers: "How you set up a nation with 300, 600 or 3,000 people beats the hell out of me!"), his knowledge and insight are hard to match. His 2002 article in Inroads Journal, "Big Bear's Treaty," clearly spells out his vision for empowering Canada's natives.

In 1882, Chief Big Bear signed over his land in Treaty Six, one of the so-called "number treaties" between natives and the Canadian government, which contained the commitment to pay every Indian $5 per year. As Allard explains, the government was anxious to provide the natives with money, not just because they needed it, but because Indians were major clients of the Hudson's Bay Company, which needed cash-laden customers. While other clauses in the number treaties have been modernized — the promise of a "medicine chest" updated to mean health care provision — treaty money remains pegged at $5 a person. Allard places the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of "leaders [who] have never advocated for the rights of the individual."

Fixing his calculation to land prices, he argues that what cost $5 in the 1870's, now costs something closer to $5,000. For a family of five, that's an income base of $25,000 per year. Not necessarily enough to live on, but enough for a family to move off the reserve and pay the rent. With such stability assured, a mother could "get herself a job at a Tim Hortons," and get her family on track for a better life.

At first glance, this idea doesn't seem particularly new. It just sounds like more money, and the federal government has transferred revenue to Canada's native population for years. The big difference is that Allard's solution cuts unaccountable leaders out of the loop.

Under the current system, chiefs and councils distribute government funds as they see fit. But as Allard explains, there is no one to oversee their financial decisions. Contrasting the reservation modus operandi with his experience in the Manitoba legislature, he says that, "on the reservation, there is no one to make sure you are spending the money properly. Indians who supported a chief's leadership would simply come to him the next day with open hands."

Such patronage systems work exceedingly well at prolonging a leader's stay at the top, but they also keep the group at large at the bottom. The lack of accountability to the native rank and file, and the lack of infrastructure and oversight make for a dire situation for everyone but the leaders. On this point, Allard proffers a favourite quote from the late Cree Leader, Harold Cardinal: "Non-accountability is the reward that Indian affairs gives to chiefs and councils for their compliance."

This unwritten agreement goes to the very heart of the widespread opposition Allard's Big Bear solution faces. The Assembly of First Nations and its leader, Phil Fontaine — who, incidentally, managed Allard's MLA campaign in 1969 — as well as the department of Indian Affairs are heavily invested in the current system. Allard's Big Bear solution would deal the current order a fatal blow by ending native dependence on unaccountable leaders. As he puts it: "without a bunch of dependent Indians, you've got an Indian industry with no purpose."

Of course, the Big Bear solution isn't a panacea, and Allard knows it. But it is a novel idea that at least addresses the problems of native financing and governance. It has received serious attention from certain politicians in Ottawa, although they've been slow to get behind it. However, the Big Bear solution is indicative of a sad, larger truth. Its mere consideration painfully demonstrates the extent to which native governance has failed. Regardless whether the blame lies with the Canadian government, native leaders themselves or a combination of two, Jean Allard's message is a wakeup call that progress cannot wait long.

For more from the National Post's "Rethinking the Reserve" series, visit www.nationalpost.com/aboriginals
It appeared in Sundays Winnipeg Free Press. 

Thank you all for the feedback.  I am in agreement with you all. 
For the past three weeks the school in Easterville Manitoba has been closed because the teachers have not been paid since before Christmas.  Meanwhile the chief has been travelling all over the world. 
Also of note is the article in Saturdays Free Press which reveals Chief Louis Stevensons annual take home pay of over $300,000. 
UberCree said:
Also of note is the article in Saturdays Free Press which reveals Chief Louis Stevensons annual take home pay of over $300,000. 

...or the same as 6 teachers.   :threat: F***  me......

Do you have a link to the article?

Chief Louis Stevenson
Because capital expenditures are a ‘non protected envelope’ money can be taken from capital plans to fill ‘protected envelopes’.

Ah...I've seen that happen more times than I'd like to admit.

UberCree, a well written article.  Let us know how it goes.
That salary statement would make a fitting end to your article. It leaves no room for argument, especially if you were to place it besides the average mayor's salary in Canada; a community of about the same numbers and responsiblity as the average reserve.  I hope that in some small way you are able to contribute to ending this continuous cycle of dependency/despondancy.  Ciao

Cdn reserves struggling with crumbling schools



Steam wafts from the open black pit like it would from a pot of water on the stove just before it boils.
Even in the bitter cold, the smell is unmistakable - sewage in its rawest form.

Students in the classroom directly adjacent to the cesspit were sent home an hour ago. It's the second time this week their school day has been cut short by the fumes seeping in from outside.
"It just builds, builds, builds," says teacher Bonnie Barks. "It's metallic in your mouth. You feel nauseated, dizzy, headaches, just drowsy. The kids - their behaviour starts so they're restless."

Sewer gas is one of the more unpleasant problems that plague the Fishing Lake School, an ad hoc collection of portable classrooms strung together by wooden decking on the Fishing Lake First Nation, about two hours east of Saskatoon. The portables were intended as a temporary measure in 1998 while plans were made to build a new school. A decade later, it seems, they are permanent quarters for 80 students.

On this day, every classroom has at least one bathroom out of order. What little insulation there is under the temporary structures is not much of a match for winter wind chills that can dip into the -40 C to -50 C range. The pipes freeze, split and then leak. 
Outside the Grade 2/3 portable, a fire escape is roped off by an orange snow fence. The wooden stairs leading down from the door lie on their side in front of another open sewer. Inside the students are drawing posters as part of a lesson on safety.
At the back of one of the classrooms where a group of Grade 5/6 students is trying to learn Saulteaux, an exposed furnace drones loudly, competing with every word.

In the office/library/counselling room, two banners hail provincial indoor soccer championships won in 2006 and 2007. Not bad considering the school doesn't have a gym.
"Make the best of the worst," principal Allen Asapass says with a certain sense of resignation. "These kids, they deserve better."
His school is one example of what First Nations leaders say is a steadily growing problem on Canadian reserves. Native communities struggling to break the cycle of joblessness, poverty, substance abuse and crime complain their efforts are hamstrung by crumbling and festering facilities.

High native dropout rates are often blamed on makeshift classrooms. The facilities make it hard to provide the comprehensive programming students off-reserve get, and it's difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers.
"There is a huge infrastructure problem in First Nations communities," says Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
"It's not just confined to schools and the whole question of education, though the people that suffer the most as the result of these major challenges are the kids forced to go to schools that are in a very bad state of disrepair or are being educated in temporary facilities."

Funding for new schools and the upkeep of existing ones comes from Indian Affairs.
Before the Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs earlier this month, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl explained that there is $1 billion in this year's budget for infrastructure, but that goes to everything from housing to water to schools.
"We emphasize health and safety as a first issue," Strahl told the committee. "Then we mitigate any health risks as a second priority ... We address the backlog on water and sewer systems. Then ... new investments in things such as education facilities and community buildings and so on."

School projects are further prioritized based on health and safety, overcrowding, curriculum requirements and the repatriation of First Nations students from provincial schools, says Indian Affairs spokeswoman Patricia Valladao.
There have been 13 school projects completed since March 2006 and more than 30 more are planned, Valladao says. Strahl told the committee that 12 are to commence in this budget year, four in the next, two more in 2011-12 and three in 2012-13.

The root of the problem, the assembly contends, is a two per cent cap on the funding growth for most Indian Affairs programs. When costs for other programs such as social services rise above two per cent, money for capital infrastructure is stripped away, they argue.
It's a problem that knows no political stripe. The infrastructure deficit has built up over years under former Liberal governments and now under the Conservatives.

The assembly doesn't have an accurate list of the schools that most seriously need remediation or replacement, but it estimates there are as many as two dozen communities with an absolutely immediate need.
In Deschambault Lake, a community that is part of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in northeastern Saskatchewan, 200 elementary students have been attending classes in portables and the local high school since their school burned down three years ago.
Some kids got into the school over the Easter break and were playing with matches in a hallway with a lot of paper products. There wasn't much hope for the building once the fire got into the cedar roof.

A shortage of labour in the North means bids on the tender for replacing the school have come in higher than expected and the project has stalled, says principal Gil McCormick.
"I've always felt this goes even beyond a deficit of buildings on reserves to a point where it really is a federal responsibility to replace one of their assets," McCormick says. "Had it been a post office that had burnt down or an RCMP building, I'm sure that they would have been able to dig up some cash.

"Elementary kids are pretty tough - they've got good attendance, they seem to function OK - but there are so many things that they're missing out on. Library facilities, those sort of things."
In Attawapiskat, near the James Bay coast in northern Ontario, elementary school students have been out of their school for a full eight years now. Their old building was shut down in 2000 when it was realized that diesel fumes that had leaked into the ground from a heating system years ago were making people sick.

The 10 portables that house the 400 students now are crowded. Spaces only meant for 15 students are holding twice that number, says principal Stella Wesley. They are also run down. The shifting ground has caused the walls to crack and doors don't shut properly.
"When you're inside you can really see to the outside, no word of a lie, because of the cracks," Wesley says. "I feel very dismayed and I feel very, very discouraged because every time I look around, when I go do my rounds and I see these kids walking all bundled up and trying to make the best of it - they are innocent. They don't know and that really, really hurts."

The situation at Attawapiskat caught the attention of local NDP MP Charlie Angus. He is currently waging a national campaign to raise awareness and money for what he calls Third World native schools.
"Basically their position is, as long as kids aren't dying in the schools, Indian Affairs isn't obligated to do anything, and I think that cuts to the heart of the problem," Angus says.
"There's no mention ever made of the obligation to provide quality of education."

Back in Fishing Lake, the students push on despite the conditions.
The band and Indian Affairs are locked in a stalemate over what form a new school should take. The band is holding firm on the idea that it should have an industrial arts and home economics component, but has been told the school doesn't have enough students to qualify for that level of funding.
Indian Affairs is spending $935,000 to have some new portables in place in the coming year that are hooked up to the proper sewer system.
The band has plans drawn up and land staked out if anything changes.

Asked if the school is achieving success in spite of its problems, principal Asapass points to the top of the book shelf in the library. There's a picture of 10 students decked out in tuxedoes and grad dresses - the class of 2007.
"That's our success right there," he says. "Our biggest class yet."

Its friggin' time for  someone to step in with real adult supervision and start stripping the band councils and Indian Affairs of the grotesque hold they have on these young kids lives.
Bruce Monkhouse said:
Its friggin' time for  someone to step in with real adult supervision and start stripping the band councils and Indian Affairs of the grotesque hold they have on these young kids lives.

I don't think the law permits it. Maybe they could ask for reports on the use of money, and made those public,
a way to "direct" the band councils to do more of the right thing...
While we all feel great frustration at the treaty/band model of governance, keep in mind what happened last time we white guys tried to run Indian schools and reserves. These "annoying" chiefs and tribal councils and the band system of governance is about the only thing that stopped Canada from completely destroying Indian culture. It explains to a great deal why the simple solutions often proposed such as selling band property to individuals or taking over education and governance are so powerfully and appropriately opposed.

For those that do not know,

There was a Canadian government policy to eradicate the native culture. It was not merely a bit of bad luck with how things turned out. It was a deliberate goal of destroying all remnants of Indian language, religion, culture and politics. The term of cultural genocide is frighteningly accurate. This was explicit national policy for over 100 years and was not fully ceased until the 1970s. Every negative facet of Indian lives today was born of this cruel, racist and fascist policy. Careful you don't forget history, lest we repeat it.


is a modest jumping off point, but the most complete single reference I know is,

Miller, J. R. Shingwauk’s Vision, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996

edited to add:

My point is that in considering the reforms (and they are needed) we must be very careful not to oversimplify things. For four or five generations, our government destroyed the family bonds and pedagogical model of Indian families and communities. The repair required will take a great deal of time and effort.

What was the "pedagogical model"?  Let's cut the bullshit and waffling and hand-wringing and other excuses and get straight to the point: all the children have a right to be educated in a manner which equips them to function in an industrialized nation with a sophisticated and relatively free economy.  Whether they go on to engage in that modern milieu or not is their subsequent choice, but their first right is to be prepared to elect that option.  The people who have chosen to seize that responsibility - and I don't care whether they are in a federal department unwilling to let go or a band council unwilling to set different funding priorities - must achieve that aim.  Fix the problem, not the blame.
Brad Sallows,

Though worded differently than I would put it, I agree with the point. The reason behind my post was to expand upon the scale and depth of the problem. This is not a case of just writing up a new curriculum and buying some new chalkboards.

During the 1900-1950s period, it was not uncommon for an Indian child to be taken away at age 7 or 8, put in a residential school and physically beaten and humiliated for not speaking English despite having never learned a word of it. In some families, the parents, grandparents and other relatives could be split by a decision to send the child to an Anglican vs Catholic school vs keep the child home. This may seem like a mild argument, but in today's terms we would describe these conflicts with terms of kidnapping and brainwashing (directed whichever way you choose). They were only amplified by the extensive social and moral pressures that were exerted. Imagine a child coming home from said school, hoping for two months of normal childhood, only to be confronted by the important adults all arguing and fighting among themselves about why the school year they just survived was either evil incarnate or God's will.

Rather than be taught how to raise the next generation through exposure to successful pedagogy (of whatever form), a vast number of children grew up without learning how to interact successfully with the children they would one day raise. The impact is seen in the number of dysfunctional family situations we still observe today. Pedagogy isn't just teaching your child to read. Over several generations basic skills such as breastfeeding,  bonding, development issues (ie dealing with puberty) and basic family structure and hierarchy were all worn away. In other words, not only do educational programs need to be assessed, but the larger problem must be addressed to rebuild a successful family and community model (whatever form is eventually chosen). The good news is that is is happening, but very slowly.

Your point about functioning in an industrial nation is totally true. But given how badly broken some (not all though) reserves are today, I would suggest that many of the youth are not properly prepared to elect any option.

Ing, N, Rosalyn, “The Effects of Residential Schools on Native Child Rearing Practices" in Canadian Journal of Native Education 18(supp), 1991, pp 67-116

Has an extensive and very convincing argument about the scope and breadth of the impact of the schools on the larger society of Natives. Ing also provides a discussion about the solutions that may present themselves over time.

I completely agree that the problem needs to be fixed not the blame. I just want to make sure people remember the problems are much deeper than most news articles and debates (especially politicians) make it out to be. Otherwise, the next batch of "fixes"" might be just as inneffective, or even as damaging, as the "fixes" that were tried in the last century.

As to the eternal argument over corrupt bands vs incompetent and wasteful bureaucrats, remember a couple other key details. The government spending on Indian affairs is largely a case of servicing a series of treaties. That is, it is not the government's money, it is money we agreed long ago to pay to a group of people. We as voters have as much right to tell Indian bands how to spend the money as we do telling individuals or businesses what to do with their income tax returns.

I have grave doubts about much of the spending that some bands perform, but I have much deeper concerns about going in and telling them how to do it. Freedom can be a real b***h sometimes.

I do feel that we are on the right track though. If any country in the world can figure this out and find the "fix" then Canada would be it. I just hope that Mr Prentice helps get it done sooner rather than later.

KMJAB said:
The government spending on Indian affairs is largely a case of servicing a series of treaties. That is, it is not the government's money, it is money we agreed long ago to pay to a group of people. We as voters have as much right to tell Indian bands how to spend the money as we do telling individuals or businesses what to do with their income tax returns.

I have grave doubts about much of the spending that some bands perform, but I have much deeper concerns about going in and telling them how to do it. Freedom can be a real b***h sometimes.

Very good background info, but I emphatically disagree with you on this point.
First Nations in Canada are not sovereign in the sense that no laws (prov., federal or international) apply to us.  We are Canadian, plain and simple.  We hold a unique role, but it is not a lawless role (or it souldn't be).  Right now there are no 'checks and balances' or adversarial review within First Nations.  The new Federal Accountability Act is not applicable on reserve ... there are no education acts on reserve ... there are no human rights acts on reserve (federal yes, provincial no). 
To demand accountability in spending within First Nations is nothing more than demanding First Nations meet standards already in place globally.  The demand is comming from First Nations people as well.