Debates of the Senate  
1st Session, 41st Parliament,Volume 148, Issue 32.
  Wednesday, November 23, 2011
 
Bridging the Aboriginal Education Gap in Saskatchewan
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, on Wednesday, November 9, the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research, in conjunction with Professor Eric C. Howe, of the University of Saskatchewan, released a staggering report entitled Bridging the Aboriginal Education Gap in Saskatchewan. The report stated that "closing the education gap between Aboriginal people and the rest of the province could yield savings as high as $90 billion." Dr. Howe calculated that figure of $90 billion by combining personal monetary benefits and various societal benefits that closing the education gap would yield per Aboriginal person resident in Saskatchewan.

As Dr. Howe stated, "The amount is staggering; the lost benefits are greater than all sales of potash in the history of Saskatchewan." He continued by stating that while most Saskatchewanites think of potash as the province's most valued resource, an even greater resource is the province's Aboriginal people. This is a resource that we have not developed.

In the 2006 census for Canadians aged 25 to 64, 34 per cent of Aboriginals did not complete high school, compared to 15 per cent in the rest of the population. Only 8 per cent of Aboriginals had a bachelor's degree, compared to 23 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population. By lifting the Aboriginal population to the same level as the non-Aboriginal population, Saskatchewan and other provinces could produce a lasting economic boom that is more sustainable than natural resource development.

According to the report, Aboriginal people have a higher financial rate of return on education than non-Aboriginal Canadians. For Aboriginals, finishing high school adds benefits of $1.9 million per student over a lifetime. A technical school education adds $3.1 million per student over a lifetime, and a university education adds $6.2 million per student over a lifetime. As Dr. Howe aptly stated, "The more you learn, the more you earn."

The cost-benefit analysis clearly shows that investing in Aboriginal education pays off. I would like to congratulate Professor Eric Howe and the Gabriel Dumont Institute for conducting and releasing this important report. It is a call for action not only for Saskatchewan, but throughout Canada to close the Aboriginal education gap. It is not only the right thing to do; it is an investment that we cannot afford not to make.