.Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, on
October 3 the minister and officials from the Department of
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development said that First
Nation students from K to 12 were funded on par or above par
with students attending provincial schools. The minister's
announcement that First Nations students were not
underfunded came as a total shock as it is so out of line
with the reality of the situation. No doubt his statement
will be discussed at the Assembly of First Nations' special
chiefs' assembly this week across the river in Gatineau.
The minister's October 3 statement certainly was at odds
with what I have learned here in the Senate over the last
seven and a half years. For example, during his testimony to
the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in
October of 2008 on Bill C-292, the implementation of the
Kelowna accord, the Right Honourable Paul Martin said that
on reserves, primary and secondary school education is
within the federal government's jurisdiction. That being
said, he added, the provinces spend substantially more per
capita on students within their jurisdiction than the
federal government does within its jurisdiction.
How can the Leader of the Government in the Senate
reconcile this statement with what the Minister of
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is now saying
about on-par funding?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
I thank the honourable senator for the question. Honourable
senators, every year we invest in education for over 117,000
students on reserves. As I have said before in this place,
we have announced additional measures, such as early
literacy programming, to further improve educational
outcomes for First Nation students. Since 2006 we have
completed 263 school projects, including 33 new schools.
We will continue to work with the Aboriginal community to
take concrete steps to improve educational outcomes for
First Nation students. Of course, we have committed to
intensive consultation with First Nations on education
legislation. This commitment flows directly from the
recommendations of the national panel that was co-sponsored
by the Assembly of First Nations.
Obviously, as I have said before, honourable senators, it
is in the interests of us all in this country, especially
with our focus on jobs and the economy, to ensure that First
Nations students have the same opportunity as all Canadians.
We look forward to continuing this program and having
further input from the First Nations communities over the
coming weeks and months.
Senator Dyck: Honourable senators, at the same
committee meeting the former minister of AANDC, the
Honourable Andrew Scott, commented on the inadequate funding
formula used by the department. Referring to the province of
Saskatchewan, he said that in using and applying the exact
same formula used by the province to the demographics that
his department was dealing with, it was immediately apparent
how badly under-resourced First Nation education was in
Again, how does the Leader of the Government in the
Senate reconcile this with what the current Minister of
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and his
department now say about on-par funding? It just does not
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator would not
expect me to answer for a minister under a previous
government. I can only put on the record the substantial
effort and progress that has been made under this
government. I have no comment on the views of previous
ministers. I can only say that I do believe, as I stated a
moment ago, that the government has made significant effort
and has put significant resources into Aboriginal education,
including investment in the many students living on-reserve,
the building of many new schools and the upgrading of other
Senator Dyck: I thank the honourable senator for
her answer, although it does not really answer my question.
I will proceed nonetheless.
The Auditor General of Canada reported on the issue of
First Nations education in the 2004 and 2011 reports. In
2004 the Auditor General recommended that AANDC undertake a
review of all funding formulas for education and determine
the real cost drivers for the delivery of service on
reserves for comparable educational services. In 2011 the
Auditor General noted that no funding adjustments were made
after the review.
Why has the department not followed the Auditor General's
recommendation and adjusted the funding formulas to reflect
the reality of delivering equitable education on reserves?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator cites the
Auditor General's report in 2004 and I cannot answer for
that. I know when we formed government in 2006 it was
obvious this was an area in dire need of action. I would
argue strongly that the government has taken action. I
already put on the record the many steps that we have taken
and also that the minister and our government look forward
to continuing our work with First Nations communities over
the coming weeks and months with a view to even improving on
the many good things we have already done.