Federal budget funding for Indigenous students falls short

Liberals pledge $90 million for Indigenous student program, $110 million short of 2015 campaign promise

Indigenous students in Canada are getting an increase in funding as part of the Liberal’s 2017 federal budget, though less than what was promised on the election campaign trail.

The Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP), which provides funding for First Nations and eligible Inuit students to access post-secondary education, will get $90 million more over the next two years.

The announcement comes nearly two years after a Liberal election campaign promise to boost the PSSSP by $200 million over four years.

During a press conference at George Brown College’s Casa Loma campus on March 23, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was proud of the investments the government has made for Indigenous students.

“We know, and all Canadians know, that there is much work to be done to truly build a nation-to-nation relationship and to close the success gap, to make sure that we have parity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians,” said Trudeau. “And that’s something that we have committed to and we will continue to work on.”

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has been pressuring the Liberals on their promise to provide more funding for the PSSSP since it was announced in 2015.

CFS chairperson Bilan Arte noted that the announced increase, while welcome, won’t cover all eligible Indigenous students, which can be regarded as a violation of Canada’s nation-to-nation treaties with First Nations people.

“Regardless of what a party may believe politically about access to post-secondary education, access for Indigenous learners is an inherent treaty right,” said Arte.

She added that government can’t under fund Indigenous education, “without violating and breaking the treaties they made with First Nation and Indigenous peoples in this country at its foundation.”

Treaties one through seven signed between the Crown and First Nations in western Canada included provisions for providing education to Indigenous peoples.

“The partnership we have with the provinces and Indigenous communities on making sure that we are adequately funding education is a significant priority for us,” said Trudeau.

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Federal budget funding for Indigenous students falls short