High School

The aboriginal affairs minister on First Nations schools

A Q&A with John Duncan

Today in Question Period, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan fielded questions on the consultation he’s launched into education in First Nations communities.

Duncan also discussed that subject briefly earlier this month in an interview with Maclean’s for this story. As the education file gains prominence, here are his answers, edited and condensed, on some key points up for debate:

Q Isn’t funding for First Nations education just too low?

A Because First Nations schools are in small, remote communities they require a higher per student expenditure to be at an equivalent level.

We’ve committed to developing a formula on First Nations funding that will be based on the same principles that the provinces have for their student base. And provinces accept that costs aren’t the same everywhere, they cost more in smaller more remote jurisdictions.

Q Some critics have called for closer links between First Nations schooling and the provincial eduction systems. Is that the ultimate answer?

A The provinces are the experts on delivering education, we are not. So they offer a good example of how to do things. But we’re not saying we have to have the First Nations education system tied in with the provincial system.

But we see that that’s a natural response in many cases. So we’re encouraging aggregation wherever possible.  We’re looking at the ability of economies of scale for curriculum development, for procurement, for teacher certification.

Q Does the approach need to be overhauled from coast-to-coast?

There are examples, like the Mohawk schools where they have their own system in place. They’ve got curriculum, teacher certification, and student outcomes in a very good place. We are in no way trying to impede or impair those successful models. We’ve got a province-wide successful model in Nova Scotia, and a tri-partite agreement in British Columbia. We want to bring all the good results to bear nationally.