Opposition calls for commitment on First Nation education

Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 7:16 PM ET

OTTAWA - Opposition parties and the Assembly of First Nations are calling for the government to put its money where its mouth is regarding First Nation education.

The NDP, the Liberals and AFN will be watching closely to see if the Conservatives' upcoming budget features additional funding for First Nations education.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced this week the government will unveil its budget on March 29.

"We have to be hopeful," said the NDP's aboriginal affairs critic Linda Duncan. "All we can do is wait and see."

The AFN has said it would cost about $500 million more a year to bring reserve schools up to provincial standards.

National Chief Shawn Atleo says ensuring quality First Nations education, along with honouring treaty rights, are two of "the most vital steps Canada must take in realizing the potential of aboriginal people."

Earlier this week, all parties supported an NDP motion in honour of a young aboriginal girl from Attawapiskat First Nation who rallied the government for action on the issue.

Shannen Koostachin led a campaign to call on the Tories to create a school in her community and to provide equal access to education for reserve children, but she died in a car accident in 2010.

In the government's throne speech, it promised to "engage with partners to make concrete, positive changes to give First Nations children a better education so that they can realize their dreams."

Earlier this month, a national panel commissioned by the AFN and the federal government issued a report on aboriginal education. It called for specific measures, including a First Nation Education Act and a national commission on aboriginal education.

A recent senate report featured similar recommendations.

Kristy.Kirkup@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @kkirkup


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