Crisis in post-secondary education for native students

April 20, 1989

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I urge you to intervene in the present crisis regarding post secondary education for Native Students.

The situation has grown much worse since I wrote to you on April 10th. A number of non-fasting students, the National Chief and other chiefs met with the Minister of Indian Affairs, the Hon. Pierre Cadieux, on April 18th. Little progress was made.

There is growing support across Canada among the non-Native population for the concerns being raised by the Native peoples. In order to bring a just resolution to the education crisis I urge you to instruct Mr. Cadieux to grant a moratorium on the new post secondary Student Assistance Program until a bilateral process between First Nations people and the Federal Government is set up to establish effective policy changes that will alleviate the concerns of Native peoples. I also urge you to recognize and consult with a National Native Students association on future education policy affecting Native peoples.

At present only 20 percent of Indian children complete their secondary school education while the national rate is 75 percent. In 1984 61 percent of the Native population was under the age of 25, compared to 39 percent for Canadians as a whole.

The aboriginal peoples are striving for self-government and self-reliance. To achieve those ends they need long-term comprehensive education programs, not short term restrictive policy decisions which ignore educational needs at all levels.

The aboriginal peoples are voicing their concerns about the new guidelines across Canada. I urge you to support their initiative to obtain a fairer post secondary education policy that better reflects their needs. Such a policy can only be achieved through more meaningful dialogue on First Nations jurisdiction over education and on the educational future of their youth.

I urge you to meet with First Nation leaders and the Native students to develop the meaningful dialogue necessary to understand their concerns and to end the students fast so that they are not forced to follow through with their action to the final outcome.

Yours sincerely,
Archbishop Michael G. Peers, Primate

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