OTTAWA, April 17th, 2023 - Indigenous student leaders from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) will be on Parliament Hill this week to advocate for better accessibility for Indigenous learners across the country. Representatives from CASA’s National Indigenous Advocacy Committee (NIAC) will be presenting to the House Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAN) and meeting with parliamentarians over the next two days.
“Indigenous learners have faced systemic, cultural, and financial barriers to higher education for decades. While 130,000 Indigenous individuals are eligible to enroll in post-secondary, only 1 in 5 eligible students receive funding through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP),” said Shannon Cornelson, NIAC Co-Chair. “Under the Numbered Treaties, the federal government has the responsibility to ensure Indigenous students have the opportunities and resources they need to access post-secondary education.”
Alongside this event, CASA is also releasing its latest report titled: ‘Reclaiming and Reimagining’, which examines post-secondary accessibility for Indigenous learners across the country, and the significant cultural, social, and economic barriers that they are experiencing.
“Our Reclaiming and Reimagining report identifies plenty of opportunities that the federal government can take to significantly improve accessibility for thousands of Indigenous learners,” said Stevie-Rae DeMerchant, NIAC Co-Chair. “This means enhancing existing student aid programs, better supporting Indigenous institutes and researchers, and improving labour market outcomes for Indigenous learners while respecting Treaty rights.”
Other highlights from the Reclaiming & Reimagining report include:
- The Indigenous population forms the youngest and fastest-growing demographic across the country, with an estimated 130,000 individuals eligible to attend post-secondary education this year.
- However, many federal funding programs continue to operate under racial biases first identified in the Indian Act, providing funding solely towards “Status Indian” individuals while excluding many other Indigenous groups, including Métis and Inuit students.
- The Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) currently represents nearly 93% of all federal funding towards Indigenous learners, but funds only 1 in 5 eligible students.
- While the Indigenous Skills and Employment (ISET) program aims to boost Indigenous participation in the workforce, it fundamentally compromises Indigenous treaty rights by tying funding to labour market outcomes.
Anticipating growth in the number of eligible Indigenous learners, CASA envisions a future in which all eligible Indigenous students have access to opportunities to access post-secondary studies across the nation. CASA encourages the federal government to increase investments in the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP), as well as remove labour market indicators from existing ISETs agreements in order to better protect Indigenous treaty rights.
Established in 1995, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is a non-partisan, not-for-profit national student organization composed of 22 student associations across the country. Through our partnership with the Quebec Student Union/Union étudiante du Québec, CASA represents 365,000 post-secondary students across Canada.
The National Indigenous Advocacy Committee (NIAC) is a national advocacy body within CASA, composed of Indigenous students from across Turtle Island. This group represents Indigenous students’ advocacy interests within CASA and believes that access to post-secondary education is an inherent treaty right, guaranteed under the Numbered Treaties (1871-1921). NIAC’s mission is to ensure Indigenous students are being given opportunities to enter and succeed in post-secondary, as well as to advocate for increased action to meet the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.
Canadian Alliance of Student Associations
Max Greer, Communications and Creative Content Officer
Email: [email protected]