Watch above: Former prime minister says “its’ as dumb as anything” not to better educate aboriginal youth
SASKATOON – Former prime minister Paul Martin says it is crucial to Canada’s future to do a better job of educating First Nations and Metis youth.
“Aboriginal Canadians are the youngest and fastest growing segment of our population,” Martin told Global Saskatoon’s Morning News.
“That we would not educate them and give them the same opportunities that we have had, is first of all morally wrong, and economically its’ as dumb as anything,” Martin said. The former prime minister and finance minister was in Saskatoon speaking on aboriginal education.
“They are going to be the future of our country,” said Martin, “in many parts of the land, and certainly in Saskatchewan.”
Martin has devoted much of his post-political career working for better education for aboriginal youth. He has created the Martin Aboriginal Initiative, a non-profit organization that works with aboriginal organizations to improve education.
He believes much of the poverty in First Nations communities can be traced back to a lack of education.
“There are many answers, but the fundamental one is better education.”
Martin says Canadians can get involved as well, by asking the federal government to do a better job providing health care and education to kids in First Nations communities.
“Ottawa has insisted on controlling education (on reserve), and has done a lousy job of it,” said Martin. “There are tremendous aboriginal teachers, educators who aboriginal have got huge knowledge and could match anybody in the country and they’re not given a chance,” he said.
He says throughout North America there is a growing awareness that the best education systems are produced through local control.
He said on average First Nations schools get roughly half the funding per student of their provincial counterparts, and he says that’s got to change.
He believes if the country manages to create a better education system for First Nations kids, all of Canada will reap the benefits.
“If we do that, there is nothing that is going to hold Canada back,” said Martin.
Martin spoke at Mayfair United Church Thursday evening, and at the University of Saskatchewan Friday.