Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

This is Part Three of three-part-series on Indigenous Funding and Finance in Canada. In Part One, I described methods that the federal government provided to fund Canadian Indigenous peoples on and off reserves. In Part Two, I explained why federal government’s funding and services are deficient and how they cannot keep pace with the growing Canadian Indigenous population. In this article, I will conclude with what I think would be the much-needed improvements for Indigenous Funding and Finance.

Much-needed improvements for Canadian Indigenous funding? A reform of #FirstNations education is most realistic. Proper funding and capacity of resources and administrative expertise would ensure quality education.

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Disastrous Situation: Any Hope for Improvement?

As I mentioned in my last article (Part Two), I argued that the federal government has not always focus on standards or result to be achieved, resulting in deficient services and resources for Canadian Indigenous peoples.By every measure, levels of poverty (50% of the children on reserve live in poverty), average life spans (life expectancy on the reserve is a decade less than other Canadians), inadequate housing (60 % of the reserve residents live in sub-standard housing), dramatically disproportionate levels of access to government services such as health care, education, and child protection, Indigenous peoples across this nation face livelihood issues that prevented them from succeeding in the contemporary world. Viewing over Canada’s history, the outcomes of Indigenous funding have been adverse, and in many cases, disastrous. So, is there any glimmer of hope for improvement?

Glimmer of Hope: First Nation Education System Reform

It is easy to list failures of Aboriginal funding and finance in Canada. However, it is difficult to do about failures. The complexities of colonial legacy and evolving legal decisions add to the challenge of reshaping the Indigenous and Canadian relationship. However, I believe that there is an idea worth considering.

In my opinion, the most realistic idea is the reformation of education for the Indigenous community. Like what Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” When it comes to keeping pace with improvement for Indigenous peoples, nothing is more critical than ensuring a system of education that helps them succeed in the contemporary world. The gap in educational outcomes between First Nation peoples and general population is stark. Compared to the 90 % of non-Indigenous Canadian aged 20-24 who received a high school diploma, the rate is 42 % of Indigenous people. Not surprisingly, the large gap causes disastrous aftermaths —  unemployment rate on reserves is 25 %, with 54 % dependent on government transfers as a primary source of income.

For all its shortcomings, the First Nation education is failing these children. A report by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in 2011 characterized this problem by saying:

“The federal role is not merely to fund First Nations educational services; it is to work, hand in glove, with First Nations to help build their educational capacity and institutions so that they are able to deliver an effective educational program to their students, comparable to provincial and territorial offerings.”

Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples

I agree with the report. Aside from the lack of proper funding, a lack of an appropriate administration system and a teaching staff in constant flux yield poor results on basic measures of expected educational outcomes. A Institute Paper by Michael Mendelson on First Nation Education: “Whole system reform is exactly what is urgently required for First Nations education…if they are to have a school system, and not just a collection of schools, full control and ownership of schools must be vested in First Nations school boards and not individual bands.

Many schools on reserves operate independently, lacking coherence among funding arrangements and public oversight through school board elections to ensure quality education. I firmly believe that the First Nation education system urgently needs not only proper funding to maintain but also requires a proper capacity of resources and administrative expertise to provide children with the best education and resources available.


In conclusion, I believe that idea of a reformed First Nations school education is the most realistic idea which the federal government should take into consideration. Indeed reformation of First Nation education is part of improving a more fruitful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. However, it is also a realization that outcomes show Canadians that the current federal funding and financial system are failing Indigenous people.


Board, National Aboriginal Economic Development, and desLibris – Documents. Aboriginal Economic Progress Report 2015. National Aboriginal Economic Development Board, Place of publication not identified, 2015.

desLibris – Documents, and Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. Reforming First Nations Education: From Crisis to Hope. Canada. Senate Committee Reports, Place of publication not identified, 2011.

MacDonald, David, Macdonald, and desLibris – Documents. Poverty Or Prosperity: Indigenous Children in Canada. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2013.

Mendelson, Michael, et al. Why we Need a First Nations Education Act. Caledon Institute of Social Policy, Place of publication not identified, 2009.

McCue, Harvey. “Op-Ed: First Nations Elementary & Secondary School Education – A National Dilemma.” Critical Social Work, vol. 19, no. 2, 2018, pp. 111-123.

“Rat-infested home underscores housing issues on First Nations, chief says”. CBC News Canada. 2016. Accessed 29 September 2021.

PICARD, ANDRE. “Native Health Care is a Sickening Disgrace: Second Opinion.” The Globe and Mail. 2005. Accessed 29 September 2021.



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