Joey Coleman: Who’s responsible for native education?

Who’s responsible for native education?

The federal and Ontario government, in a show of how dysfunctional our country can be, are fighting over which is responsible for funding native post-secondary education institutes.

Specifically, they are arguing over funding to the First Nations Technical Institute. FNTI is located on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville in Ontario and offers apprenticeship, college diploma, and university degree programs to the native community. The college diplomas are issued by one of five Ontario colleges, and the undergraduate degrees are offered by one of four Ontario universities. In effect, FNTI functions as a satellite campus on the reserve. They even offer a Masters degree in partnership with Ryerson University.

Recently, the federal government cut funding to the institution.

The federal government takes the position that it is “education funding.”****The constitution says education is a provincial jurisdiction therefore the province should be footing the bill for the operation of post-secondary institutions.

The provincial government takes a different position and says that post-secondary institutions on native reserves fall under the federal ministry dealing with native issues. The constitution says native affairs is a federal jurisdiction therefore the federal government should be footing the bill.

While the two levels of government squabble, students are left wondering what will happen at the end of the current academic term.

The institution has enough funds to end the present school year and without either level of government stepping forward to replace the cut funds, the institution will be forced to dramatically cut programs. Tuesday, the institution issued lay-off notices to staff. The institute, in a statement, said they hope to find government funding prior to the end of the term and that the issuance of layoff notices was done today to make the notice requirements under the law if they are unable to secure funding.

The institution is trying to get the federal government to restore the funds and is lobbying the province to increase its funding. The Ontario government only gives the institute one-fifth the per-student funding of the colleges and universities.

John Milloy, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities says the problem lays with the federal government. The current crisis would not exist if the federal government was not cutting funding. “I’m having a little trouble with the federal government which cuts funding to the institute and then somehow blames the province,” said Milloy.

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