Recently the Trudeau government was also accused for not funding enough to the Aboriginal programs as promised. According to CBC News, the Liberal government has committed to spend $2.6 billion over five years— not the promised four. The fund is also heavily back-loaded, with 25 per cent of it not set to place until 2020-21.
According to PIAAC, the lack of improvement in education will result in a growing skills shortage in Canada, which will undermine the workforce ability to remain competitive in the global economy.
“It’s frustrating to think of what the government has been doing,” Angalik said, “Those children living on the reserve don’t have that many years to wait.”
While the government is not doing enough to solve the problem, organizations in the society have started to make some changes. The Red Fox Healthy Living Society has launched new recreational programs to create more opportunities for Aboriginal youth. “The program is designed with a goal to help Aboriginal youth develop the leadership, employment and life skills they need to overcome barriers to success,” said Sarah Coxon, communications manager of the Red Fox Healthy Living Society.
Frontier College, a national literacy organization, started offering Aboriginal Summer Literacy Campus since 2005. They provided free summer camps to more than 6000 Aboriginal children in 2015.
“By offering a fun and supportive learning environment, the camps foster a love of reading that leads to increased confidence and social skills,” said Meredith Roberts, manager of media relations at Frontier College.
Effects of poor education have already shown in statistics. According to Statistic Canada, the employment rate for Aboriginal people with less than a high school diploma fell by 5.5 percentage points to 47.7% from 2008 to 2009, while it’s 79.4% for those who graduated from university. While the unemployment rate for Aboriginals is still five times higher than non-native residents, having a higher education is more likely to get the Aboriginals a job.
Although the residential-school system is gone, it continues to create deep distrust toward education in many Aboriginal communities given its history as a cultural assimilation tool.
Mohawk Institute Residential School
“I don’t learn nothing from school, I learned everything by myself after I dropped out of school,” said Shoo, “What’s the point of going?”
In Angalik’s family his parents don’t value education in schools as much either. “My father went to residential school as a kid and he doesn’t trust the education system,” Angalik said, “He told me he learned more skills out of school which he could make a living.” However, Angalik doesn’t agree with his father’s opinion on education and he is worried about the current education situation in his community.
Children don’t have a reversible childhood, without proper education their lives will likely be driven to a harder path. What the Aboriginal youth need the most, is more attention from the government to have a better education system and sufficient funding. Although Aboriginal people hold a privilege for having free education, it won’t be as important if the system itself is bad.
“If you can give young people the initiative and the opportunity to see it, it’s possible to pull yourself out of it,” Angalik said,
“You don’t have to be condemned from day one just because you were born on a reserve.”
However, for many Aboriginal children the incomplete education system is still the harsh reality they have to face in life and how those in power decide to act on it is still in question.