Indigenous educational attainment and reconciliation

The escalating cost of tuition makes access to high-quality education out of reach for too many students—and disproportionality so for First Nations, Inuit and Métis students. Coupled with the legacy of colonialist policies, the persistent issues faced by Indigenous youth in the child welfare system, daily and systemic racism, and decades of underfunding by the federal government, Indigenous students face significant barriers in attaining college or university education.

“[Indigenous students] feel that a large part of their financial needs go unmet and they require funding that helps with housing, food and childcare. They said this would help them deal with the impacts of not having their community, family and cultural supports close at hand, as some students travel from fly-in communities and geographically distant places.”[1]

Many Indigenous students who receive funding are not provided enough to complete a diploma or a degree.

“Only 37% of people with Aboriginal identity aged 25-64 have a college diploma or university degree, compared to overall attainment of 54% among Canadians within the same age bracket.”[2]

Indigenous peoples have an inherent to education, including post-secondary education,   as enshrined in Treaties, the Canadian Constitution, and international agreements. Reconciliation in the education sector further entails a recognition of historic wrongs committed against First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities in Canada, and a commitment to undertake proactive measures aimed at restoring, renewing, and re­generating Indigenous practices, languages, and knowledge.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples underscore the importance of funding education and providing for culturally relevant and appropriate learning. To make reconciliation meaningful in Canada, the federal government must provide adequate funding to close the gap in Indigenous post-secondary educational attainment, and commit to working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and urban Indigenous peoples to ensure they are included in discussion and decisions over education.

Our solution

Invest in Indigenous education

While the federal government has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure access to education, financial barriers prevent many Indigenous people from attaining post-secondary education. Under the current federal programs, including the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, the Inuit Post-Secondary Education Strategy, Métis Nation Post-Secondary Education Strategy, and the University and College Entrance Preparation Program, funding is limited and not all students may be funded. The top-up to these programs was capped at an annual 2 per cent growth in 2016, even as inflation and population growth exceeded these benchmarks. As a result, the programs are falling short in addressing the backlog of Indigenous students wanting to access post-secondary education.

  • Invest $650 million annually to bridge the existing funding deficiencies in Indigenous post-secondary educational attainment and access, and to  develop and expand culturally appropriate Indigenous post-secondary education systems and models.

[1] Indspire. “Post-Secondary Experience of Indigenous Students Following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Summary of Survey Findings.” (2018)

[2] Statistics Canada. Table 37-10-0099-01. (2016).