Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Sooner or later – actually, sooner – the politicians and the reporters and the Red Cross will leave Attawapiskat, the temporary fixes will run out or run down, and things will return to the old, awful, normal.

Any hope for real change will depend on whether two reports coming out over the next few weeks succeed in convincing the Harper government that the time has come for powerful reform of native education.

As with so many other reserves, the schools at Attawapiskat, a remote reserve on the edge of James Bay in Northern Ontario, are bare bones and run down. Lousy or non-existent schools are part, though only part, of the reason why 60 per cent of status Indian children never finish high school.

Story continues below advertisement

Native education in Canada is simply a string of disasters. There's no need here to recite again the ills of the residential schools system; its replacement – on-reserve schools funded by Ottawa and run by local band councils – haven't done much better.

This is more than a tragedy; it's a waste, since half of all native Canadians are under 25, while the rest of Canada is growing older and in need of skilled young workers.

But a new way of educating natives on reserves is gaining increasing attention. In Nova Scotia and British Columbia, native school boards are pooling resources, supervising on-reserve schools and overseeing a curriculum that meets provincial standards while also emphasizing native languages, culture and history. These native school boards are starting to deliver promising results.

An education panel jointly commissioned by the Harper government and the Assembly of First Nations is expected to recommend similar boards across the country when it reports in the first week of February.

The Senate aboriginal affairs committee will release its own report in December. The senators have been talking to the same people that the education panel has been talking to, and are expected to reach a similar conclusion.

Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the AFN, is convinced that comprehensive national education reform is crucial to breaking the cycle of native poverty.

"We really do need some sort of transformation," he said in an interview Tuesday. "We need to smash the status quo."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Atleo is meeting Stephen Harper later this week to discuss the situation at Attawapiskat.

But the crucial meeting will come next year when the Prime Minister meets with aboriginal leaders.

Mr. Harper has let it be known that he is prepared to put new money into native education, but only if he can be convinced it will deliver results.

There is a window here. The misery of Attawapiskat has refocused attention on the desperate need to break the spiral of aboriginal poverty, poor health and educational failure.

Beyond the moral urgency is cold-blooded logic: Canada simply can't afford to waste the labour potential of an educated native workforce.

Decent on-reserve schools, properly equipped and staffed with high-quality teachers, supported by professional school boards that employ a rigorous but culturally appropriate curriculum: If the Conservatives spent real money to make even some of that possible, it would be Nixon going to China and then some.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies