Last week BC Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside announced back-to-school plans for the K-12 sector in September. Once again, the province and the Minister have woefully neglected the needs of MÔ©tis students. Even though MÔ©tis people represent one-third of the Indigenous population, distinctions-based funding is rarely, if ever, applied by the BC Government when it comes to funding Indigenous governments.

The announcement June 17 stated there will be $5 million allocated to Indigenous students, however, it neglected to include details that only 0.8% of this will be allocated to MÔ©tis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) and our 38 Chartered Communities around the province.

The funding, if split between MNBC’s 38 Chartered Communities, would amount to a paltry $1,052 per community. In the province’s K-12 Education Recovery Plan, it states, “Boards/authorities are expected to collaborate with local First Nations, MÔ©tis Chartered communities and Indigenous communities on any changes/updates to the delivery of any programs including Indigenous language and culture services.”

According to the BC Government’s own draft action plan released just last week in response to the Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in BC:
“Distinctions-based: The design and implementation of the action plan reflects that First Nations, MÔ©tis and Inuit are distinct peoples with unique cultures, histories, rights and legal traditions in what is now B.C., and the Province’s relationship with each will reflect their respective rights, interests, priorities and circumstances.”

“Not even a week after the BC Government releases their draft action plan, to see this level of disregard for MÔ©tis students is disheartening and it should be acknowledged,” says Debra Fisher, MNBC Minister of Education.

“Throughout the action plan you see distinction-based funding highlighted, so why is the government not following its own advice when it comes to working with Indigenous governments?”

This is another clear and persistent example of the inequities that MÔ©tis people face in the province of BC. MÔ©tis youth continue to have lower education outcomes and graduation rates than non-Indigenous students. On the heels of an open letter from MNBC’s Cabinet to the Premier, where MNBC highlighted the tragic case of MÔ©tis children in care, BC continues to ignore and forget MÔ©tis children and youth.

“The MÔ©tis Nation is supportive of the government’s decision to provide new funds to BC’s First Nations to ensure they have the resources necessary on the ground to ensure the back to school plan is a success,” says Fisher. “However, to essentially shut out MÔ©tis students in BC is a huge step backward in our relationship with the provincial government and I’m hoping the Premier and Minister Whiteside will reconsider their decision.”

Debra Fisher
MNBC Minister of Education