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by Ntawnis Elyse Piapot

There will be more support for Aboriginal students to graduate this year. “We know it’s important that First Nations and Métis get the post-secondary training they need to succeed,” said Finance Minister Ken Krawetz during his budget address.

“There’s a ton of money for First Nations, for Métis and people in northern Saskatchewan,” added First Nations and Metis Initiatives Minister Ken Cheveldayoff after the budget speech. 

There will be a total of $48.6 million for direct support for First Nation’s and Métis education. This is a $7 million increase for education and employment outcomes for aboriginal people.

“This includes for aboriginal retention coordinators to ensure aboriginal student success. It also includes funding for addictions programs,” said Krawetz.

FSIN Chief Guy Lonechild seemed pleased with the initiative.

“A lot of it is directed towards skill development,” he said.

The provincial budget increased funding to the adult basic education programs. Still, improvement is needed from the beginning of First Nation’s education.

“We’re going to start looking at how to improve kindergarten to Grade 12, post secondary outcomes and labour force attachment,” said Lonechild.

This budget speaks to what the road ahead for education could look like in the future in Saskatchewan, said Lonechild.

The funding will also offer the ABE program within student’s home communities.Funding is needed for urban students who take the program as well.

“(This budget means) when they do pursue education in urban centres, they get the support they need,” said Lonechild.

There will also be an increase in the Provincial Training Allowance.

“The young moms need help who are attending post-secondary. Northern parts of Saskatchewan need help in terms of affordable housing,’ said Lonechild.

This budget hits on all aspects of where there needs to be better education outcomes for First Nations and Métis people, said Lonechild.

“A real highlight for me is the initiative regarding children in Saskatchewan, to address the needs of children like they have never been done before,” said Cheveldayoff.

There are seven different ministries involved with this initiative. Together they have put $34 million to improve the child welfare system.

“The Manitoba government has looked at devolving the child welfare responsibility to First Nations. We think this budget will start priming Saskatchewan in that direction so there will be actual change in the child welfare system,” said Lonechild.

“Instead of an apprehension model, we’re going to start looking at prevention supports so that children can stay with their families,” said Lonechild.

Above: Students at the First Nations University campus in Regina, February 2011.
Photo by: Ntawnis Piapot