For years indigenous students were faced with a shrinking pool of funds to access post-secondary institutions, but there’s some relief on the way.
Before the 2017 federal budget was announced yesterday, there was a specific question on the radar: will the federal government follow through on their promise to eliminate the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) cap?
In the budget, the government committed to “renewing Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples and making real progress on the issues that matter most to them.”
The PSSSP was created years ago to help fund indigenous students’ endeavours to achieve a post-secondary education. However, a cap was established and funds have not increased with inflation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ran his campaign on the promise to eliminate this cap and provide the fund with $50 million per year. However, last year’s budget did not live up to that promise.
This year, student groups like the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) noted that they would be paying special attention to the implementation of this promise.
In a sense, their wishes did come true. The federal government has proposed to increase funding to the PSSSP, essentially removing the cap. However, the government has only allocated $90 million over a two-year period, meaning that they fall short of their pledge by $5 million per year.
Anne-Marie Roy, national deputy chairperson of the CFS, spoke out on this.
“We know that there are currently 10,000 indigenous learners who are on a wait list to have access to the PSSSP,” said Roy. “So while this is a welcomed announcement, we know that we need to keep working to make sure that all, that education as a treaty right is fully upheld by our federal government.”
Jamie Cleary, University Students' Council vice-president, notes that although steps have been taken in the right direction, it’s important to stay on top of the issue.
“I think one of the questions that we have to look at is there’s no mention directly to the funding cap. So it’ll be important moving forward to look into after the two years of funding, what happens after that,” Cleary says.
Whatever the case moving forward, aspiring indigenous students in Canada now have much more to look forward to in the near future.