Of all the 94 recommendations contained in the federal Truth and Reconciliation commission’s report outlining the history and effects of residential schools on aboriginal people in Canada, the most important relate to education.
In its call for improved education for aboriginal peoples the commission is not alone. Studies over the years have pointed to the gap between educational opportunities for aboriginals compared to others.
While much has been done (in B.C. the gap is closing between the percentage of aboriginal youth graduating from high school compared to other students) the overall result remains that a considerable number of Canadians are improperly prepared for the complex nature of modern society.
Education is the great leveller of any society. From a common base of reading, writing, math, geography, knowledge of a country’s history and its peoples comes the opportunity for individual achievement and ultimately, success.
Former Assembly of First Nations leader Shawn Atleo said as much in 2012: “When our young people do complete high school, they’re twice as likely to get a job. When they graduate from university, their earnings triple.”
How to change the way things are now will continue to be the subject of debate and study. But to waste the potential of hundreds of thousands of Canadians cannot continue.