The Government of Canada announced their budget for 2017 on March 22 and a few changes from last year have been made.
Most importantly for Aboriginal students, the budget promises $90 million in funding over two years for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP). The program is a federal initiative that provides financial support to Indigenous students enrolled in post-secondary education.
In 2015, the Liberal government ran with an election promise to inject the program with $50 million annually, which wasn’t fulfilled until this year. The new plan falls short by about $5 million per year.
The government’s standing committee on finance and the Canadian Federation of Students recommended the government remove a two per cent funding cap initially placed on the PSSSP. Trudeau also campaigned on removing the cap on funding increases in his 2016 budget, but failed to do so in his first budget. The new budget removes the cap by increasing the funding.
The TRUSU equity committee has campaigned this semester to have the Trudeau government fulfill their pledge. The campaign had over 500 supporters send messages to the federal government, calling on them to fulfil their pledge.
TRUSU Aboriginal students’ representative James-Dean Aleck is hopeful for First Nations students, both current and future.
“So many people are being blocked off from taking the steps they need to try make a better future for themselves and their families by a wall of money. If we can help take down that wall, then it is something I feel we all should strive for,” Aleck said.
However, the fight for equality doesn’t end here for Aleck.
“What we do and plan to continue doing for Aboriginal issues goes beyond post-secondary. There are many problems with reserves, land issues and problems our people go through due to trauma caused by residential schools,” Aleck said.
“Take steps, no matter how small, towards a better future for everyone. After all, a small step is better than no step.”