Background Content

Education (6-12)

National Indigenous Economic Development Board

June 10, 2019

The 2019 Indigenous Economic Progress Report. National Indigenous Economic Development Board (NIEDB)
The report concludes that while the overall economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples are improving in Canada, this is only to varying, and sometimes small degrees. Given the pace of improvements, outcomes are not on track to meet the 2022 targets of economic parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
“The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employment rates has remained essentially unchanged at 8.4 percentage points in 2016 and, for university completion rates, the gap actually grew to 18.8% with a 1.7 percentage point increase,” said Ms. Dawn Madahbee Leach, NIEDB Vice-Chair. “First Nations populations on reserve also continue to demonstrate persistent and sometimes worsening outcome deficits in terms of employment rates, income, and educational levels.”

The Indigenous Economic Progress Report presents a thorough, in-depth analysis of the economic realities of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Using 13 measures, it assesses three core indicators: employment, income and community well-being. Using 19 additional measures, it also examines five underlying indicators of economic success: education, entrepreneurship and business development, governance, lands and resources, and infrastructure.

Eleven measures are new to the 2019 progress report, such as workforce representation, enhanced income and educational attainment measures, crowding and condition of housing, and community financial certification. The 2019 report also presents the results of gender analysis and introduces two new NIEDB composite indices on Economic Development and Infrastructure. Below are the “Education” recommendations:

  • The Board would like to stress the importance of improving educational opportunities for the Indigenous population, especially First Nations on reserve. In this regard, a well-funded education system is essential and the development of strong basic skills (literacy and numeracy) in the early grades should be a top priority.
  • Supports for community-based education must recognize the challenges faced by Indigenous students who must leave the community to attend high school and prioritize their physical and mental health, as well as cultural supports both where they attend high school and within the community to ensure ongoing student success.
  • Given the high levels of college/trades completion, bridging programs to support students who wish to upgrade these certifications towards university degrees would fast track higher levels of education and employment opportunities. Such programs currently exist in some colleges to give credit for 1-2 year programs towards university degree requirements and expansion would further assist Indigenous students towards the attainment of higher education levels.
  • Universities in each of the 3 Northern territories would support students in reducing the high costs and long distances currently required to attend university and increase the availability of a highly educated talent pool in the North. Yukon College is transitioning to Yukon University in 2020, Aurora College in the Northwest Territories is examining the feasibility of transitioning to Northern Canada Polytechnic University, and Arctic College in Nunavut is following recommendations to continue partnering with southern universities rather than pursue a university in Nunavut. In the interim, investment in distance education programs to assist remote students with obtaining higher levels of education would remove some barriers of expense and distance.
  • Ongoing and expanded scholarship funding for Indigenous students pursuing post-secondary education would reduce financial barriers and encourage higher educational attainment rates.