This post is part of our co-presented blog series with The Circle, Reconciliation: A Call to Action for Canadians, and is provided by John Stanwyck, Director, Individual Giving and Donor Relations at Indspire. This multi-part blog series features stories and charities working with Indigenous Peoples on a variety topics and issues affecting Indigenous Peoples in today’s Canada.
We know that education offers tremendous returns beyond higher employment rates and wages. Education reduces poverty, improves health care outcomes, and contributes to the economic well-being of our country.
But for some, access to education isn’t as easy as showing up to class – it requires financial means, and Indigenous students can be left behind.
An Investment in Canada’s Future
There is a strong economic argument for educating Indigenous youth. First, increased education and increased employment will help break the expensive cycle of dependency on programs that don’t address the real issues that these youth face. On top of that, Canada is also facing a looming labour shortage, and given the number of Indigenous youth is growing more rapidly than any other group in our country, it is essential to Canada’s economic health that an educated, trained Indigenous labour force is available to deal with this labour shortage.
Acting now will pay dividends for all Canadians today and in our future. In fact, according to a 2015 study by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, closing the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous could add more than $261 billion to our economy. Closing the educational attainment gap alongside both the employment gap and the employment income gap would have a total economic impact of $335 billion in less than 15 years.
At Indspire, we know how important access to education is, and that it’s the key to breaking down barriers.
“With Indigenous youth being the fastest growing demographic in Canada today, our future doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and even politicians will come from this group. The biggest impediment to Indigenous education is lack of funding. One by one, Indigenous people are rising above and creating new lives for themselves, for their families, and for the generations that will follow.” – Dr. Cornelia (Nel) Wieman, M.D., FRCPC (Ojibwe, Little Grand Rapids First Nation)
Lack of Financing is the Key Barrier to Indigenous Student Success
According to 2011 data from Statistics Canada, 48 percent of Indigenous Peoples surveyed had a post-secondary qualification, compared to almost 65 percent of non-Indigenous students aged 25 to 64. Yet, when students receive support from Indspire, thanks to our donors and generous supporters, there is proof that financial support reaps strong benefits. The results of a recent survey showed that 96% of students who received support from Indspire earn a post-secondary credential, and 53% of those students go on to pursue a Master’s or PhD, while 42% go on to employment. It is these results that prove what we knew from the start: education is the doorway to a brighter future.
Myth-Busting: Indigenous Youth and Education Funding
There’s a myth among many Canadians who believe Indigenous students are guaranteed government funding for all of their education. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, from 2006 to 2011, more than 18,000 Indigenous students were denied funding, representing approximately half of those who qualified. Funding shortfalls often see priority given to shorter college programs over professional or graduate programs.
“Indspire is much bigger than a program or project, it is an approach, a way of being. We must invest in education now, and work toward ensuring equity of opportunity and outcome. These kids are our future. Now is our opportunity to support them.” – Kieran McMonagle, the first Graduation Coach practicing in Northern Ontario, an Indigenous Educator Award winner, and Peer Support: Educator Mentorship program participant (Métis)
Indspire invests in the education of Indigenous people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families, communities, and Canada. We focus on inspiring achievement, disbursing financial awards, delivering programs, and sharing resources with the goal of closing the gap in Indigenous education so that Indigenous youth and adults will achieve their highest potential. Together, we are focused on helping Indigenous students soar to new heights and open doors they never knew existed.
To learn more about Indspire, or to make a donation, visit their Charity Profile Page.