On Tuesday March 16, in Question Period, I asked about the implications of Bill 64,the Education Modernization Act for Indigenous education in Manitoba. My comments and the Premier's response are below (from Hansard).
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, in 309 pages, Bill 64, the new education act, uses the words Indigenous and reconciliation only once; the word First Nation only three times; and the words Métis and Inuit are never used.
For years, there has been an important partnership between the provincial education system and Indigenous education system, and yet it is not adequately described.
I ask the Premier to withdraw this bill and to rewrite it to better include the relationship with Indigenous people, to mandate learning about the history, culture and languages of Indigenous peoples, and to address the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): I do sincerely appreciate the member raising the issue of our Indigenous students.
Our Indigenous young people have been short-changed for years under the system. It needs to improve. It needs to improve markedly. The drop-out rates for Indigenous students are absurdly high, and it's totally unacceptable. We need to take major steps and major actions. A number of these–as the member might have known if he had reviewed–bothered to review the report–were addressed in the report fully.
And, in fact, in our consultation, there was extensive consultation with Indigenous groups, individuals concerned about making sure that we change our system for the better for Indigenous young people. This is one of the cornerstones of the purpose for these reforms. It is to make sure that we get back to an equality of opportunity in our province, something we have deprived Indigenous people and others of for too long.
And it's an important motivation–it should be an important motivation for all of us; it most certainly will be for us going forward. And I'd ask the member for River Heights to depart from his leader's absurd arguments and move in a supportive way to improving the quality of education for all of our children in this province.