Myth: First Nations Get Free Education

Image: by Raysonho via Wikimedia commons

REALITY: Education is a treaty right for First Nations.

Treaty rights began with the signers, and continue on into the future. Canada received its treaty benefits, and continues to do so – use of land, lakes, rivers, natural resources. Canada will benefit from the treaties made with Indigenous Peoples far into the future.

The federal government is responsible for funding elementary, secondary and post-secondary First Nations education in Canada under the treaties. In contrast, the provinces fund public schools.

The funding formula for First Nations schools was created in 1988. It has not been revised or indexed to the cost of living since 1996. It ignores the following costs:

  1. the integration of technology
  2. school libraries
  3. vocational training in secondary schools
  4. extracurricular sports and recreational activities
  5. implementing provincial educational reforms, which are required of First Nations schools

These are costs that provinces provide their schools – the schools for the majority of Canada’s population.

This disparity in funding has led to difficulties for First Nations in providing competitive salaries and working conditions for their teachers, and put band councils in the position of deciding between vital services and deciding where to make budget cuts, so that their children can have a good education.

Posted January 2013


For further information visit the First Nations Education Council (FNEC):

Read the cbc article “Debunking the myth that all First Nations people receive free post-secondary education” published on January 29, 2016: