Métis Nation Saskatchewan raises education concerns

By Mac Christie

Educational funding was once again a hot-button issue at a Métis Nation of Saskatchewan consultation meeting July 26 in Meadow Lake.

The specific issue is if a student graduates high school and enters a four-year university program, Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI), which provides financial support, cannot fund the student until the final two years or 64 weeks of the program.

Sandi Morin’s 18-year-old son Brett graduated high school this year, and was accepted into the University of Regina’s Bachelor of Education program at North West Regional College.

“I called GDI and I was told, ‘There’s no funding for Métis students until they’ve taken two years of a four-year program,'” she said. “So we’re trying the avenue of student loans, but I don’t know if we’re going to get approved. I don’t have the money just to pull out of my pocket for tuition.”

Cory McDougall, a director with GDI who focuses on finance, confirmed the institute can only pay for the final two years of a university-level program.

“The student would have to find their own funding for the first two years,” he said.

However, he noted that only applies for a university program. If the student is going to a technical program or a regional college program, they can receive money immediately.

He noted as part of its charter, GDI is unable to interact with students until they graduate high school. As well, their chosen program must include a job market attachment.

Métis Nation of Saskatchewan president Robert Doucette said GDI needs to look at changing its policy to allow students to get financing immediately.

“We have to change it because a lot of our kids are young and we have a lot of motivated kids coming out of high school,” he said. “They want to get their career on track right away, and a lot of our families don’t have a lot of money.”

Doucette added at one time Métis students were funded for four years of university, much like First Nations and Inuit students.

He noted this is not a new issue and heÕs asked the InstituteÕs CEO Geordy McCaffrey to raise it at GDIÕs next meeting.

Some at the July 26 meeting also raised the issue of ‘career students’, those who continually receive support without starting a career.

While McDougall said he couldn’t comment specifically because he wasn’t part of the selection process, he believes someone could receive training multiple times.

“I know we have limited resources and we try to ensure we help as many people as possible,” he said. “When people are serial trainers, that’s not consistent with our mandate.”

While McDougall said GDI is thankful for the funding they receive, they’re always looking for more.

“We want to see as much as we can for the Métis people of Saskatchewan.”

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