Compelling Need

First Nations and Métis individuals in Saskatchewan have the potential to have a greater social and economic impact on the province.  Currently, Aboriginal people have lower formal education rates and lower levels of employment, on average.  Employing Aboriginal People at a rate equivalent to the non-Aboriginal population would boost the economy by $1.8 billion, or 2.6 per cent, by 2035.  It would also have broad social effects on individuals, family, and society.

For the increased social and economic benefits to be realized, key stakeholders need to make priority investments in two areas: high school completion and school-to-work transitions.The Conference Board of Canada – Priority Investments in Saskatchewan’s First Nations and Métis People, September 2013


The Province of Saskatchewan

At no other time in the province’s recent history have the economic, social and cultural conditions aligned in such a way as to allow Saskatchewan’s government, business, community, and Aboriginal leaders to articulate a shared vision of the future and pursue active investment in that future.  In order to realize this potential, the province must improve the educational outcomes and school-to-work transitions of its First Nations and Métis populations.[1]

Disparity in education and employment outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan remains one of the province’s largest challenges.  The employment disparity is driven by difference in education outcomes, specifically graduation rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.  In 2014, only 40.3% of self-declared Aboriginal students graduated ‘on-time’ (within three years of entering Grade 10), compared to 83.2% of non-Aboriginal students.

Over the five year period from 2013 – 2017, the Saskatchewan economy is projected to create an estimated 94,500 employment opportunities.  Nine out of every ten (90%) of these opportunities will require at least a high school diploma with one–third requiring a post-secondary certificate, diploma or apprenticeship trade and one-third are management and university degree related opportunities.[2]

Central to Saskatchewan’s future prosperity is the need to meaningfully engage and integrate First Nations and Métis populations.  They must be a major player in the province’s new economic and social fabric.  Saskatchewan has a young and growing Aboriginal population.  By 2030, it is estimated that one in every four new entrants to the labour force will be aboriginal.[3]


The Social Issue

While Canada’s provincial high school dropout rates range between 25 – 30%, in affluent communities, that number decreases to 6 – 11%. In low-income communities, where residents are more likely to be immigrants, Aboriginal or single-parent families, the rate can soar to over 70%.[4]

Research confirms that high school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, tend to commit more crime, have higher incidents of illness and drug use, and tend to rely more on social assistance.

Although Mother Teresa Middle School is not restricted to Aboriginal students, currently 70% of MTMS students are of Aboriginal ancestry and it is expected that number will increase in future years.  All MTMS students are at-risk because of socio-economic status and other complex issues, but there is a particular focus on the demographic of Aboriginal and immigrant youth.

Aboriginal students have lower achievement levels and lower graduation rates than the Saskatchewan student population as a whole. These lower levels of educational attainment can be attributed to colonialism - to the systematic racism, marginalization and poverty that First Nations and Métis people experience as a result of being colonized. Along with low educational achievement, the results of this historical experience are poor economic and living conditions, high suicide, unemployment, and incarceration rates, and poor health[5].

The Aboriginal population of Regina is very young and steadily increasing. As the Regina Priority Population Study 2011 states, 35% are under 15 years of age compared with 18% for the general population. As another indicator, Aboriginal people make up 18% of Regina children but only 2% of Regina seniors.[6]

The increasing population of Aboriginal youth combined with a low Grade 12 graduation rate of self-identified Aboriginal students graduating 'on-time' and inter-generational effects of Residential School systems makes this a vulnerable population. Residential School survivors suffer long term impacts of being removed from parental role models, traditional practices and safe, loving environments and this is carried down to their kids, now our students.

[1] The Conference Board of Canada, Priority Investments in Saskatchewan’s First Nations and Métis People, 2013

[2] Saskatchewan Ministry of the Economy, Detailed Occupational Outlook 2013-17

[3] Sask Trends Monitor, The Saskatchewan Labour Force Supply 2008, 55.

[4] Pathways to Education - PHAC, The Social Determinants of Health

[5] Berger & Epp, 2006

[6] Regina City Priority Population Study, Study #1 – Aboriginal People, August 2011