Source: C.D.Howe Institute – John D. Richards, Author
Summary: Quebec Aboriginal poverty is as severe as elsewhere in Canada. And in terms of education, Quebec Aboriginal outcomes are somewhat worse than comparable Canadian Aboriginal results, themselves a very low benchmark. This Commentary examines the relationship between these troubling benchmarks – education levels and employment earnings – for Quebec Aboriginals, comparing outcomes within the province’s various Aboriginal identity groups and with the rest of Canada.
While lively debates take place about how best to improve Aboriginal education, there is little disagreement on its priority as a goal. Holding constant the level of education, the employment rate is remarkably similar for the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population. The similarity holds in both Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Aboriginal educational results do not provide grounds for optimism – either in Quebec or in the rest of Canada. The overall Quebec Aboriginal dropout rate in the age 20-to-24 cohort is 43 percent, 28 points higher than for non-Aboriginals in Quebec, and three points higher than the Aboriginal dropout rate in the rest of Canada. Among the six provinces with more than 100,000 Aboriginals, Quebec ranks third in terms of incomplete high school: lower than Manitoba and Saskatchewan but higher than Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. Within Quebec, median Aboriginal 2005 earnings were two-thirds that for non-Aboriginals; median Inuit were below three-fifths.
In contrast to the scarring policies of the past, the goal of education reform is not to eliminate Aboriginal cultures. On the other hand, primary/secondary education is about more than cultural transmission – its goal is to impart core competencies in reading, writing, mathematics and science, necessary knowledge if Aboriginal students are to enjoy a realistic choice as adults between participation in Canada’s urban industrial society or a rural, more collective style of life. The study makes six broad recommendations to improve educational outcomes with that goal in mind.
This Commentary begins with a description of the distribution of the Quebec Aboriginal population, in terms of Aboriginal identity groups, and area of residence (on- or off-reserve, rural or urban). It also summarizes census information on income and earnings. The second part uses data from the latest census, in 2006, to benchmark Quebec Aboriginal education outcomes and compares them to outcomes among non- Aboriginals in the province. This benchmarking looks at intergenerational trends among cohorts aged 25 and older and outcomes among young Aboriginals aged 20-24. The Commentary’s final part discusses policy implications of these findings.