“Project Hero” is a program recently introduced by the Canadian government to provide post-secondary education to the children of Canadian soldiers killed in the line of duty. Professors from the University of Regina were criticized for pointing out that “Project Hero” largely duplicates an existing program, Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act (CDVEAA). Veterans Affairs Canada states that recipients of CDVEAA grants are provided with $6,700 per year to help pay for their education and living expenses.
What is clear is that there are stark contradictions between the image the Canadian government has presented and the reality of its policy choices.
Canada is one of the few wealthy countries that maintain high tuition fees. Cuba, Brazil, Ireland, Wales and Scandanavian countries have zero tuition.
According to the 2009 Education Action Plan published by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), for under $1.6 billion dollars per year Canada could provide fully-funded post-secondary education with zero tuition fees and targeted grants for living expenses for all university students. According to the Alternative Federal Budget 2010 produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), Canada has spent approximately $15 billion to date in its war on Afghanistan.
A majority of Canadians have opposed Canada’s participation in the NATO occupation of Afghanistan since the beginning of our involvement in 2001. Polls also show that a vast majority of Canadians support increasing funding for post-secondary education and the reduction or elimination of tuition fees.
In Afghanistan, Canada has been supporting an oppressive government of fundamentalist mujahideen criminal warlords known as the Northern Alliance. Female Afghan MP, Malalai Joya, was banned from Afghanistan’s parliament for denouncing the criminals. Joya explains in her book, A Woman Among Warlords that the mujahideen first implemented the anti-woman extreme interpretation of Sharia Law in Afghanistan during the civil war from 1992-1996.
When the Taliban took power in Afghanistan they were largely greeted as liberators from the despotic rule of the very people who now form the Northern Alliance, although the Taliban’s rule continued the oppression. “We are still faced with foreign occupation and a US-backed government filled with warlords who are just like the Taliban. Instead of putting these ruthless murderers on trial for war crimes, the United States and its allies placed them in positions of power, where they continue to terrorize ordinary Afghans,” Joya says in her book.
Canada’s stated humanitarian reasons for its invasion of Afghanistan are unconvincing in the face of its ongoing colonial policies regarding First Nations. CFS reports that only 8% of Aboriginal people in Canada have a post-secondary degree compared to 23% of non-Aboriginal people. Canada is legally obligated to provide fully-funded access to post-secondary education to all Aboriginal people.
Poverty among First Nations is the direct result of over 500 years of genocidal and colonial policy including: the concentration of their nations onto reserves (a practice that informed Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany regimes); scalp bounties that rewarded the murder of indigenous men, women and children; abduction of children from their families to residential schools to destroy their languages and cultures; ongoing violations of treaty rights, and theft of land. No land in New Brunswick has ever been ceded or sold by the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet or Passamaquoddy.
Prior to 1992 funding for Aboriginal students was determined by the number of eligible students, and their expenses. Since 1997 funding for Aboriginal students has been capped at a 2% increase per year. With inflation and the population growth of First Nations, per capita funding for Aboriginal students has been declining every year. CFS estimates that between 2001 and 2008, 13,088 Aboriginal students were denied funding for post-secondary education.
Canada is limiting access to post-secondary education by systematically underfunding it. The children of Canadians working in the military deserve a free education, but they also deserve more. They deserve to have their parents. They deserve an end to our imperialist war in Afghanistan. First Nations and Afghans both deserve the right to self-determination and education. Peace, economic justice and education will not come through imperialist war.
For more information, contact the Fredericton Peace Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.frederictonpeace.org
Alex Corey is a member of the NB Media Co-op.