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Atlantic Universities Pledge to Reach Out to Aboriginal Students

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In a deal thought to be the first of its kind in Canada, First Nations leaders and universities in Atlantic Canada signed a memorandum of understanding on March 17 to beef up educational opportunities for aboriginal youngsters, CBC News and other media reported.

The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs and the 12-member Association of Atlantic Universities signed the historic agreement designed to encourage aboriginal people to continue schooling beyond the secondary level, CBC News said.

Besides helping Canada’s aboriginal youth get ahead, the move should also provide employees to Canadian business, the executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress said, according to CBC News.

"You don't have to go halfway around the world to find people to come work in Atlantic Canada — we're just down the street," said John Paul, the executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress. "We're like your next-door neighbors. We're not moving anywhere to go anywhere to get employment and we see the direct benefits, the direct contributions. What we do to help our communities helps all the communities in Atlantic Canada."

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The Canadian Conference Board has noted that aboriginal youth comprise the fastest-growing segment of the country’s population, especially in the north. The federal government and aboriginal groups have made education a priority, pushing ahead with various programs to enhance educational opportunities at all levels. That has included meetings between provincial, First Nations and administration officials from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration.

"Historically, Aboriginal people have experienced challenges in accessing post-secondary education and research opportunities and this unique partnership is an innovative approach in the Atlantic region for all involved,” said the groups in a statement quoted by the Times & Transcript newspaper. “The signing of the MOU, the first of its kind in Canada, is a significant achievement in the Atlantic region and it will help support long-term collaboration and capacity-building in economic development research," the groups said in a statement yesterday.