Dr. Eugene Richard Atleo, the father of National Chief Shawn Atleo and the first B.C. aboriginal person to earn a doctorate was recently honoured by the B.C. Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association http://www.fnesc.ca/iahla/ .

In reviewing the Association’s website, I was surprised to find that much of the data regarding Labour Market Information has not been updated since 2005 and that although trade opportunities were offered, most of the institutions seemed to be emphasizing cultural and academic programs.

As important as these loftier pursuits are, if the majority of aboriginal children are continued to be raised in overcrowded and poorly maintained housing with their most basic needs not being met, very few will ever be able to overcome the challenges and achieve a higher education.

More emphasis must be given now to training young men and women on the reserves, especially the isolated ones, in the basic trades of carpentry, electrical, plumbing and health care. This should be on-the-job practical training provided near their home, preferably on the reserves, and not in far off institutions like the residential schools of the past.

Only when aboriginal people have decent living conditions that are built and maintained by themselves, will they be able to provide the positive learning environment necessary for their best and brightest to blossom in the future.