Literacy groups warn federal cuts will set adult learning back decadesUncategorized
Literacy groups are demanding that the federal government put back the $17.7 million cut from adult literacy programs _ and then some.
The Harper Conservatives announced the cuts recently as part of a plan to slash $1 billion in federal spending.
The cuts have sent shockwaves through the learning community, says Wendy DesBrisay with the Movement for Canadian Literacy.
“The cuts will decimate the infrastructure built co-operatively by all levels of government and the literacy community and will set us back years in our ability to meet the literacy challenges of Canadians,’’ DesBrisay told a news conference Wednesday.
The money was cut from programs that provided outreach to potential learners, professional development for educators, curriculum development and research.
The Tories rationalize the cuts by saying they want to focus instead on better teaching children how to read and write, Treasury Board President John Baird said last week.
He noted that governments need to more effectively use the $20 billion they already spend on educating younger Canadians.
“This is repair work after the fact,’’ Baird said of adult literacy programs. “We’ve got to (have a) much greater focus on ensuring we get it right from the get-go, with the first $20 billion, rather than doing it after the fact.’’
Patricia Ashey, who learned to read as an adult, knows all too well the lifelong struggle Canadians with literacy difficulties face to improve their lives.
“I was one of the lucky ones,’’ Ashey said about finding a literacy program at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont.
“It turned my life around,’’ she said.
Ashey considered herself highly successful, having helped run a family dairy business. But before embracing her literacy problems, she always felt inadequate, she said.
“It took a lot of courage to go through the doors of St.
Lawrence College (and their) upgrading program,’’ she said. “I grew so much . . . my life was blossoming in every direction.’’
Literacy groups estimate that upwards of nine million Canadians face some difficulties with reading and writing.
The vast majority of those people are in lower paying jobs and many find it almost impossible to get a promotion or advance their careers.
Literacy groups were astonished when the federal funding cuts were announced, said Margaret Eaton of ABC Canada.
“This is not the time to be cutting back on the very resources Canadians need,’’ said Eaton.
“Cutting back now simply exacerbates the low-literacy problem and ignores the other costs that fall out from not making such an investment.’’
The Commons Standing Committee of Human Resources and Social Development is expected to review the impact of the cuts.
An NDP motion calls on the Human Resources minister, senior departmental staff and affected stakeholder groups to appear before the committee.
“From the outset, I feared that these cuts would affect Canada’s most vulnerable, and that has been confirmed,’’
“We can keep calling on the government to listen to Canadians, or we can use the tools we have as politicians to force them to listen.’’