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VANCOUVER –The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has released a new report outlining the challenges facing Aboriginal Education Assistants (EAs) in BC. The report follows CUPE’s groundbreaking Respect & Recognition survey of EAs first released in 2008. 
Aboriginal EAs voice many of the same concerns as their non‐Aboriginal counterparts – unpaid work, lack of scheduled work hours, lack of opportunity to plan, prepare or consult, and inadequate training. There are also areas where Aboriginal EAs face unique challenges.
The report finds that: 
  • Most Aboriginal EAs surveyed live and work in northern BC or Vancouver Island areas where there are higher concentrations of Aboriginal people and students. Fewer than 20 per cent were from Metropolitan Vancouver.
  • Aboriginal EAs are much more likely to work in alternate and non‐standard school programs. Despite the fact that most Aboriginal EAs report working in special education, a high percentage are also found in programs and services geared to supporting the specific needs of Aboriginal students.
  • Aboriginal EAs are less likely to be involved in the development of Individual Education Programs than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. This could reflect fewer IEPs for Aboriginal students and/or insufficient acknowledgement of what Aboriginal EAs could contribute to the process. 
  • Close to one third of Aboriginal EAs report work-related travel time - three times the overall average for all EAs. More than 40 per cent of those Aboriginal EAs who travel report not being compensated. At the very least, this reflects significant inconsistency and disparity amongst school districts. 
  • Unpaid work issues for Aboriginal EAs are similar to the larger survey population with an average of more than two hours every week. They work unpaid hours before, during and after the paid workday to prepare assignments, travel, consult and provide student coverage. 
Report author John Malcolmson says that “while Aboriginal EAs share many common work experiences with their non-Aboriginal counterparts, there are distinct differences.”
“Many of the Aboriginal EAs feel they work more closely with their communities when dealing with students and families. This includes spending more time working with people who feel alienated from the system and working more closely with local community groups and agencies.” 
The complete report is available at: www.cupe.bc.ca/campaigns/education-assistants/reports-research.
For more information, please contact:  
John Malcolmson
CUPE National Research Representative