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First Nations Education Act

Thursday January 9, 2014

The First Nation leaders’ united rejection of the Proposal for a Bill on First Nations Education is Wawatay’s runner up for News Story of the Year.

The Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution in December 2012 to reject the federal government’s consultation process for the First Nations Education Act on the grounds that it was not based on a true partnership with First Nations.

So in April, the Chiefs of Ontario organized a rally in Thunder Bay, where the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Canada (AANDC) were conducting those consultations.

“It’s pre-selected who can make a presentation and they’re inviting a small number of chiefs just so they can say they did their consultation,” Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy said following the rally. “If it was to be done properly, it’s the right-holders who need to be part of this process, but I’m not sure our membership has been invited to speak to this panel about this process.”

The federal government announced the Proposal for a Bill on First Nation Education on Oct. 22.
In November, Nishnawbe Aski Nation formally rejected the proposal.

Grand Chief Harvey Yesno, Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic and a group of chiefs, councillors, First Nation educators, Elders and youth announced the NAN Declaration on Our Inherent and Treaty Right to Education on the final day of the Nov. 5-7 Chiefs Summit on Education.

“Today we stand in unity to declare that the future of education in NAN will not be based on federal legislation but on our inherent right to self-government, including education jurisdiction,” said Yesno. “The government of Canada has failed to meet its obligation to deliver education to First Nation students on par with the rest of Canada. No longer will we allow our children to be denied their inherent right to education.”

Later that month, the Chiefs of Ontario also passed a resolution to formally reject the proposed legislation during the Nov. 26-28 Chiefs of Ontario Special Chiefs Assembly.

The Ontario chiefs moved their discussion on education from the last day of the assembly to the first day due to its current significance.

“We discussed education at length over the last two days and along with maintaining our rejection of the federal legislation on education we also collectively affirm our inherent right to establish and control our own educational systems and institutions,” said Beardy.

“Additionally, we are developing a plan of action to assert our jurisdiction over education.”
Despite the fact that chiefs across the country have rejected the legislation, AANDC Minister Bernard Valcourt stood by it in a letter to National Chief Shawn Atleo.

“The proposal that I put forth is intended to empower those who know best what their children need – First Nations, parents, communities, and administrators - to determine what is most effective for their success,” Valcourt said in a Dec. 13 letter.

The federal government is expecting to pass the First Nations Education Act in September 2014.

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