AANDC minister stands by First Nations Education Act

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:22

Although First Nation leaders and community members have firmly rejected the federal government’s Proposal for a Bill on First Nation Education, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt is still standing by his proposed legislation.
“I believe that the time is long overdue for us to ensure that First Nation children have access to a comprehensive education regime which affords them education rights and protections in the same manner as all other students,” Valcourt said in a Dec. 13 open letter sent to National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. “My view is that we cannot get there without putting in place legislation.”
Valcourt said the federal government agrees that First Nations must have control over their education in the open letter, which is available on the AANDC website at: http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1386958638702/1386958691700.
“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. “The proposed bill strengthens and entrenches the roles and responsibilities of First Nation governments and education authorities, while reducing the day to day powers of the minister and the department from what they are today. I cannot stress enough the important fact that the draft legislative proposal will not apply to First Nations who are part of existing comprehensive or sectoral self-government agreements that cover education. Implementation of First Nation control over First Nation education will provide First Nations with the opportunity to establish the structures and systems that support First Nation control and institution building, including self-government negotiations moving forward.”
National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo responded to Valcourt’s open letter by stating the First Nations’ position is clear and has been reaffirmed by a unanimous resolution at the recent Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly.
“First Nations have affirmed a path forward, opposing the federal proposal in its current form and seeking dialogue founded on the principle of First Nations control of First Nations education that values our languages and cultures and is supported by stable, sustainable and fair funding,” Atleo said. “The resolution calls upon Canada to negotiate to advance the Assembly of First Nations policy framework of 2010 First Nations Control of First Nations Education.”
The 2010 First Nations Control of First Nations Education is available online at:http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/education
Its objectives are: ensure First Nation lifelong learners have access to an education system with programs and services grounded in First Nations languages, values, traditions and knowledge; build and sustain First Nation capacity and institutional development so as to deliver a wide spectrum of quality programs and services across the learning continuum; and implement First Nations control of First Nations education.
“The minister has stated that there is an opportunity for dialogue on terms set by the chiefs,” Atleo said. “We will make efforts to ensure First Nations are aware of the minister’s response. We will be carefully reviewing the minister’s letter and setting out next steps through dialogue with all First Nations.”
During the Chiefs of Ontario Special Chiefs Assembly in late November, Regional Chief Stan Beardy said First Nations across Ontario have vowed to stop the federal First Nation Education Act and will refuse to abide by or implement the act if is unilaterally pushed through parliament.
“Action is currently underway garnering public and political support for our position,” Beardy said. “We continue developing strategies based on all available options including challenging resource extraction, direct action and litigation.”
Recent high school data, from 2004-2009, indicates First Nation students have a graduation rate of about 36 per cent compared to the Canadian graduation rate of 72 per cent, according to an Assembly of First Nations document from the October 2012 Chiefs Assembly on Education.
The federal government said it consulted 600-plus First Nations across the country and other stakeholders through eight face-to-face regional consultation sessions, more than 54 technical briefings and information sessions via video or teleconference sessions and an online survey that received 631 responses since December 2012 over the Proposal for a Bill on First Nation Education.
MP Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal Party of Canada critic for Aboriginal Affairs, said the Proposal for a Bill on First Nations Education has received a failing grade from coast to coast to coast during an Oct. 24 House of Commons session.
“The Conservatives should push pause on this flawed, top-down strategy, sit down with First Nations communities and build a workable, fully funded plan that respects, supports and empowers First Nations to control their own education systems,” Bennett said.

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