5 Essentials Chiefs Say Are Missing From First Nations Education Act
The First Nations Education Act has officially been decreed defunct as far as Indigenous Peoples in Canada are concerned. The matter even took priority at a recent Assembly of First Nations meeting over replacing former National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, who resigned on May 2 in the furor over the legislation.
On May 27 the chiefs passed a resolution calling on Canada, "based on the honour of the Crown to negotiate an agreement on new fiscal transfer payments to First Nations," according to the Canadian Press. They said the $1.9 billion in funding provided by Bill C-33, which is how the education act is known, should go straight to First Nations so they can apportion it themselves. Though 60 chiefs abstained, 121 voted in favor and none opposed it, the Canadian Press reported.
"Canada must withdraw Bill C-33 and engage in an honorable process with First Nations that recognizes and supports regional and local diversity leading to true First Nation control of education based on our responsibilities and inherent aboriginal and treaty rights,” said a statement from chiefs in Quebec and Labrador that they unanimously supported.
A few months earlier, in November 2013, Atleo wrote an open letter to the ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development outlining five essentials that needed to be addressed in First Nation education reform. Though Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt countered with a letter saying that all the conditions had in fact been met, most remaining chiefs still beg to differ. Here are the basics that need to be addressed in indigenous education, as written out by Atleo, who reiterated them in a position paper in April, just a few weeks before he resigned.
1. Respects and recognizes inherent rights and title, Treaty rights, and First Nation Control of First Nation Education jurisdiction.
First Nations must retain all options to advance their education and all such agreements must be fully respected, enabled and supported; First Nations control and jurisdiction over First Nations education is required. Supporting this goal, First Nations must have sufficient capacity and support at the local level as well as for second and third level support.
This includes, first and foremost, respecting and upholding the treaties, the AFN said.
2. First Nations need a statutory guarantee for funding of education, enough money for Canada to meet its obligations.
“First Nations education requires funding that is stable, predictable and responsive to First Nations education,” the AFN said. “The elimination of gaps in funding is required.”
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