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Concerns raised about Harper’s First Nations Education Act

The Harper government has announced that it will be setting minimum quality standards for classrooms on reserves, that students on reserves will have to meet new attendance requirements, and that their teachers will now be required to receive provincial certification. It says it will do this while leaving aboriginal schooling under First Nations control. And it has announced it will provide $1.25 billion in funding over three years for this, another $500 million over seven years to go toward infrastructure, and $160 million over four years for the implementation of this initiative.

The NDP says the money won’t be seen until after the October 2015 election.

And CTV reports, “Chiefs and grassroots membership, carrying brutal memories of residential schools, bristled at the idea of federal government involvement in their educational outcomes. …Outside the (Kainai High School on the Blood Tribe reserve near Calgary, Alberta where Harper made the announcement on) Friday, nine protesters carried signs from the Idle No More movement. Inside, one woman briefly interrupted a ceremonial paddle-signing by Harper and national chief Shawn Atleo. Shannon Houle said she represented people of Alberta’s Saddle Lake Cree Nation and of Treaty 6. ‘We object to this agreement and I must make that public to let Canada know that not every First Nation has been consulted or has been part of these negotiations’, she stood up and yelled.”

Houle also stated, “The reason that I object is that the AFN has no right to negotiate on our behalf because treaty negotiations are a nation-to-nation agreement.”

Removal from ceremonyTwo videos have now been posted that show the removal of two women from the official ceremony in the high school. The first video shows a woman being forcibly grabbed by the police and removed from the gymnasium. The second video shows Twila Eagle Bear-Singer being removed for allegedly sending a Tweet about the event.

Singer commented afterwards, “This isn’t what we have asked for. We didn’t even know what he was going to be announcing today. That just shows the level of consultation that First Nations across Canada get.”

Council of Canadians Board member Lois Frank attempted to attend the event, but was not allowed to do so by Blood Tribe Police.

The Harper government intends to move forward with First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act legislation in the coming months and to have the new act in place for the September 2014 school year.