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Council of Canadians expresses concern with Harper’s First Nations Education Act


No FNEA rally
Photo by Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

The Harper government’s ‘Bill C-33: First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act’ has been highly controversial, divisive, and unhelpful in the task of meeting the educational needs of First Nations children.

The Canadian Press notes, “Opponents of the bill say it gives too much control to the minister of aboriginal affairs, doesn’t protect treaty rights, and the money attached falls far short of what is needed to make a difference for First Nations children.”

In February, Council of Canadians Board member Lois Frank tried to attend Harper’s announcement of the bill at the Blood Tribe Reserve near Calgary, but was prevented from entering the arena. CTV reported, “Outside the (event), 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.”

Our friend Vicki M. R. Monague, a Councillor with the Beausoleil First Nation, tells us, “Some of the organizations that have opposed Minister Valcourt’s Education Act are: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs representing 62 First Nations; Chiefs of Ontario representing 133 First Nations; Assembly of First Nations British Columbia representing 205 First Nations; Assembly of First Nations Quebec & Labrador representing 43 First Nations; and Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations representing 77 First Nations.”

This represents a serious rebuke of Harper’s legislation.

The Council of Canadians calls on the Harper government to commit to respectful and meaningful consultations with Indigenous peoples on this urgent matter, to commit to transparency, and to not force their highly controversial bill on First Nations. We also share and want to highlight the concern that the funding the Harper government has announced to date is insufficient, that only a funding formula is mentioned in the legislation not actual dollar figures, and that, despite the very real and immediate needs, any spending would not begin until 2016.

While it has been reported that his Aboriginal Affairs minister Bernard Valcourt says the bill is “on hold” until the Assembly of First Nations “clarifies” its position on it after the resignation of Shawn Atleo as the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations last week, there are still concerns that it could be passed by June 7.