Concerns about First Nations Controlled, First Nations Education Act continue to be presented


First Nations Controlled, First Nations Education Act: Standardizing "the Indian in the child"

Posted by  on March 6, 2014

On February 7, 2014, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn Atleo stood with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) Bernard Valcourt and announced a "historic deal" on First Nations education. They announced that the federal government would change the name of education legislation to First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, together with $1.9 billion in future monies.

Since then, First Nations have been trying to figure out on what authority AFN made this deal on our behalf, and what exactly this deal entails. Every time that NC Atleo or Harper speaks, it becomes more and more apparent that Atleo and Harper are NOT of the same mind in terms of what this "deal" entails. In case anyone had any doubt about the fragile, if non-existent agreement between AFN and Harper, one need only refer to the letter from AFN dated Feb.28, 2014 requesting clarifications from the Harper government about what the deal means.

You don't have to hire a lawyer to know that you never ever commit to a deal without knowing what the deal is - i.e., get the details in writing. Atleo's letter asks critical questions like:
-        Is Canada committed to working with First Nations?;
-        Will Canada "engage" or "collaborate" with First Nations on legislative drafting?;
-        Will existing agreements and MOUs be honoured by Canada?;
-        Is the funding new funding?; and
-        Is the funding secure?

It is almost unbelievable that the AFN would be asking these critical questions AFTER the deal has already been made and announced. What's worse is that the AFN is asking these questions AFTER Atleo's many media appearances and their FAQ Sheet which purports to answer these questions. How can the AFN assure First Nations that they will get to "inform" the legislative drafting process and then a few weeks later, ask the federal government if they will work with First Nations on the legislation?

The joint Atleo-Harper announcement on February 7, 2014 and all the media statements by both parties in the days and weeks that followed is a clear indication that there is no common understanding. Here is a summary of how each side interpreted the "historic deal" (that has no written commitments): 

What AFN/Atleo Said What Harper/Valcourt Said
Respects & recognizes rights, title & treaties Not about rights, it's about social development
Incorporates reciprocal accountability Ensures transparent & accountableFirst Nations
No federal oversight Feds will provide the standards, reporting and other oversight mechanisms to "ensure" First Nations meet "new" standards
Statutory guarantee of funding to address "real costs" of education 4.5% cap on funding(versus 6% pop growth)
Funding is guaranteed Funding will be for "willing partners"
AFN will "inform" legislative process Feds will draft legislation and regulations
Limited "enabling" legislation Full "comprehensive" education legislation
New deal for First Nations What's best for Canada
Allows for diversity Same standards for all First Nations

If this is THE deal (historic, but unwritten); which promises First Nation control (federal control of First Nations); and capped funding (future monies less than what is needed to take on new responsibilities); and a new relationship (where we voluntarily give up our treaty right to education) - then NO DEAL. But we already told Atleo NO DEAL. We told him during Idle No More, we told him when the Chiefs marched on Parliament against legislation, and we told him when Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan pulled out of National Panel on Education. Atleo needs to start listening. 

It's not hard - the problem has been identified in 100 studies: lack of real First Nation control, lack of funding and lack of culture and language in schools. The solutions have already been identified as well: First Nation control, adequate funding and culture and language. Legislation has never been required to do the right thing. It's an Aboriginal, inherent and treaty right that is protected in Canadian and international law. The government doesn't need legislation to respect the rule of law. 

No amount of political spin can hide the swindle of the century  - legislating the future of our Nations out of existence by standardizing "the Indian in the child" to be like every other Canadian.



Northern Manitoba also lashes out at Atleo for support of proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act


By John Barker

AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo gets an earful in Thompson at Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Fourteen months after the Jan. 11, 2013 nationally televised drama in Ottawa, which saw Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo on the inside meeting with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, during Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's protest, while the other side of the door was blocked by Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, a prominent critic of Atleo's leadership, relations appear to remain as frosty as ever as Atleo got an earful in Thompson March 5 from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, in particular Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Chief Arlen Dumas from Pukatawagan, and Idle No More - Northern Manitoba's Lisa Currier - with the focus this time being on Atleo's support for the Harper government's proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

Atleo was in Thompson to meet with the Winnipeg-based Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and explain the Ottawa-based Assembly of First Nations position supporting the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

The proposed legislation calls for standards consistent with provincial standards off-reserve and says students will have to meet attendance requirements, while teachers will have to be properly certified. Ottawa is to fund core education, which includes language and cultural instruction, with $1.25 billion over three years starting in 2016. There is a provision for a 4.5 per cent annual increase. For the last 20 years, funding increases have been capped at two per cent a year. Along with the $1.25 billion, the federal government has offered another $500 million over seven years to go toward infrastructure and $160 million over four years for implementation.

Over the past decade, 58 schools on First Nations in Northern Manitoba have transferred education from band councils to the province's Frontier School Division. Ottawa tops up funding shortfalls in transfer payments to the province but not on reserve-run schools.

Nepinak says in a March 6 Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs news release that in the aftermath of residential schools, First Nations must never be subjected again to non-aboriginals dictating how aboriginal children are educated.

"In the aftermath of the Residential School we have to live by the call for First Nations control over First Nations education, to ensure that we never allow ourselves to be subjected again to a situation where someone else dictates to us how we educate our children," Nepinak said to the chiefs-in-assembly during the education discussion.

ALSO READ: New First Nations Education Act a smokescreen

Nepinak of the Pine Creek First Nation was first elected as grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on the final day of the AMC Annual General Assembly in Opaskwayak Cree Nation July 26-27, 2011. He captured 34 votes on the second ballot, three more than the 50 per cent plus one he needed to be elected AMC grand chief. Former Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak grand chief Sydney Garrioch of Pimicikamak Cree Nation at Cross Lake and Dennis Meeches of the Long Plain First Nation each received 12 votes on the deciding ballot.

A holder of a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan as well as a first-class honours undergraduate degree from the University of Alberta, Nepinak completed an intensive program on aboriginal lands, resources and governance at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. He interrupted his studies towards a master's degree in indigenous governance when he was elected chief of Pine Creek First Nation. He previously served as the chairman of the West Region Tribal Council and on the governance council of Treaty 4.

Nepinak succeeded Ron Evans of Norway House as the AMC grand chief. Elected as AMC grand chief on July 27, 2005, Evans won re-election on Aug. 13, 2008. Prior AMC grand chiefs have also included Dennis White Bird of the Rolling River First Nation, who served as AMC grand chief from 2000 to 2005, Rod Bushie of Hollow Water First Nation (1997-2000), Phil Fontaine of Sagkeeng First Nation (1989-1997) and Louis Stevenson of Peguis First Nation (1987-1989).

Currier, a community advocate representing women in leadership perspectives and Idle No More - Northern Manitoba, presented Atleo with a "STOP the First Nations Education Act petition. The petition calls for "First Nations control over education - NO provincial standards/curriculums imposed - No "Education Authority" delegated by Canada."

The petition presented to Atleo by Currier has a preamble that reads: "Education in Canada is founded on superiority and patriarchy historically and is still forced upon Indigenous people presently. Is this going to continue? It is our responsibility to listen to our young people, to protect their future and teach them by showing them that we can assert our Inherent Right to educate ourselves; to build our own identity, institutions and systems. When ½ of our population consists of our young people who will be attending these schools under the FNEA, how can we empower them to assert and protect our rights?

"Change comes through educating ourselves, when we do not educate ourselves on Inherent and Treaty Rights how can we protect them? How can we teach our young people language and culture with imposed provincial curriculums and standards? Change has been done in the past through educating ourselves because we have to when it comes to understanding where we are so we know what we are up against.

"The FNEA is 1/10 bills that are a part of a termination plan to end sovereign status and the extinguishment of Inherent, Aboriginal, and Treaty Rights."

Dumas, telling Atleo he knew the national chief was no more likely to listen to him now than he did in Ottawa 14 months ago, instead surrendered about seven of his allotted 10 minutes for speaking to the assembly to Currier to make her own remarks and present Atleo with the petition.

Like Atleo, however, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief David Harper was in Standoff, Alberta on the Treaty 7 Kainai Blood Tribe First Nation with Prime Minister Harper in a show of support for the proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act when the Tories unveiled it Feb. 7, as MKO supports the proposed legislation, which contains some changes to the draft legislative proposal shared with First Nations chiefs by the federal government last October. These include:

  • creating a joint council of education professionals to provide advice and support to the federal government and First Nations on the implementation and oversight of the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act;
  • outlining the federal government's commitment to adequate stable, predictable and sustainable funding. This funding will replace the complex structures now in place with three funding streams: a statutory funding stream that will have a reasonable rate of growth; transition funding to support the new legislative framework; and funding for long-term investments in on-reserve school infrastructure;
  • enabling First Nations to incorporate language and culture programming in the education curriculum, and providing funding for language and culture programming within the statutory funding stream;
  • committing the federal government to work in conjunction with First Nations to develop the act's regulations.

Efforts in recent years to update legislation pertaining to First Nations education date back to the Dec. 21, 1972Indian Control of Indian Education 45-page policy paper presented to then Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien by the National Indian Brotherhood/Assembly of First Nations, and revised in 2010.

In the March 6 news release, Nepinak says, the Manitoba chiefs also wanted Atleo to provide "an explanation of AFN activities which appear outside the mandate provided by First Nations leadership."

Atleo, a hereditary chief from the Ahousaht First Nation in British Columbia, was first elected as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations on July 23, 2009 after a marathon overnight voting session.

Atleo, the assembly vice-chief from British Columbia, was in a neck-and-neck battle with Perry Bellegarde, former leader of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

After eight ballots and almost 24 hours, neither had the 60 per cent of votes needed to win, but Bellegarde conceded.

Atleo replaced Phil Fontaine as the grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Fontaine, an Anishinabe from the Sagkeeng First Nation on the southern tip of Lake Winnipeg in Treaty Territory 1, had held the position for three terms and was not seeking re-election.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs passed a resolution March 5, said Nepinak, to reject the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act "in its entirety including all components and contents and any and all federally or provincially imposed legislation on the matter."





Native education plan given failing grade by Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

By Staff  The Canadian Press

THOMPSON, Man. - The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has voted to reject the federal government's reworked plan for native education that would leave aboriginal schooling under First Nations control.

The assembly says delegates to an AMC meeting have passed a resolution not to accept any aspect of the plan that was announced last month by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo.

READ MORE: Harper unveils retooled First Nations education plan

The assembly says that Atleo met with the chiefs to explain his position on the agreement and was given a petition that calls for it to be brought to a halt.

AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak says in a release that in the aftermath of residential schools, First Nations must never be subjected again to non-aboriginals dictating how aboriginal children are educated.

The plan calls for standards consistent with provincial standards off-reserve and says students will have to meet attendance requirements, while teachers will have to be properly certified.

MORE: AFN asks Flaherty to boost First Nations education funding in next budget

When it was announced Harper said that overall control is to remain with First Nations, but the deal drew only cautious optimism from some bands and protests from others.