Canada's new First Nations education bill tabled in Ottawa

AFN Press Release

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Says First Nations Must Drive Next Steps in First Nations Education

OTTAWA, April 10, 2014 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo responded to today's tabling by the federal government of legislation on First Nations education titled "An Act to establish a framework to enable First Nations control of elementary and secondary education and to provide for related funding and to make related amendments to the Indian Act and consequential amendments to other Acts"

"First Nations have clearly articulated what is required in any approach aimed at First Nations control of First Nations education," said National Chief Atleo. "The federal legislation presented today will be assessed based on the five essential principles that we have clearly articulated. We all agree that we need action on First Nations education because it is crucial for our children and it is crucial for our shared future. But we must get it right. Each nation will need to determine for themselves if this bill meets their needs and our demand for an approach that places our children front and centre and is founded on our rights, Treaties and jurisdiction." 

The AFN provided First Nations with the document "First Nation Control of First Nations Education: A framework to achieve success in First Nation education" which is a tool to assist First Nations in assessing today's legislation. It elaborates on the five key principles set out by First Nations in AFN resolution 21/2013 adopted by consensus at the AFN 2013 Special Chiefs Assembly. The Framework covers the key areas and requirements for: Jurisdiction, Funding, Language and Culture, Reciprocal Accountability and Transparency, and Meaningful Dialogue. The AFN is also preparing an analysis of the Bill based on these principles which will be provided to First Nations as soon it is ready. 

"Now is the time for First Nations to analyze the legislation and work to ensure any concerns are addressed," said the National Chief.  "We are encouraging First Nations to closely review and analyze the legislation. I have full confidence in our Elders, experts and leaders that we have the skills and knowledge to create an approach that achieves our longstanding goal of First Nations control of First Nations education. The new investments in this proposed legislation are welcome and needed but this is about more than funding. This is about our children, our rights and our future." 

"First Nation Control of First Nations Education: A framework to achieve success in First Nation education" is available on the AFN website at or upon request.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

For further information:

Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext. 401; 613-314-8157 or

Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext. 382; 613-292-0857 or



Aboriginal education bill meets First Nations conditions: Bernard Valcourt

Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo says 'key elements' are reflected in the bill

By Susana Mas, Posted: Apr 10, 2014

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt tabled today the First Nations Control Of First Nations Education Act. (Chris Wattie/Pool/The Canadian Press)

Education reforms

Education reforms 2:14

Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo speaks

Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo speaks 18:50

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The federal government tabled its long-waited First Nations education bill today amid complaints from some aboriginal groups that the legislation falls short on funding and doesn't entirely give them control over First Nations education.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said Bill C-33, dubbed the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, meets the five conditions outlined by the Assembly of First Nations and national chiefs during a meeting in Gatineau last December.

"All the concerns they expressed are being addressed," Valcourt told reporters on Thursday.​

The bill would provide $1.25 billion over 3 years starting in 2016 so that First Nations students who live on reserves can benefit from the same education standards that are currently available to other Canadians. Funding would increase by 4.5 per cent each year after.

Bill C-33 would also:

  • Ensure that First Nations students graduate with a recognized certificate or diploma and that teachers are properly certified.
  • Enable First Nations to provide language and cultural programming in a way they see fit.
  • Provide a minimum number of teaching hours and days at First Nation schools.
  • Allow students to transfer seamlessly between reserve and provincial schools.
  • Create a Joint Council of Education Professionals.
  • ​Provide stable and sustainable funding.
  • Remove sections of the Indian Act pertaining to residential schools.

'Key elements reflected'

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said elements that First Nations asked for are included in the proposed bill.

"I see the key elements reflected and now First Nations must have the opportunity to fully review and fully engage on the next steps."

But Atleo made clear that it is now up to First Nations to read and review it for themselves.

"I encourage all First Nations to do the analysis," Atleo said.

The national chief said he vowed to stand with First Nations in support of First Nations control over their own education.

The five conditions for success as outlined by national chiefs are:

  • Respect and recognition of inherent rights and title, treaty rights and First Nations control of First Nations education.
  • Statutory guaranteed funding.
  • Funding to support First Nations education systems that are grounded in Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Mechanisms to ensure reciprocal accountability and no unilateral federal oversight or authority.
  • An ongoing process of meaningful engagement.

Some aboriginal groups have rejected Ottawa's efforts, saying all authority remains in hands of the federal government under the legislation and that First Nations will continue to lack any control over their education systems. They also said funding is insufficient.

'Cosmetic changes'

Ghislain Picard, the AFN regional chief for Quebec and Labrador who had requested a judicial review of the government's plan, said he will forge ahead with the court challenge.

In an interview with CBC News on Thursday, Picard said that after a preliminary read, the proposed bill contains mostly "cosmetic changes."

He is asking the Federal Court to prevent the legislation from going ahead without his group's endorsement but says even if it doesn't stop this bill from becoming law, he hopes it will force the government to consult with all First Nations going forward.

He said he agreed up to a point with Atleo's assessment that key elements are included in the bill but that concerns around giving First Nations control over their own education remain.

Picard said he is particularly concerned about the Joint Council of Education Professionals which he thinks would still give the minister too much control.

The joint council would be made up of nine members, four appointed on the recommendation of First Nations leaders and the other four appointed by the minister. The chair, however, would be chosen on the recommendation of the minister following consultation with the Assembly of First Nations.

Valcourt insisted on Thursday that the joint council would simply provide Ottawa with information on how the schools are performing, not give the federal government direct control. It would prevent "unilateral oversight by the minister," Valcourt said.

Vice-Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations says aboriginals have treaty rights to education under international law that are not trumped by federal legislation.

He adds that the federal government failed to consult in any serious way with First Nations and have ignored all concerns raised by native organizations.


Click here for AANDC spin on what they are claiming to be doing for First Nations Education



First Nations education bill to be tabled in Parliament Thursday

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to introduce long-awaited bill

By Susana Mas, Posted: Apr 09, 2014 

The federal government will table its long-awaited bill on First Nations education Thursday, ahead of a scheduled two-week Easter recess.

The government gave notice on Tuesday that Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt will table a bill "to establish a framework to enable First Nations control of elementary and secondary education, and to provide for related funding, and to make related amendments to the Indian Act and consequential amendments to other acts."

The notice comes after a retooled education plan giving First Nations control over First Nations education was unveiled with the endorsement of the Assembly of First Nations in February.

Under the proposed bill, the government would also close the funding gap by earmarking $1.25 billion over three years for aboriginal schools across Canada beginning in 2016. That amount would increase by 4.5 per cent each year after.

Ghislain Picard, the AFN's regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, is challenging the proposed bill in court.

icard's group has asked the Federal Court for a judicial review of the proposed legislation, despite the agreement reached between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the AFN. 

The petition to the court was filed on the grounds that the government failed to meet its obligation to consult directly with the First Nations concerned.

First Nations leaders in Saskatchewan have also expressed concerns with the proposed bill.

Shawn Atleo, the AFN national chief, said he endorsed the second version of the bill because it meets all of the conditions set out by a group of national chiefs during a meeting in Ottawa last December.

All eyes will be on the fine print to see what changes - if any - the government has made to the bill since its announcement in February.

A draft of the legislation unveiled in October was rejected outright after it failed to meet the five conditions laid out by the AFN.

Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett said it's important that the government get it right this time because the proposal made last fall "badly undermined the trust of First Nations."

"It is critical that this new legislation meets the conditions set out by First Nations themselves," Bennett told CBC News in a written statement Wednesday.

The Liberals will review the bill after it is tabled. The party will also consult with First Nations to ensure they believe that it meets their criteria, Bennett said.