Colonial government strategies continuing the legacy of paternalistic treatment of First Nations


Valcourt hints Ottawa may move ahead on education bill without AFN

29. MAY, 2014 BY Jorge Barrera

Valcourt hints Ottawa may move ahead on education bill without AFN

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt vented his frustration Thursday with the Assembly of First Nations' rejection of a proposed bill for First Nation education and hinted Ottawa may move ahead on the file without the support of the chiefs' organization.

Valcourt said the AFN received "tens of millions of dollars" from Ottawa over the past eight years so it could play the role of "interlocutor" between the federal government and First Nations, but its decision on Bill C-33 had left the government with little choice.

"We invested tens of millions of dollars in the last...eight years into the AFN for that very purpose, to have this relationship rebuilt," said Valcourt. "I respect their charter, their way of doing business, but we have to find a way to move this file forward because it is the kids, the students on reserves who are paying the price, not the chiefs."

The Assembly of First Nations moved to reject Bill C-33, the First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act, on Tuesday. British Columbia and chiefs from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, however, were willing to work with the proposed bill through amendments. They were overwhelmed by chiefs from the prairies, Quebec and Ontario.

The Harper government put Bill C-33 on hold following the resignation of Shawn Atleo who left his post as national chief of the AFN. Atleo was supportive of going ahead with the bill and AFN officials were in the midst of drafting possible amendments when he called it quits partly as a result of the tensions created by the file.

Valcourt said the bill would remain on hold until Ottawa figures out what to do next. The federal government has invested four years of work into developing the bill and First Nation education was mentioned in the last Throne Speech and three budgets.

The bill also came with $1.9 billion, but the majority of the money promised would not flow until 2015. Valcourt said the money couldn't materialize without a bill. He told the House of Commons committee on Aboriginal Affairs that about $1.4 billion of the total was statutory funding, meaning it needed legislation to flow.

"In the aftermath of that decision made by those chiefs in assembly at this latest AFN assembly will assess the situation and determine how to best proceed positively," said Valcourt. "This is not about politics, this is about the future of success of First Nations students on reserve."

First Nation leaders called on Ottawa this week immediately release the $1.9 billion for First Nation education. The money has already been penciled into the "fiscal framework," according to government officials who spoke on background during the release of the most recent federal budget. The move would be absorbed

Others, however, are open to making regional agreements with Ottawa, outside of the AFN.



First Nations education bill: Ottawa won't start from scratch

First Nations education bill on hold while aboriginal affairs minister considers options

The Canadian Press Posted: May 30, 2014

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says 'too much work has taken place ' to go back to square one on First Nations education bill. Valcourt says he is unwilling to start from scratch on his proposed changes to First

Nations education.

On Thursday, in his first public comments since a special assembly of chiefs voted this week to reject Conservative education reforms, Valcourt lamented the fact that the Assembly of First Nations has walked away from its agreement with the government.

"One thing is sure: We thought we had an agreement. Those chiefs present there decided not to honour that agreement that we had reached with the AFN," Valcourt said.

A spokesperson for the minister told CBC News on Thursday that the government will not move ahead with Bill C-33.

"This legislation will not proceed without the support of the AFN," Andrea Richer, the director of communications, told CBC News.

"I look forward to finding a way to not let the children, the students on reserves throughout all of those First Nations
communities, to have to pay the price for this," said Valcourt.

The aboriginal community remains split over Bill C-33, dubbed the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. Some saw it as a step in the right direction, and welcomed the $1.9 billion tied to the bill. To others, it was a government imposing too much control over First Nations.

Shawn Atleo suddenly quit this month as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations after becoming a self-described lightning rod of controversy for backing the bill, leaving the organization in a state of flux.

The divisions within the First Nations community were on full display this week when chiefs gathered in a downtown Ottawa hotel to decide how they would respond to the legislation.

Bill remains on hold

After hours of sometimes heated debate, the chiefs voted in favour of a resolution that rejects the bill and calls on the
government to negotiate a new education agreement that provides transfer payments to aboriginal communities.

The resolution also asks Ottawa to provide $1.9 billion tied to the original bill immediately, with a 4.5 per cent escalator until a new deal on education is reached.

But Valcourt says too much time and effort have gone into the bill to start all over again. It was already retooled once before to include five key conditions needed to get the AFN's support, he noted.

"Then, we tabled the bill that incorporated those conditions. And moreover, the prime minister personally committed the funding necessary to implement this so that it'd be successful. And now, you know, we are back to - what? - Square 1? I don't think so. Too much work has taken place."

"In good faith, we worked together. I incorporated - we incorporated - those five conditions in Bill C-33 and we jointly announced a way forward that we had agreed to in Alberta," Valcourt said.

The bill remains on hold while he considers his options, Valcourtadded. He also sounded frustrated when he spoke about the AFN.

"It was represented to us that the AFN was representing those First Nations across Canada and they were our interlocutor," Valcourt said.

"We have invested tens of millions of dollars in the last 10 years, eight years, into the AFN for that very purpose, to have this relationship rebuilt. And, you know, so I respect their charter, I respect their way of doing business, but we have got to find a way to move this file forward, because it is the kids, the students on reserve who are paying the price -- not the chiefs."



Tribal Chair says BC First Nations should strike own education deal with Ottawa


Tribal Chair says BC First Nations should strike own education deal with Ottawa

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The chair of a British Columbia tribal council says it may be time for the region to strike its own First Nation education deal with Ottawa.

Chief Shane Gottfriedson, tribal chair of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, said the turmoil at the Assembly of First Nations could force individual regions to seek out their own education agreements with Ottawa.

"It is chaotic right now with what is happening with the (AFN) national chief resigning and the executive taking over," said Gottfriedson. "We need to get on with looking after our citizens' interests. I will be the one driving in B.C,. talking about an education process that works for B.C."

Gottfriedson wrote Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt on May 20 saying his tribal council was willing to work with Ottawa on improving Bill C-33, the now scrapped First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act. The letter to Valcourt included a list of several amendments to the bill.

"Those that call for outright rejection of Bill C-33 are arguing for the status quo," wrote Gottfriedson. "Our Tribal Council does not support the status quo. We are prepared to do our part in transforming the education system to achieve better education outcomes for our children."

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The Saskatchewan tribal councils of Meadow Lake and Battleford also wanted to work with Ottawa on improving Bill C-33, which was rejected by chiefs at a special AFN meeting this week.

These tribal councils, however, are out of luck, based on initial statements from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office. Valcourt's office said this week there would be no bill without the support of the AFN. Valcourt's office also said the promised $1.9 billion for reserve education would also be pulled.

According to federal officials at federal budget time, the money was set aside in the federal government's fiscal framework. It remains unclear what will happen to the money now. Treasury Board and Aboriginal Affairs did not respond to requests seeking clarification as of this article's posting Thursday afternoon.

The Harper government made education its central plank on the First Nation file. The promise of an education bill was first mentioned in the 2010 federal budget and a national panel of experts was struck to study the issue that December. Now, the Harper government is set to discard four years of work on the file.

TheBill C-33 struck a discordant chord with B.C. First Nations because it contained a clause that would have seen the proposed legislation apply in the province once the tripartite First Nation education agreement expired in July 2017.

B.C. First Nations are currently covered by the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act which passed in 2006. The legislation allowed for the establishment of regional education authorities to support on-reserve schools and provided legal recognition of First Nation authority over its own schools.

Gottfriedson said there is still time to avoid wasting the work on the file.

"I think there is always a chance to salvage something," he said. "Education is now on the agenda. When you look at strengthening the relationship with government from a regional perspective from B.C., I would stand at any podium with government and talk about a process that benefits our citizens."

Gottfriedson aIS couldn't make it to the Ottawa AFN meeting this week because of a death in his community, but said he would have argued against rejecting Bill C-33.

"I truly believe whenever there is challenges that are put before us, our leadership should stand up and rise to those occasions rather than sit back and not do anything," he said. "(Education) is too important of an issue for us to sit idle. Voting something down is something that I don't really support. I would rather be looking at sitting at that table, redrafting legislation to make it work for us."