rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

First Nations Education Act: Standardizing 'the Indian in the child'

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Image: flickr/PremierofAlberta

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 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 -- that is, 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

Respects & recognizes rights, title & treaties

Incorporates reciprocal accountability

No federal oversight

Statutory guarantee of funding to address "real costs" of education

Funding is guaranteed

AFN will "inform" legislative process

Limited "enabling" legislation

New deal for First Nations

Allows for diversity

 

What Harper/Valcourt Said

Not about rights, it's about social development

Ensures transparent & accountable First Nations

Feds will provide the standards, reporting and other oversight mechanisms to "ensure" First Nations meet "new" standards

4.5 per cent cap on funding (versus 6 per cent pop growth)

Funding will be for "willing partners"

Feds will draft legislation and regulations

Full "comprehensive" education legislation

What's best for Canada

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.

Image: flickr/PremierofAlberta

http://www.chiefs-of-ontario.org/sites/default/files/files/OCOFOV%20Education%20Report%202012.pdf

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.