POLITICS

Federal proposals for First Nations education not acceptable: Atleo

11/25/2013 04:11 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - First Nations have flatly rejected federal proposals for legislation covering education for aboriginal children.

Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says they are not acceptable and he has set out five conditions for the federal government to meet.

In an open letter to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, Atleo says there is a strong consensus among First Nations about what needs to be done.

Atleo says any agreement must allow for native control of education, provide a statutory funding guarantee, recognize native languages and culture, provide shared oversight and ensure continuing and meaningful engagement.

He says he wants a clear commitment to these conditions.

There will be no compromise on principles, he adds.

The government has been wrestling with the native education issue for years and is now circulating draft legislation that it hopes will become law by the next school year. Aboriginal peoples have long complained that their schools are short-changed compared with provincial education systems.

First Nations also say they don't want to be subject to the oversight of a federal bureaucracy.

"We must work together on a mutual plan that fully respects and reflects partnership, that is consistent with treaty relationships and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," Atleo said in his letter.

He said control is a key:

"First Nation control of the education of our children must be the overriding, paramount principle of all our work."

Atleo said the process can still be successful.

"We must remove every reason and every excuse to not act — but rather create the proper and rightful environment to act now together for our children today and tomorrow."

But he warned that there will be no bending.

"We were partners in the past and we can be partners again, but First Nations will never compromise on fundamental principles, our rights, our responsibilities and the well-being of our children."

He invited the federal government to stand with First Nations "in affirming for all Canadians a solemn commitment to reconciliation and to a path forward that never again will our children be victimized in the name of education, never again will our dignity, languages and cultures be denied and desecrated."