NEWS

Aboriginal education bill meets 5 conditions outlined by First Nations

04/10/2014 11:23 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT
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 control.

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 First Nations students who live on reserves with the same education standards that are currently available to other Canadians.

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.

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 say funding is also insufficient.

Ghislain Picard, the AFN’s regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, is requesting a judicial review of the Conservative government's reworked plan for aboriginal education.

The group is asking the Federal Court to prevent the legislation from going ahead without its endorsement.​

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.

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