It is exceedingly difficult to find much fault with the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, particularly if one views it for what it is -- a negotiated deal. But it's becoming increasingly clear that a growing faction of what Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard so accurately dubbed Canada's "aboriginal industry" value practical improvements to the lives of native youth a great deal less than dogmatic adherence to some fantastical, idealized, and utterly impossible conception of how aboriginal-Canadian diplomacy is supposed to work.
On February 7, the government announced it would give almost $2 billion in new funding for aboriginal education. But it will take years to build all the new schools required, let alone create new community-run school systems. The real impact on aboriginal communities will take at least a generation to manifest. When next year's federal election rolls around, this agreement will provide few tangible, here-and-now marshmallows for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to offer voters.
When 78-year-old Aboriginal education activist Verna Kirkness heard Harper promise legislation giving aboriginal communities full control of on-reserve education, backed with $1.9 billion in new stable funding, she choked up. "I thought I would never hear such words. That feeling that, after all these years, something could finally happen."