NEWS
02/07/2014 11:55 EST | Updated 04/09/2014 05:59 EDT

First Nations education overhaul to be unveiled today

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make an announcement in Alberta today about the government’s plan to overhaul the First Nations Education Act.

He will be joined by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo and regional chiefs from across the country at the Kainai High School on the Blood Tribe reserve north of Cardston.

CBC News has learned that the legislation is expected to allow First Nations greater control of their education system as well as a significant boost in education funding.

The bill will also require teachers on reserves to acquire provincial certification and include measures to improve attendance records and low graduation rates on reserves.

The announcement will include the lifting of the two per cent cap on increases to First Nations funding that has been in place since the 1990s, CBC News has learned. A 4.5 per cent annual "escalator" will replace it.

The announcement comes after many First Nations reacted with anger and disappointment to the federal government’s education legislation proposed last October.

Alberta chiefs and the Blood Tribe chief and council also rejected the proposal, but Chief Charles Weaselhead said it is important to continue engaging Canada on improving education and graduation rates among First Nation students.

The band agreed to host the announcement after a request from Atleo. 

Concerns remain

“We agreed to host this national announcement, but in no way endorse the proposed legislation in its present form," said Weaselhead.

"However, we are open to continued dialogue and building relationships.”

The AFN passed a resolution in December that officially rejected the proposed act, demanding long-term funding guarantees, First Nations control over education and a recognition of their languages and culture in curriculum.

But in an email to AFN regional chiefs this week, Atleo said that AFN had "received word" of the federal government's agreement to the conditions of that resolution, "including new and sustainable investments in the upcoming budget."

"This is a significant shift and I believe it results from our strong direction from chiefs to take all steps necessary to secure the future of First Nations children," Atleo said in the email.

Valcourt signalled the government's willingness to meet those conditions in a conciliatory open letter to the AFN in December, in response to an earlier letter from Atleo.

The federal government wants the act to be in place in time for the next school year in September.

The announcement will be made at 11 a.m. MT (1 p.m. ET). Harper will then have a banquet-style meal with the students and leaders of the Kainai Nation Blood Tribe.