First Nation Education Act: Due to Pass September, 2014

First Nation Education Act: Due to Pass September, 2014

By: Christina Coolidge
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I make my best effort to stay as positive as I can when writing my articles. There are so many positive changes happening amongst Indigenous people, and I prefer to keep my focus in that direction; however, I feel the need to bring to your attention the First Nation Education Act that is due to be passed in September, 2014.

Perhaps, there are good intentions behind this Act. I am inclined to think that it is simply another tactic to appear as though the government is taking action and consulting with Aboriginal people about issues that matter; but even if their intentions are good, as the old saying goes, ‘the road to hell was paved with good intentions.’

The following is taken directly from the Canada’s Economic Action Plan site regarding the Act:

Economic Action Plan 2013 confirms the Government’s commitment to consult with First Nations across Canada on the development of a First Nation Education Act and is committing to sharing this draft legislation with First Nations communities for their input.

Improving graduation rates for First Nations students is an objective the Government shares with First Nations parents, educators and leaders. In 2011, the Government and the Assembly of First Nations launched a National Panel, which made a number of recommendations for reforming First Nations education in its February 2012 report.

In Economic Action Plan 2012 the Government committed to working with First Nations to have in place by September 2014 a First Nation Education Act. This legislation would establish the structures and standards necessary to ensure stronger, more accountable education systems on reserve. The Government also committed to exploring mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nations elementary and secondary education.

The Government will continue to consult with First Nations across Canada on the development of legislation and is committing to sharing draft legislation with First Nations communities for their input.

Sounds great, right? The issue at hand is that this is once again, the government’s attempt at putting a Band-Aid over the real issue. According to the very well written and informed article, First Nations leaders fear First Nation Education Act will be federally imposed without adequate consultation, in the Calgary Herald by Michael Woods,

‘The government is doing a one-size-fits all Education Act, which absolutely is not working,’ said Morley Googoo, the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland who also holds the organization’s education portfolio. ‘At the end of the day, it’s an education system designed for us, not by us.’

‘First Nations communities have to feel like they’re being engaged properly.’

That would mean greater recognition of regional and language needs, and an emphasis on First Nations-driven solutions instead of the government’s top-down approach, Googoo said.

Chiefs from Quebec and Labrador told federal officials last week that “the unilateral action undertaken by the federal government with its proposed Education Act comes into direct conflict with the full jurisdiction of First Nations,” according to a statement from the AFN’s Quebec and Labrador branch.

Unfortunately, money is what it always seems to come down to. Without adequate funding, any solutions they wish to achieve will be a pipe dream. The Canadian government’s insistence on continuing their relationships with Aboriginal communities in such a way that maintains the subordinate and dependent position of Aboriginal people is doomed to failure any way you look at it. The government has been and continues to be just an overgrown babysitter dictating how and by what means Aboriginal communities should solve problems. Allotting a specific amount for each community to develop their own action plans in relation to education, including language classes, cultural teaching and any other needs specific to each Nation would have a much better chance at making a real difference.

There must be a level of sovereignty for Aboriginal people in order to achieve true consultation with the Canadian government and effect change. This Act has a similar air of the Indian Act to me, the government making decisions about the health and well being of Canada’s Indigenous population that they have no business making without implementing and addressing the suggestions and concerns of Indigenous people. Only this time, it is regarding our youth, the most precious resource we have.

I hope and pray for a positive outcome. “According to the Assembly of First Nations, data shows the First Nations high school graduation rate is 36 per cent, compared to 72 per cent in Canada overall. A First Nations youth is more likely to end up in jail than graduate high school”(Woods).

This is a frightening reality to face, but it must be faced. We must, by whatever means, save our youth from this experience. We are responsible for them and one day they will be responsible for us, and the generations to come.


NOTE: Since the printing of this article, the article in the Calgary Herald by Michael Woods is no longer available. However, here is the article, First Nations leaders fear First Nation Education Act will be federally imposed without adequate consultation  on The First Perspective.

Christina Coolidge is currently attending SFU as a Communications Major. She is the Indigenous Program Researcher with the Career Services department. Christina is a member of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and her matrilineal ancestry includes Cree and Scottish. She hopes to help build a bridge between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities in order to better understand one another and to live together in a spirit of unity. 




Posted on June 29, 2013