First Nation Education Act - Free, Prior and Informed Consent is a Must

WENDAKE, QC, Feb. 11, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The recent announcement made by the Prime Minister respecting First Nations' education on Friday, February 7th, was political opportunism at its best. The so-called commitment amounts to little more than a name change accompanied by recycled promises. It was made without consulting with or receiving the consent of Quebec First Nations.

The Prime Minister renamed the federal legislative initiative respecting First Nations education the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, but announced no new proposed measures to increase First Nations' real control of their members' education. First Nations' role in education would be reduced to administration. The federal government would determine and impose standards. In the absence of details, we can only assume that the next proposal will be the same as the last: to seize jurisdiction over education from First Nations and to confer it on the Minister.

The announcement also offered familiar promises: a statutory guarantee of stable, predictable, sustainable funding, but no statutory guarantee of necessary funding; a recognition of, but no concrete commitment to meaningful support for, Aboriginal languages and cultural values. The draft Bill circulated this fall did not deliver on these promises or answer Quebec First Nations' concerns. Why should we believe the next proposal will be different?

First Nations students need adequate funding immediately. The Prime Minister announced funding for First Nations education, but not before 2015-16, after the next elections. "We have been waiting 20 years for new money and are now told to wait another two years. Moreover, the promise for new funding is dependent on what happens in the next federal election" stated Chief Whiteduck, of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg. "We cannot allow the Prime Minister to play politics with our children's futures" he concluded.

Any education legislation must receive free, prior, and informed consent from First Nations in Quebec. First Nations governments hold jurisdiction over and the right to self-determination with respect to education. The Crown must deal with First Nations and their appointed representatives directly. The Assembly of First Nations does not have the authority to conclude any agreement on behalf of First Nations in Quebec.

"We have been looking to engage the government of Canada in a respectable manner and through a collaborative effort. We wrote to Minister Valcourt to set what we felt were winning conditions to have our support" added Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard. "Not only did the Minister not respond to our calls, he chose to continue with his unilateral approach."

Our position has not changed. Any education legislation must include the following:

  1. Recognition and respect for First Nations' jurisdiction over and control of First Nations' education, allowing First Nations' solutions to be implemented without imposed oversight;
  2. A guarantee of necessary, adequate, equitable, and stable funding for First Nations' education;
  3. Meaningful support for the teaching of First Nations languages and cultural values.

We will do everything in our power - including, if necessary, undertaking legal proceedings - to see our rights respected, the Crown's obligations fulfilled, and our children's futures secured.

About the AFNQL
The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the political organization bringing together 43 chiefs of the First Nations in Quebec and Labrador. www.apnql-afnql.com.

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador

For further information:

Mélanie Vincent (vincentmelaniemv@gmail.com)
Cell.: 418 580-4442