AKWASASNE, ON, Oct. 23, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - It is with disappointment, but not surprise, that the Chiefs of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) received the Proposal for a Bill on First Nation Education, released yesterday by Minister Valcourt. Last week, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples noted the deep concern of First Nations from across the country that the process for developing the proposed First Nations Education Act has not appropriately included nor responded to aboriginal views. The proposal, reviewed and discussed by the Chiefs today, confirms our suspicions.
"Throughout the so called consultation process, the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador have repeatedly explained what we need to improve our children's education: meaningful support for the teaching of First Nations languages and cultural values; a guarantee of adequate, equitable funding; real control of the governance, management, and delivery of First Nations education," stated AFNQL Chief, Ghislain Picard.
The proposal answers none of our fundamental concerns. First Nations language and culture receive only a passing mention. Adequate funding is not guaranteed. The means by which First Nations education could be governed and managed are dictated in the Bill. Despite months of consultation, the fundamentals of the federal government's proposal have remained unchanged. First Nations concerns and recommendations have been ignored.
First Nations have a constitutionally recognized right to self-government and self-determination, which includes jurisdiction over the education of their members. By the proposed Bill, the federal government would usurp First Nations control over First Nations education. First Nations would be left to administer a system designed and controlled by Ottawa bureaucrats.
"We understand that, in the Minister's opinion, inadequacies in First Nations education result from a lack of structure and mismanagement by First Nations. First Nations have long suffered the federal government's opinion that it, and only it, knows what is best for our children. The federal government has consistently rebuffed First Nations' proposals regarding how education could be improved and ought to be managed. Ottawa's paternalistic attitude toward First Nations is responsible for some of the most shameful chapters in Canadian history; this same paternalistic attitude pervades the proposed Bill," indicated Chief Picard.
"We have had enough of Ottawa's problems being blamed on us. With great effort and determination, First Nations from across Quebec and Labrador are assuming control of our own education. We are succeeding. Nations assure their future through the education they give their youth. The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador are not willing to hand control of our future to a government department that has consistently ignored us. We are not willing to see our successes undone," said the Chief of Kitigan Zibi, Gilbert Whiteduck.
The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador are considering every available option to ensure that all First Nations youth in Quebec and Labrador receive the highest standard of education. These options include the creation of our own law to govern education, or if necessary, a legal challenge to the proposed Bill.
The AFNQL is a political organization regrouping 43 chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. For more information, visit its website at www.apnql-afnql.com.
SOURCE: First Nations Education Council
For further information:
FNEC Director General