APTN National News
OTTAWA–Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Thursday the Harper government would be putting money on the table to go along with contentious plans for new legislation governing First Nations education.
Duncan issued a statement following a late afternoon meeting with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo and three other chiefs, including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador regional Chief Morley Googoo.
Duncan said the Harper government would meet its obligation to consult under the Constitution.
“Our approach will be consistent with our obligations … and will include intensive consultation with First Nation parents, students, leaders and educators, as well as provinces,” said Duncan’s statement. “We will also explore mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nation education.”
The Harper government’s plan to pass legislation that would provide a framework for on-reserve, K-12 education is one among several of the irritants that led Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario chiefs to try and enter the House of Commons Chamber on Tuesday.
Duncan told the chiefs he had a cabinet mandate directing him to proceed and begin consultation on new legislation.
The Atleo-led delegation told the minister that issues of treaty rights and funding needed to be addressed. The two sides agreed to meet again in the New Year.
“All issues were put squarely on the table and we will follow-up by transmitting the resolutions along with our national action plan once it is confirmed by us,” said Googoo in an email sent to chiefs and band officials at about 6:35 p.m. following the meeting. “Key issues included the urgent need for fair, equitable and stable funding, regional diversity including the absolute need for respectful implementation of our rights and Treaty implementation and support for First Nations controlled systems supportive of our languages and cultures.”
The meeting began sometime between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., moments after Atleo’s speech to wrap up a special chiefs assembly when he declared “now was the time for action.” Its time was set while chiefs were still gathered in the assembly.
The AFN’s chiefs committee on education had sent a letter to Duncan last week requesting the meeting.
There were some questions immediately after the AFN and the minister issued their statements as to why Duncan didn’t meet with all the chiefs at the assembly.
Treaty chiefs from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario have said federal education legislation would infringe on their constitutionally-protected treaty right to enact sovereign laws over how they teach their children.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations distributed a pamphlet with a stark warning about Ottawa’s plans.
“The last time Canada introduced federal legislation in education for our people,” says the pamphlet above two photos of Cree child Thomas Moore before and after he entered an Indian residential school in Regina. In one photo Moore has his long hair in braids and wears traditional beaded clothing and in the next photo his hair is trimmed short and he wears a tight fitting suit.
The FSIN has passed three resolutions demanding the AFN stop working with Ottawa to develop federal education legislation.
Under then-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, a minority Harper government passed B.C. specific legislation in late 2006 that allowed for harmonization between provincial and on-reserve education systems.
Treaty chiefs don’t want provinces at the table.