By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The Harper government is expected to release a draft of the First Nation Education Act in October before tabling a final version of the proposed legislation before the end of the year, according to the regional chief in charge of the education file for the Assembly of First Nations.
Morley Googoo, the regional chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, said chiefs expect Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to release a draft version of the proposed First Nations Action Act for review before it gets tabled in Parliament.
Googoo said the proposed legislation is expect be introduced sometime in late November or early December.
Valcourt’s office would neither confirm nor deny Googoo’s timetable, saying only that the bill will “be in place” by September 2014.
The Harper government has made education a central piece of its Aboriginal affairs file and the proposed education bill is expected to get a mention in the speech from the throne which will lay out the government’s agenda for the upcoming session. Gov. Gen. David Johnston will read the speech on Oct. 16, the day Parliament resumes following its prorogation earlier this month.
Googoo said there is widespread unhappiness so far with the federal government’s handling of consultations around the bill and it could face a legal challenge if Ottawa doesn’t change its approach.
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo is expected to write a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressing displeasure over the government’s handling of the issue. Atleo and Googoo are also penning a more detailed letter to Valcourt outlining what needs to be fixed.
“(Chiefs) are not happy with the process, it is inadequate,” said Googoo. “Several regions have looked at legal issues regarding how it was approached.”
Googoo said chiefs also expect the bill to come with dollar bills attached.
“We are attempting to relay why communities don’t support the bill,” he said.
Valcourt has agreed to meet with Googoo on the issue, according to a letter sent by the minister to chiefs on the education committee. In the letter, Valcourt said consultations unfolded over the past eight months and the feedback was incorporated into a blueprint posted publicly online.
“As I told chief Googoo…I invite him to discuss with me, my office and my officials potential language for the preamble to the legislation, which will set out the guiding purpose and principles of the legislation,” said Valcourt, in the Sept. 16 letter.
In a statement sent to APTN National News Valcourt said he is committed to sharing a draft version of the bill before it’s tabled.
“I have repeatedly committed to share the draft legislation with Aboriginal leadership and stakeholders for their consideration and feedback, prior to introducing it in Parliament,” said Valcourt, in the statement. “All input will ultimately contribute to improved education on reserve that allowed increased First Nation control over First Nation education while guaranteeing minimum standards for First Nation education systems and it will put in place the mechanisms required to provide First Nation schools with stable, predictable and sustainable funding.”