Re: Chiefs vote to reject proposed changes to First Nations education (May 28)
I would like to thank the Advocate for publishing coverage of the “First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act” (FNCFNEA). Indigenous communities in Canada reject this act because it would grant more, not less, control over First Nations education to the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. While there are supposedly provisions for consultation, the Minister would gain far-reaching powers over the operation of schools on reserve. So much for First Nations control of education. Bill C-33 also requires that English or French be the primary language of instruction, precluding options for Indigenous language immersion. First Nations have requested a meeting with Minister Valcourt to discuss how to proceed with education reform, but their request has so far been ignored. Now, the government is withholding funding promised in the original Bill C-33, a tactic some commentators compare to the practice of withholding rations to force First Nations onto reserves in the nineteenth century.
Funding that is tied to legislation restricting Indigenous communities’ control over their own education is unacceptable. When will we move beyond the misguided notion that the government knows what is best for Indigenous peoples? It is that thinking that produced the tragedies of the residential schools, and that is why Indigenous communities reject Bill C-33.