Key education report delayed

A crucial report intended to pave the way for major improvements in First Nations education won’t be ready in time for a meeting of chiefs and the prime minister next week.

OTTAWA — A crucial report intended to pave the way for major improvements in First Nations education won’t be ready in time for a meeting of chiefs and the prime minister next week.

The joint panel report was to be ready by the end of 2011.

But the report has been delayed until February, leaving the meetings with Stephen Harper without the hoped-for starting point.

“We simply can’t get our work done,” said Scott Haldane, chairman of the joint panel named by the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations.

“We’re trying to make sure our report is something that will make a difference, that can help both parties to make a change and to produce something on a schedule.”

Still, Haldane says the findings of the panel are no big secret, since he has spoken frequently about his observations. Both the government and the Assembly of First Nations also had staff at all the hearings.

A spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said the panel report was never specifically commissioned to be ready in time.

And the AFN points out there are other reports to draw on, including a Senate committee report recommending Ottawa set up native-run school boards.

Indeed, the meeting next week is widely expected to endorse the Senate report, even before the joint-panel report is in hand.

The Senate committee recommends Ottawa pass legislation that would set up school-board style arrangements run by First Nations themselves, and change the funding formula for schooling.

But there is no specific funding attached to the Senate recommendations, and First Nations have long complained that their schools receive significantly less funding than non-native schools.

“The least that can come of this meeting is an agreement to end discrimination in funding,” said Carolyn Bennett, Liberal critic for aboriginal affairs. “At least make the commitment.”