By Patrick Madahbee
THUNDER BAY – Op-ED – Over the past 20 years, the Anishinabek Nation and Canada have been negotiating an education agreement which will allow First Nations to take control of their own education. This agreement was finalized in July 2015 and we are now in the community approval process stage. Our vote is at the end of November. It is time.
This new agreement means that our First Nations funding will be predictable – no longer proposal-based like it is now. First Nations will have control over education – unlike now where it’s Indian Affairs control over First Nations education. Our students will have more per-student funding and opportunities will open up with Ontario.
We have 30 First Nations who want to head in the direction of taking control over education. In approving this agreement, we have not lost sight of self-determination, inherent rights and treaty rights to education.
We are taking capacity-building steps. We need to build our strengths. We cannot leap from here to there. We, as Anishinabek, are looking at pragmatic sovereignty. We’re taking it step by step – not biting the whole thing off in one chunk. We’ll get more unity as a Nation and will be able to gauge our capacity and readiness. It’s the best alternative we have to move towards full jurisdiction.
The Anishinabek Education will be run by the Kinoomaadziwin Education Board. Board members come from the participating First Nations. Steps will be made to form Regional Education Councils and our own curriculum will be developed. Steps will be taken with Ontario to develop curriculum for our children attending school off-reserve.
It is time. Our children cannot wait any longer. We need success to start with us. We can’t let Indian Affairs determine our student success.
It is time to say yes to an education system that will move us forward as Anishinabek.
Patrick Madahbee serves as the Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation – comprised of 40 First Nations in Ontario.