THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose states, “Kikinahamaagewin outlines that the path forward for NAN First Nations’ education must be based on two key principles: Indian control of Indian Education (Jurisdiction) and adequate and sustainable funding to ensure that First Nation education needs are met now and in generations to come”.
Kikinahamaagewin, a comprehensive independent report on education in NAN First Nations is issued in advance of the release of an education report by the National Panel, a national education review process by the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
Waboose continues, “An investment in First Nations Education is an investment in Canada. NAN is calling on the Government of Canada to provide fair and adequate funding for much-needed improvements in education facilities, support services, special education, teacher salaries and curriculum outcomes that will ensure that First Nation students receive a quality education on par with students across Canada”.
“This report has found that the administration of education under the Indian Act is a failed paternalistic regime, with policy driven not by education outcomes but by severely flawed funding formulas that are hopelessly outdated and discriminatory against First Nations,” added Waboose, who holds the education portfolio. “This report reflects the need for a new education regime that strengthens, supports and enables our existing school systems to ensure that the education received by First Nation students meets all provincial standards and fulfils Canada’s Treaty obligations to NAN First Nations.”
The report is not part of the National Panel process, but will be submitted directly to the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) as NAN First Nations’ position on improving education with respect to the rights of the people of Nishnawbe Aski.
NAN First Nations rejected the National Panel as a flawed and deficient process established without input from First Nations. The National Panel’s mandate did not include a review of pre-school education, post-secondary or vocational education, and failed to address the critical funding gap between native and non-native students.
“We opposed the National Panel process because it may recommend legislation that will enable the federal government to govern First Nation education,” stated Waboose. “This amounts to a backdoor revision of the Indian Act, and has the potential to arbitrarily define and diminish our Treaty right to education while holding little prospect of improving the quality of education our children deserve.”
The report states, “One key to effective implementation of education self-governance is to remove Indian & Northern Affairs as the responsible department for such negotiations. There is an inherent conflict of interest for INAC in such negotiations given the impact on reduction in federal staff and control currently exercised by INAC. Rather than INAC, a new secretariat should be set up in one of the central agencies to be charged with all First Nation self-government negotiations.”
Instead of passing legislation that will strip First Nations of their Treaty right to education, NAN is calling on the Government of Canada to “provide fair and adequate funding for much-needed improvements in education facilities, support services, special education, teacher salaries and curriculum education outcomes that will ensure that First Nation students receive a quality education on par with students across Canada”.
“The inadequate education funding for reserve elementary and secondary schools, in which the majority of NAN First Nation students attend, directly contributes to the hindrance of learning development among First Nation students. Many students are not prepared for secondary level learning when they leave our elementary schools. This low standard of education in our schools is mainly due to the inadequate funding which the council operated schools receive in comparison to provincial schools”.
NAN has also participated in a joint panel report with the First Nations Education Council of Quebec and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Report on Priority Actions in View of Improving First Nations Education another independent report separate from the National Panel process that was released in November 2011. Further to this NAN has participated in the development of the Chiefs of Ontario report titled Our Children, Our Future, Our Vision: First Nations Jurisdiction over First Nations Education in Ontario, which will be released the same day as the National Panel report on First Nations Elementary and Secondary Education.