THUNDER BAY – In Ottawa the Assembly of First Nation leaders were in meetings this week. One of those meetings was on the topic of education. “Education has once again been an important topic of discussion for our leaders and our peoples”, stated the Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE). “Through our discussions leading up to this Assembly, the Chiefs Committee has been meeting regularly and developing a national action plan. The Chiefs Committee reached out to Minister Duncan to start a conversation with the Government of Canada. The way forward requires dialogue and we want to ensure that the positions of our peoples are clear”.
“Our children are our most precious resource and we will not let them down. The Federal Government must honour the inherent and Treaty rights as affirmed in the Constitution of Canada, 1982”.
“We need to work with the Federal Government and we need to establish a guarantee for fair, stable and predictable funding for our schools. First Nations have demonstrated tremendous leadership in this area – our educators, our parents and our communities must lead the way forward now. The status quo is not acceptable and we insist on working for and achieving change now for our children.” stated AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.
[pullquote] Our meeting was frank, productive and focused on how we can work together to achieve our shared objective – Minister Duncan [/pullquote]
John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, issued the following statement today regarding his meeting with Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, AFN Regional Chief Morley Googoo and other members of the Chiefs Committee on Education: “I was pleased to meet today with National Chief Atleo, Regional Chief Googoo and other members of the Chiefs Committee on Education. Our meeting was frank, productive and focused on how we can work together to achieve our shared objective: improving First Nation education. We agreed that a good education leads to greater economic opportunities for students, which in turn contributes to healthier, more prosperous and more self-sufficient First Nation communities. We also agreed that the current approach is not working; First Nation students are not graduating at the same rate as other Canadians, which limits their opportunities. Only significant changes to our approach to First Nation education will lead to improvements in graduation rates.
Duncan continued, “To that end, our Government will continue to build on our record of achievement, which includes the construction, since 2006, of over 30 new schools, renovations to more than 200 schools, and significant investments in programs to improve literacy and provide other supports. In addition, I reiterated our Government’s commitment to working with First Nations to develop a First Nation Education Act. Our approach will be consistent with our obligations pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution Act,1982 and will include intensive consultation with First Nation parents, students, leaders and educators, as well as provinces. We will also explore mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nation education”.
The House of Commons in a rare vote of unanimity voted to support Shannen’s Dream in February. At the time, the AFN National Chief said “First Nations leaders, educators and our inspiring young leaders like Shannen Koostachin have made a clear and compelling case for investing in First Nation education. Our kids deserve good schools – schools that nurture them in their languages and cultures and schools that create the opportunity for success”.
The motion, put forward by the NDP and supported by all Parliamentarians declares that all First Nation children have an equal right to high quality culturally-relevant education. It also commits Parliament to providing the necessary financial and policy supports for First Nations education systems on par with non-reserve provincial schools and working collaboratively with First Nations and other jurisdictions to ensure implementation.
Our meeting concluded with a firm commitment to continue seeking ways of working together to achieve our ultimate objective, which is improving the education and opportunities available to First Nation students.”