Anger over Education Act Echoes
THUNDER BAY – The Harper conservatives are holding First Nations children to ransom by refusing to respect their rights to quality education.
Anishinabek Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee responded to published comments by a federal Indian Affairs spokesman that the federal government was dropping controversial Bill C-33 but not investing “new money” in First Nations education until there are “reforms” to the delivery of education in First Nations schools.
“The Minister of Indian Affairs is holding our children as ransom in order to force their reform on First Nations education through parliament,” said Madahbee. “The Minister is not being honest with the Canadian public because we’ve already developed education reform. The problem they have is that our education reform was developed by First Nation educators and not by government legislators.”
Madahbee’s comments came on the heels of a national resolution where First Nation Chiefs directed the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to reject Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.
“Our decision to kill the bill was not simply a reaction by ‘rogue chiefs’, as the minister called us,” said the Grand Council Chief. “This bill was vetted by technicians, lawyers, educators, parents and students. The job of our Chiefs was to listen to what our experts and citizens were telling us. What we saw in the bill was a lot of government control and no First Nations control of education for our children.”
The Ottawa Citizen reported May 28th that the federal government was dropping the education bill and not investing new funds into an education system that First Nations say is grossly underfunded.
“It’s no secret that the Harper government is reaching new lows in modern-day oppression of First Nations people, that almost goes without saying, but I don’t understand how the media and the Canadian public can’t see it and challenge them when they make such blatantly false statements,” said Madahbee.
“The Minister said that he wouldn’t put ‘new money’ into education even though the government admitted to a funding gap in First Nations education. This doesn’t serve the best interest of our children. Meanwhile every First Nation has had funding cuts to basic services that directly or indirectly impacts our children, so the idea of ‘new money’ is pretty misleading,” said Madahbee. “I don’t understand how the government can say that they have the best interest of our children in mind when they’ve done nothing but increase funding inequalities in nearly every sector of First Nation services, including education.”
The Anishinabek Nation leader was also critical of an Indian Affairs’ reference to the AFN “not honouring an agreement” with Canada on Bill C-33. The department has since admitted there was no formal agreement.“In any event, the AFN is not a rights-holder,” said Madahbee. “Our 800,000 First Nations citizens entrust their rights with their 630 Chiefs.”