AFN – Update on First Nations Education

Chief Perry Bellegarde
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Chief Perry Bellegarde
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

OTTAWA – The Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) is taking place December 5-7 in Ottawa, Ontario. The SCA will feature discussion and dialogue around a number of issues, including First Nations education and our long-standing goal of First Nations control of First Nations education.

Our work on education is based on respecting, protecting and enforcing First Nations inherent rights and Treaty rights, title and jurisdiction. Jurisdiction remains with each First Nation chief and council. The federal government will not delegate any education responsibilities or funding to any provincial or territorial government.

We know that fair funding for our children and students is essential to success in education. To address this, AFN and its Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) is involved in co-developing a Memorandum to Cabinet (MC) on federal education funding for First Nations. The AFN has received some questions about this work and we want to provide some information prior to the SCA.

First Nations and the AFN have been advocating since 2001 for policy and program reform that provides core funding for education directly to First Nation governments, education organizations and schools. This MC process is not about developing federal legislation for First Nation education. It is about policy and program change for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada’s (INAC’s) federal education programming and funding. This MC process is not about funding going through provinces. It is about direct transfers to First Nation governments for First Nations education.

The co-development process between AFN, CCOE, and INAC has produced a draft MC that will be available and will be discussed at the SCA. There are four major outcomes of the draft MC on First Nations education funding.

  1. Supporting First Nations, through funded regional tables, to negotiate and conclude regional “First Nation Education Agreements.” The agreements will include an education funding model designed by First Nations based on the unique needs of their students, communities, and schools (starting in 2018-19). First Nations can define “regions” for themselves as an individual First Nation, a language group, a school board model, a Tribal Council-style entity, a Treaty-based approach, or any other suitable grouping. The new MC will move away from the government’s push to try and force aggregation on our education systems and our governments.
  2. Unlocking the remaining funding committed in federal budget 2016 for “Transforming First Nation Education” (approximately $665 million). Currently, this is limited to school board funding. The new MC will unlock this amount and combine it with the total budget commitments for First Nations education, which will then be available to all First Nations, with a priority for those that need it most (starting in 2018-19).
  3. Replacing INAC’s outdated, inequitable and inadequate federal education funding programs with regional education approaches and funding models that provide sufficient, predictable and sustainable funding (starting 2019-20).
  4. The MC will signal the intention of First Nations to develop a supplementary budget ask for the 2019 Federal Budget that will identify the funding required to conclude regional education agreements and meet the needs for First Nation students (over and above the $2.3 billion committed in 2016).

These four points address some of the key questions and issues that have been raised throughout this work.

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