First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act

An Act to provide for jurisdiction over education on First Nation lands in British Columbia

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Jim Prentice  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enables agreements between Her Majesty in right of Canada and individual First Nations in British Columbia with respect to jurisdiction over education on First Nation land to be brought into effect by order in council. It includes the establishment of a First Nations Education Authority and sets out the powers, duties, functions and composition of that entity. Consequential amendments to other federal Acts are also included.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Northern Jobs and Growth Act
Government Orders

November 26th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am continuing on with my comments on Bill C-47.

As I indicated at the outset of my speech, New Democrats support the bill going to committee at second reading for further review.

When I was interrupted, I was referring to the legislative summary that talked about the deputy minister of what was then Indian and Northern Affairs providing reassurances to aboriginal and northern affairs members that although implementation would add to the workload of certain agencies in Nunavut, including the Nunavut Impact Review Board, they would get the resources they needed. However, it was not made clear what funding would be dedicated for this purpose.

I want to go back and refer to testimony that was before the aboriginal affairs committee in May 2010. The Nunavut Impact Review Board, among others, came before the committee to outline some of its concerns generally about the operation of its organization in the north as well as specific reference to what was then Bill C-25.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the other side for the support in continuing to speak.

The review board indicated that the draft legislation would create the one-window approach that is currently lacking. However, this does not eliminate the need for the Nunavut institutions to continue to work together. Rather, it is increasingly important in preparation for the law coming into force.

Additional resources will be required for the boards to participate in this implementation planning and in equipping the organizations to meet new requirements and timelines.

It would be essential for the Nunavut Planning Commission, as a single window into the Nunavut regulatory regime, to access the expertise held within these organizations in order to fully understand the impact assessment and regulatory processes that occur.

I also want to discuss one of the most significant ongoing challenges facing the board, which are the delays in the appointment of board members. This delay can result in a loss of quorum. The boards rely on board members to make the decisions required to fulfill their respective mandates.

Further on, the executive director of the Nunavut Water Board was speaking and indicated that he wanted to speak about the board's funding constraints:

Given the vast territory, the obligation to hold hearings in communities most directly affected, working in three languages, and the limited capacity of people and communities to engage in the regulatory process, the cost of fulfilling the mandate of the boards is high.

Again, he was referencing the challenges with the amount of resources that were provided. He went on to say:

If economic development potential in the north is a key objective of the federal government, it is the board's view that equal measures to promote and support the regulatory regimes are required to effectively and efficiently fulfill the commitments made in the Nunavut land claims agreement.

He went on to talk about how important it is to make increased resources available to the Water Review Board, but also to other organizations as well:

Accordingly, the boards recommend a review of federal and territorial resources available and required to fulfill the NLCA functions and reduce barriers to development in the north.

As I mentioned earlier, there are not any assurances in this piece of legislation that there will be the resources available for Nunavut to actually undertake the implementation of this very important piece, and that is another reason why it is important to get the bill to committee quickly, because of course it was first introduced in 2010, and here we are two years later, and because of an election, the bill was not dealt with. Of course, we have been back here for well over a year and the bill could have been introduced months ago.

One of the reasons the Water Review Board is raising concerns around funding is that it has been the experience, when other pieces of legislation have been passed, when there has not been that commitment to funding, that those pieces of legislation actually languish.

I want to refer to Bill C-34 that was passed by the Parliament of Canada back in December 2006. Bill C-34 was the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act. FNESC, which has been an advocate, actively involved in implementing that piece of legislation, has recently written a letter to the former minister Jim Prentice, indicating to Mr. Prentice:

However, unilateral action by the Canadian government is now jeopardizing the education jurisdiction initiative in BC, including the legally binding agreements and supporting legislation. Specifically, we have been unable to reach resolution with the Government of Canada regarding reasonable funding for this initiative.

Here we have a piece of legislation that was passed in 2006. Here we are in 2012, and the initiative still is not being appropriately funded.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board is quite correct in raising concerns about the fact that adequate funding has not so far been talked about.

In the last couple of minutes I have left I want to raise some concerns, overall, with the speed of implementation of land claims agreements and some of the subsequent agreements that are so important for their effective functioning.

In the second universal periodic review that was submitted on October 9, 2012, to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, they have raised a number of concerns about Canada's foot-dragging on these matters. In this they outline first of all the importance of modern treaties and the fact that these modern treaties represent nation to nation and government to government relationships between aboriginal signatory and the Crown in right of Canada.

They go on to talk about the importance of this in terms of:

...[improving] social, cultural, political and economic well-being. At the same time, these agreements are intended to provide all signatories with a mutual foundation for the beneficial and sustainable development and use of Aboriginal peoples' traditional lands and resources.

They talk about the fact that:

The treaty rights arising from modern land claims...express the mutual desire of the Crown and Aboriginal peoples to reconcile through sharing the lands, resources and natural wealth of this subcontinent in a manner that is equitable and just, in contrast to the discriminatory and assimilationist approaches that have characterized their historical relations.

They talk about the honour of the Crown, and I will touch on a couple of the recommendations they made. First, they raised the issue of the fact that “...Nunavut, one of the Coalition's founding members...” had to file a claim “against the Government of Canada, concerning a litany of federal implementation failures in respect of the Nunavut Agreement...”.

They then state:

In June 2012, Mr. Justice Johnson of the Nunavut Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Inuit, in relation to one aspect of the suit, concerning the failure to develop an ecosystemic and socio-economic monitoring plan.

It goes on to say:

Mr....Johnson ordered the Government of Canada to disgorge the $14 million it had saved by not implementing the treaty obligation in a timely manner.

Later on in the submission to the Human Rights Council, as I had mentioned, they raised the issue about funding and the fact that funding has not been discussed, at least that we can tell, in Bill C-47.

The Land Claims Coalition has put forward a “Four-Ten Declaration and Model Implementation Policy”. In this four-ten declaration, it has indicated:

A federal commitment to achieve the broad objectives of modern treaties, as opposed to mere technical compliance with narrowly defined obligations. This must include, but not be limited to, ensuring adequate funding to achieve these objectives and obligations.

It also indicates:

There must be an independent implementation and review body.

That has often been a sticking point when we come to land claims and treaties.

The document further states:

On March 3, 2009, the Land Claims Agreements Coalition released a model national policy on land claims agreement implementation: “Honour, Spirit and Intent: A Model Canadian Policy on the Full Implementation of Modern Treaties Between Aboriginal Peoples and the Crown”....

And in this, under the model, one point specifically related to Bill C-47 is that the model Canadian policy calls for:

Implement[ing] dynamic self-government arrangements and negotiat[ing] stable, predictable and adequate funding arrangements;

Negotiate in good faith with Aboriginal signatories to conclude multi-year implementation plans and fiscal agreements and arrangements;

Provide sufficient and timely funding to fully implement the objectives of modern treaties;

So the issue of funding is very important when we are talking about Bill C-47. It has been raised over a number of years, and we have not seen that firm commitment. The deputy minister said that although they were considering it, he did not make any kind of commitment when he came before the committee a couple of years ago.

In conclusion, New Democrats are supporting this bill getting to committee. We are looking forward to a thorough review of a very technical, complex piece of legislation. It impacts on Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I look forward to having that very thorough discussion and getting this piece of legislation moved forward.

June 13th, 2007 / 9:10 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for bringing about this important adjournment proceeding tonight, although she might be forgetting what occurred yesterday when the Prime Minister, the Minister of Indian Affairs and others in our government announced what is an historic and important change to the Indian Specific Claims Commission by making it an independent body.

In fact, after meeting with the national chief yesterday, I can say that he was very pleased. He was happy to see such an important step forward for Canada's first nations people, so clearly the member seems to have missed some of the key details that have occurred in our new government's approach to aboriginal people. It is something that I am very proud of.

Today I am going to talk somewhat about the things that we are doing in government right now. I know that the member opposite has a shameful record that she has to prop up in regard to the Liberal Party, but thankfully our government is moving forward in working with aboriginal groups, the provinces and the territories to find workable and innovative solutions to address poverty among aboriginal people in Canada.

The government's strategy on aboriginal issues is clear: to collaborate closely with strong and willing aboriginal organizations, with provinces and territories, and with other partners to devise and implement effective solutions.

This strategy has produced and will continue to produce tangible and sustainable improvements in the lives of aboriginal people for two reasons: first, it focuses on specific challenges; and second, it will engage the very people most affected by these challenges to design and implement the solutions.

Initially, budget 2006 announced $450 million over two years, with $150 million in 2006-07 and $300 million in 2007-08, to support priority areas in education, for women, children and families, and water and housing. Budget 2007 confirms that the $300 million from this budget will continue thereafter in an ongoing funding arrangement. It will provide ongoing capacity to deal with these priority areas.

The government is making progress on these priorities. For instance, on April 20 the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation both announced the first nations mortgage market housing fund. This fund represents a real change in how Canada's new government supports housing on reserve and is an example of the type of innovative thinking we need to bring about a long term solution, not only for housing issues but for other major challenges that plague many first nation communities.

With regard to education, let us not forget about Bill C-34, the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act. This act came about through collaboration between the government and the province of British Columbia and first nations in that province. Our government recognizes that first nations people and communities must determine their own educational needs and must have the tools to address them.

In collaboration with first nations, we have moved forward on other areas as well. Hon. members are well aware of the progress we have made in child and family services through the partnership we have entered into with the province of Alberta and Alberta's first nations, in the provision of safe drinking water to first nations communities, and in finding a solution to the difficult issue of matrimonial real property on reserve.

Housing, water and education, and support for women, children and families: these are the firm foundations we must build upon so that poverty in aboriginal communities can be eradicated once and for all.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

June 11th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not play politics. I will quickly ask my question.

I am very surprised to hear the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons talk to me about Bill C-44 when he is not familiar with the file. In fact, he is talking about Bill C-34 instead of Bill C-44. He should come to committee to see the work we are doing.

I have a very specific question. We have an all-party agreement on Bill C-51 on lands in the far north claimed by the Inuit, who have been waiting for 10 years. There is also an agreement on Bill S-6. We have an agreement among all parties, including the government party.

Why not put these two bills to a vote tomorrow? It would be done and resolved. There is no need for a study, especially since everyone agrees on fast-tracking these two bills.

May 29th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased to do so.

I'd like to say good morning to you and to the members of the committee. Thank you very much. I look forward to our dialogue here today.

I thank you for the opportunity to discuss the main estimates of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development with you and your colleagues this morning. I'm grateful for the attention this committee has given to my department's agenda over the past year—I guess to our collective agenda. I appreciate your consideration of these important issues, including post-secondary education and housing, as well as legislative initiatives such as Bill C-34 and Bill C-44, which are now before the committee.

I know we all share the same objective, which is to say improving the quality of life for aboriginal people and northerners.

You heard from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's accounting officer, Deputy Minister Michael Wernick, a short time ago regarding the department's supplementary estimates. I would like to speak today in the context of this year's main estimates, the next step in the financial planning cycle, and we are determined to move forward to make a real and positive difference in the lives of aboriginal people and northerners.

The current 2007-08 main estimates include $6.3 billion for our department. This represents a net increase of $36 million from 2006-07.

One point I would like to emphasize, particularly for Monsieur Lemay, is that the main estimates are of course simply the first step in the fiscal cycle, the starting point. They do not include resources that will be allocated through supplementary estimates.

Mr. Chairman, funded by the main and supplementary estimates, we are determined to move forward in clearly defined ways through approaches and initiatives that will effect real change in aboriginal communities and furthermore will give aboriginal people the tools and organizational structures they need to take charge of their own future.

I have felt, from the time I became the minister, that we need to effect structural reforms, in particular to protect women and children and to ensure that women are in a position to move forward and advocate on behalf of their children.

First, we need to effect structural reform to protect women, children and families. Whether the reform is legislative, as is the case with the repealed section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, or a change in policies and programs, we must ensure that aboriginal women, children and families have the same rights and have access to the same quality of services as all other Canadians.

Our continued work to address the issue of matrimonial real property and our recent partnership with the Province of Alberta and Alberta first nations to implement a new approach to child and family services are recent examples of new and innovative thinking, new approaches to the existing challenges in first nation communities. I'm confident that, working in partnership with the provinces, territories, and aboriginal groups, we can build on successes such as these.

Second, we have to consolidate economic development tools to obtain the maximum efficiency from our programs and services, and so that we can enable first nations to take charge of their own economic development. That is why the Aboriginal Business Canada program and the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board were unified under my department in December 2006. This is an important initiative, and there will be more said about it in the future. It is one of the important structural changes that needed to be made to ensure that the department has the tools to deal with economic development, which I think we all would agree is a significant part of the way forward.

Furthermore, under the aboriginal workplace partnership initiatives, we have formalized partnerships with local governments, influential businesses, and trade unions to promote the employment of an aboriginal labour force. I'm especially proud of the agreements that have been signed in the past several months, agreements such as those with Siemens Canada Limited in Saskatoon, the City of Edmonton, the Calgary Health Region, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, and the Nova Scotia Trucking Human Resource Sector Council. All of these agreements will bolster the number of employment opportunities available to aboriginal people.

To give you another example, this government allocated $300 million in budget 2007 for the establishment of the first nations market housing fund. This fund will enable first nation families and individuals to purchase, build, and renovate on-reserve housing that meets their specific needs and tastes. I think everyone in the room is familiar with the fact that a key aspect of this is the leverage that is available from the $300 million, leverage that would be in the nature of four or five to one. So it's not simply $300 million; it accesses private mortgage capital in excess of $1.5 billion, which will be available over time for first nations housing.

The program is expected to help finance the development of approximately 25,000 new housing units over the next 10 years, but the First Nations Housing Market Fund will not only encourage housing development, it will also help first nations people living on reserve to obtain bank loans, build equity and generate wealth through home ownership.

Third, there is a desperate need to address the existing approach to the resolution of aboriginal land claims. I'm happy to point out that there have been some marked recent successes. The Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement, for instance, was signed in December of last year, resolving this country's last major Inuit land claim, Bill C-51.

Bill C-51, which ratifies this agreement, has recently been introduced in the House, and last year three treaties were also initialled in the province of British Columbia. These were the first to be initiated under the B.C. treaty process. However, much more needs to be done.

I know all of the members here today are eager to discuss these plans and to address the current untenable situation presented by the specific claims process. Although I'm not in a position to elaborate at this time, I'm pleased to note that we have committed to and intend to announce a new approach to the resolution of this long-standing national issue.

Fourth, we have to work to enable the participation of aboriginal people in major resource development opportunities. The close proximity of our first nations communities to resource development presents opportunities, allows people to participate in these projects in a meaningful manner, and to share in the social and economic benefits that are generated by these initiatives.

I know we've all seen examples of this sort of success in the past. I observed that in the context of Voisey's Bay, for example, close to 50% of the workforce at that facility are first nation citizens. If you go to the diamond mines in the Northwest Territories in the Tlicho area, you'll find that, as I recall, in excess of 30% of the people working at those facilities are first nation citizens.

So we are making progress.

This government recently passed regulations under the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act that will enable the Fort McKay First Nation, in partnership with Shell Canada, to develop a multi-billion dollar oil sands mine in northern Alberta. This is the first initiative of its kind. The project will attract investors from around the world and create hundreds of meaningful, well-paying jobs for community residents.

And we have also dedicated $500 million to the Mackenzie Valley Socio-Economic Impact Fund. Committed in budget 2006, this fund will assist those communities whose development is affected by the proposed Mackenzie gas project, should the project proceed.

Fifth, my colleagues, we continue to work forward addressing the residential schools matter. I'm pleased to report to the committee that the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement has received final court approval, and now former students and their families must choose whether to stay in the agreement or remove themselves from it. All parties to this historic agreement have agreed to a fair resolution of this sad legacy and chapter in the history of our country.

Our new government recognizes the importance of achieving a fair and lasting resolution of the Indian residential schools legacy and of moving forward in partnership with aboriginal communities across Canada. You will be aware that in my early months as minister, I brought the closure, along with Minister Oda, to the negotiations surrounding the Indian residential school settlement. That's also why we supported the motion for the House of Commons to apologize for the legacy of the Indian residential school agreement. The apology took place a month or so ago.

We are moving forward with the implementation of the agreement at this point, potentially as early as September of this year, once the opt-out period is finished. In particular, we look forward to the important work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is an element of this historic agreement and which will provide a complete historic record of the unfortunate legacy of which we speak.

Not only is this department responsible for first nation, Inuit, and northern issues, I'm also the federal interlocutor for Métis and non-status Indians. My official work with Métis and non-status Indians and urban aboriginal people is to assist them in realizing their full economic and social potential. In this capacity, we recently announced a refocused urban aboriginal strategy in Edmonton, concentrating on job training and entrepreneurship for the nearly 50% of aboriginal people who live in cities and towns across the country.

The approach to the urban aboriginal strategy is based upon a focus on the larger metropolitan centres--12 in number, as I recall. The strategy unites federal, provincial, and municipal governments as well as aboriginal communities and organizations and invests $68.5 million over five years to improve life and employment skills, to promote entrepreneurship, and to provide support to aboriginal women, children, and families.

Mr. Chairman, you and your colleagues are quite aware that the north is an important part of my mandate. Canada's New Government is committed to working with Canada's three northern territories to develop the north's natural resources, and create jobs and prosperity for northerners and indeed for all Canadians.

The north holds a significant percentage of Canada's energy resources. They present an immense opportunity for exploration and development--investment for generations to come. Resource-based projects in the north include diamond mines, oil and gas exploration, and other mining activity. They've contributed to increased economic growth in the north over the past number of years.

This economic growth, besides being the means of improving quality of life for northerners, also serves to bolster Canadian sovereignty in the north, raising the profile of Canada. As an Arctic nation, we must do what we can to ensure that the current boom in the north continues, to the benefit of northerners and other Canadians alike.

The International Polar Year, 2007-08, was also launched on March 1. This will be another enabler of growth and development in the north. We expect that the research by Canadian and international scientists, funded through the International Polar Year program, will lead to new knowledge, environmental, health, and economic benefits to Canadians in the north and across our nation.

The two key themes for International Polar Year science—climate change impacts and adaptation, and the health and well-being of northern communities—will be important to many nations, given the global effects of climate change.

In closing, I feel it is essential to note that while funding is a crucial element in the success of our programs and initiatives, it is not the only significant factor. I have said before that continuing to fund existing programs without considering their validity or efficiency is not good enough. We must continue to consider whether the means by which we currently deliver services is truly producing the best results for aboriginal peoples and northerners. The funding provided in the main estimates is essential to maintain and advance programs to improve the quality of life for aboriginal people and northerners.

I welcome any questions or comments you may have.

Colleagues, I welcome any questions or comments you may have. It is a pleasure to be here. I know that we have a reservoir of knowledge at this table concerning aboriginal and northern issues, and I look forward to an opportunity to discuss this.

Thank you.

Opposition Motion--Indian Residential Schools
Business of Supply
Government Orders

May 1st, 2007 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in response to the motion by the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

First, I would like to congratulate the member for Okanagan—Shuswap for his contribution to the debate. He is the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Not only is he well informed on the issues, but I know he has a heartfelt and deeply felt concern for first nations peoples.

Also, for their contributions, I would like to compliment the member for Kitchener—Conestoga and the member for Peace River, who spoke earlier in this debate.

Canada's new government is committed to improving the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis. In order to achieve this goal, action must be taken on many fronts and with many partners. Action must involve not only planning for the future but reconciling with the past.

Earlier in the debate today, the member for Yukon read into the record a letter of apology from a church official. It seems to me that true reconciliation is a spiritual journey, even as forgiveness is a spiritual exercise. I have the greatest respect for a former member of Parliament, Elijah Harper, who in his day started a process of healing and reconciliation.

In response to the member opposite, the member for Winnipeg South, who suggested that I need to talk to some of the people who have been hurt by the residential school experience, I want to say for the member that I have heard the cry of persons separated from their communities and cultures.

I have heard the cry of desperation of elders today in many communities as they see a new generation of young people plagued with suicide, depression, substance abuse and hopelessness. In fact, in response to a challenge from a member of a band council, I spent two nights and three days in one such community. I just hung out with them to better understand life on the reserve.

We are all involved in a journey of reconciliation. Let us all walk softly and learn to listen to the heart.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement received final court approval on March 21, 2007, barely five weeks ago. We are confident that this fair and honourable agreement will foster healing and reconciliation between aboriginal people who attended these schools, their families, and all Canadians.

We also know that we need to look ahead to the children who are the future of these communities, but the quality of education that has been available in on reserve schools is often inadequate and first nations students suffer the consequences.

This is a state of affairs that had to be addressed. On this front, I would like to elaborate on the measures described by the hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap.

In December last year, the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act, Bill C-34, was enacted. This was landmark legislation in many ways. It enabled first nations in British Columbia to take a significant step forward toward a brighter future.

The provisions in legislation allow first nations in British Columbia, in partnership with the province, to take control over and assume greater responsibility for primary and secondary schools in their communities. The legislation offers first nations an effective mechanism to improve educational outcomes of students attending on reserve schools in the province.

Access to this mechanism is entirely optional. No first nation will be forced to use it. Any first nation that chooses to do so, however, must ensure that its schools meet specific educational standards. As I am sure my hon. colleagues recognize, standards are essential to effective accountability.

The act requires participating first nations to ensure their schools meet provincial standards and to make it easier for students to transfer from one educational system to another. Eventually, differences in the quality of education provided by on reserve and public schools should disappear.

Although it will take time for all on reserve schools in British Columbia to attain provincial standards, first nations are working hard to achieve this goal. Leading these efforts is the first nations education steering committee, or FNESC. In the past few years, FNESC has devised a method to measure and assess performance of on reserve schools.

The First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act articulates a new approach to on reserve education. This approach was designed by first nations to address the challenges facing on reserve schools in British Columbia. Although the legislation applies only to on reserve schools in B.C., it also stands to influence the course of first nations education elsewhere in Canada. It may in fact inspire first nations in other regions of the country to devise appropriate solutions of their own.

The agreement that is at the heart of this legislation was signed in July of last year by Canada's new government, the province of British Columbia and FNESC. It proposes an administrative model that will foster improved educational outcomes. This model will engage first nation communities in education and lead to more relevant curricula.

The agreement is complicated, but its significance is straightforward and yet momentous for first nation students. Simply put, it will enable them to acquire a quality education that will meet provincial standards and also will have cultural depth and resonance. Not only will students be equipped with the educational tools they need to enjoy a prosperous future, but they also will be firmly grounded in their culture and heritage.

The First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education in British Columbia Act is the product of an initiative led by first nations to address the particular circumstances of on reserve schools in British Columbia. It is a prime example of the success that can be achieved by governments and first nations working in partnership toward a worthwhile end.

First nation students in British Columbia will reap the benefits of this approach. It is hoped that more first nations across the country will follow suit with their own strategies. We have often stated that only by working in partnership with aboriginal people and communities can real progress be made.

In my own riding, the vanguard of a new generation of educated young first nation individuals are already coming back to their communities to strengthen a new generation of leadership. Malaspina University-College in Nanaimo has a total student body in excess of 10,000 students and one of the largest aboriginal student populations in the province.

Quality education is at the heart of what makes individuals and communities strong. It is a basic requirement for prosperity and self-sufficiency. Canada's new government is determined to continue working with our partners, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to promote the means for improving the quality of education available to aboriginal people. It is one of the basic and essential components of quality of life.

With the final court approval of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in March, we have moved toward reconciling with the past. With the First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education in British Columbia Act, we are looking to the future. Canada's new government is confident that, working with our partners, yet more progress can and will be made.

April 17th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Beverley Jacobs

With respect to the Native Women's Association, I'm not sure how many are aware of the organization itself. It is an aggregate of 13 provincial–territorial member associations, and the goals are to empower aboriginal women by engaging in national advocacy measures aimed at legislative and policy reforms that promote equal opportunity for aboriginal women, including meaningful access to human rights protections.

We are committed to ensuring that the unique needs of aboriginal women are reflected in any and all legislative and policy directives that have the potential to have a significant impact on the lives of aboriginal women and children. We adhere to a culturally relevant gender-based analysis. Basically what that means is that it's about balance. It's about ensuring the balance between men and women in our communities and promoting common goals towards self-determination for aboriginal people, and for women as the role models in our communities and as natural leaders.

We use this framework to assess differential impacts of proposed and/or existing legislation on aboriginal women and children. We believe this process enables us to review the policies through an understanding of historical, cultural, and political and socio-economic marginalization of aboriginal women within Canada. It thus makes it possible for governments to be more effective in responding with informed, equitable options. We will be using this process during our proposed implementation plan, and with any legislative change.

For the last 30 years, with respect to section 67 in the Canadian Human Rights Act the equality interests of aboriginal women have maintained a prominent place in policy discussions about the Indian Act and in discussions about self-government. This has primarily been the result of efforts by individual women and organizations to keep these issues in the public eye and on the federal policy agenda.

One high-priority area for NWAC has been the promotion and the protection of the human rights of aboriginal women in Canada. It is our belief that while often viewed as a champion of human rights in international fora, Canada has failed to ensure that basic fundamental standards of human rights are applied to aboriginal peoples in Canada, particularly aboriginal women and children. This is true in relation to many aspects of social, economic, cultural, political and civil rights.

Several United Nations bodies have been critical of Canada's human rights record and of its treatment of aboriginal people. Specifically in relation to aboriginal women, Canada has been criticized by domestic and international bodies for failing to protect the equality rights of aboriginal women in matrimonial real property issues, to redress such human rights mechanisms as the Canadian Human Rights Act, and for the rates of violence and the low socio-economic status facing aboriginal women.

We have learned as well about the impacts of the 1985 amendments to the Indian Act, called Bill C-31. We know that when amendments are made without consultations and without acknowledging the potential impacts, there are detrimental effects within first nations communities, such as divisions within the community, lack of resources and capacity, and effects upon education. Those are just some examples.

As to concerns with respect to Bill C-44, in the House of Commons we've heard members of Parliament voice a number of concerns. First, there is a concern that this does not address the root causes of human rights violence. From a balanced perspective the mere revocation of the Indian Act exemption will not address the effects of colonization. The repeal of section 67 is only one element in the advancement of human rights protection for aboriginal people.

Next, supporters of Bill C-44 purport that an immediate repeal is required, since aboriginal people have waited long enough, and consultation should not be used as an excuse not to act.

We agree that the repeal of section 67 is long overdue. However, we feel there has to be meaningful consultation as a strong first step of an evolving and collaborative process. We do not view human rights protection as compartmental. It is a process in which each step is necessary to achieve success in the overall goal. Consultation is not an excuse for inaction; it is an essential element in an active process.

In many cases, first nations communities do not have the capacity or resources to expose themselves to liability. As noted earlier, without proper resources and capacity as a result of Bill C-31, we have learned what this has done in our own communities. We don't want this issue added on as a burden in the communities nor resources taken from other programs and services to address issues we know will result from the repeal of section 67.

In turn, we believe that capacity-building and education are key factors for aboriginal communities to implement their own mechanisms of protecting human rights. This would greatly minimize the risk of conflict and promote prevention of human rights violations, unlike the current system of reactive measures.

Members of Parliament have also expressed apprehension about the six-month transition period. So why is the current government expediting human rights protection haphazardly after 30 years without meaningful action? And what validates these concerns, especially considering the lack of support that this government has for the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples?

By implementing a community-based process that addresses the key factors of meaningful consultations—adequate implementation, resources, and capacity-building—Canada would be in a better position to support international standards, since they would then be in the process of complying with those standards. This kind of comprehensive process will require at least 36 months to implement.

Another important issue with respect to Bill C-44 is whether it addresses the individual and collective rights. This debate is at the very core of aboriginal and governmental relations in Canada and has yet to be resolved. Due to the complexity and cultural differences embedded in this question, NWAC advances that any conclusions on the matter must come from community consultations.

In the discussions we had with aboriginal women in our matrimonial real property consultation process, many discussed this issue; and to reconcile this issue, most talked about their responsibilities to their communities and to their future generations. Many said that we are individuals from nations. That's where we come from, and we cannot separate ourselves from that.

The core of this issue is addressing conflict through various forms of indigenous legal traditions, which we believe will assist in resolving the debate of individual and collective rights.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

February 7th, 2007 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. Today my hon. colleagues have an opportunity to make Canada a more impartial and egalitarian society. The legislation now before us strives to end an unjust situation created when the Human Rights Act first came into effect 30 years ago.

Bill C-44 proposes to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and thereby provide individuals, namely residents of first nation communities, with the same protection against discrimination long enjoyed by other Canadians. To understand the importance of repealing section 67, allow me to provide some context.

When the Canadian Human Rights Act was enacted in 1977, it was properly seen as a significant and progressive accomplishment for our country. The act furthered Canada's reputation as a respectful, democratic nation, dedicated to protecting the rights of its citizens. Observers from around the globe applauded Canada and our comprehensive approach to human rights protection. The Canadian Human Rights Act defines discrimination clearly and institutes a readily accessible investigative process that is open to public scrutiny.

The act not only prohibits discrimination based on 11 specific grounds, but also it provides the legal resource and recourse to citizens who feel that the federal government or institutions operating under federal jurisdiction have violated their rights. Under the act, it is forbidden to discriminate based on age, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, mental or physical disability or pardoned conviction.

To investigate and adjudicate alleged acts of discrimination, the act establishes two bodies: the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Over the past three decades, the Canadian Human Rights Act has served to strengthen democracy in our country.

Unfortunately, not all Canadians enjoy equal access to the legal instruments provided by the Canadian Human Rights Act. Section 67 states:

Nothing in this Act affects any provision of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act.

This sentence simply and effectively denies some Canadians access to the remedies granted in the act. Section 67 shields the Indian Act and any decisions made or actions taken under the Act from application of the Canadian Human Rights Act. In effect, section 67 puts into question our claim to be a fair and egalitarian society.

When the Canadian Human Rights Act was debated in the House and reviewed in committee, the presence of section 67 elicited many objections. The exemption it granted, though, was accepted at the time as a temporary measure, one that would be rescinded once reforms to the Indian Act were completed. In fact, however, the kind of extensive reform of the Indian Act that was anticipated, and so greatly needed, in the 1970s has still not come. Later, more focused attempts to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, in the form of both government sponsored legislation and a private member's bill, died on the order paper.

Today the exemption remains in place, creating a twisted irony of sorts: legislation designed to promote equality effectively sanctions discrimination. Under section 67, thousands of Canadians cannot fully avail themselves of the legal instruments that combat discrimination. What is particularly disturbing is that section 67 affects many of Canada's most vulnerable citizens, residents of first nation communities.

Among other matters, the Indian Act stipulates how first nation communities are governed, how Indian status is defined and how reserve lands are administered. Under section 67, potentially discriminatory decisions made by agencies mandated by the Indian Act, such as band councils and school boards as well as the federal government itself, are exempted from the Canadian Human Rights Act. These decisions often touch on crucial aspects of day to day life, such as education, housing, registration and the use and occupation of reserve lands. We must take immediate action to remove this fundamental inequality.

Most Canadians recognize that huge gaps exist in the quality of life experienced by aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in our country. The government is determined to close these gaps and make tangible, sustainable progress on the full range of aboriginal issues. To do so, I believe we must address root causes, and there is no doubt that inadequate legal frameworks exacerbate many key problems. I am pleased to report that a collaborative effort is underway to design and implement appropriate legal frameworks.

Prior to our last adjournment, members of the House accorded speedy passage to Bill C-34. The legislation grants first nations in British Columbia greater control of on reserve education and encourages improved education outcomes through appropriate partnerships among first nations and with provincial educational bodies.

A series of consultations is underway to recommend legislative options to resolve the difficult issue of on reserve matrimonial real property, something that our minister has championed since the day he took office. Another consultative process that is ongoing is aimed at improving the quality of drinking water. This has been proposed through legislative options, which can lead to putting appropriate standards into law.

I am convinced that the repeal of section 67 is an important building block in a renewed legislative framework that can enable aboriginal peoples to participate fully in the prosperity of our country.

Bill C-44 has three main components.

The first repeals section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, something that has been in place for some 30-odd years now.

The second commits Parliament to conduct, within five years, a review of the effects of this repeal, and this is important to consider.

The third component provides six months to prepare for the application of the repeal to first nations. In essence, for the first six months following royal assent, the exemption granted to first nations under section 67 would remain in place. While some parties have called for a longer delay period, in my view, after 30 years access to these important rights protections cannot and should not be delayed any further.

For first nations, adapting and responding to the Canadian Human Rights Act regime is a process that will evolve over the years, just as it has for institutions to which the act currently applies.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has already established an aboriginal program to give specific attention to the unique needs and circumstances of aboriginal communities as they relate to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act.

The six month delay will provide for a focused period during which the Canadian Human Rights Commission will inform first nations about the Canadian Human Rights Act and begin to work with them to develop culturally appropriate community redress mechanisms, if they so wish. The Government of Canada, though, would be subject to the act once Bill C-44 received royal assent as there would be no six month delay.

The simplicity of the legislation before us belies the valuable impact it will have on the residents of first nation communities. Bill C-44 would give full legal protection to the rights of thousands of Canadians for the very first time. It would enable them to challenge and adjudicate potential cases of discrimination that may exist currently on reserves.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission fully supports Bill C-44 and has declared itself ready and able to help first nations deal with the repeal of section 67. Its work with first nations will not simply end after the six month delay period. The Canadian Human Rights Act authorizes the commission to establish guidelines on how to interpret particular types or groups of complaints.

I fully expect that the commission will work closely with first nations to explore and develop appropriate interpretive policies, guidelines and regulations, helping first nations build the capacity to address the new avenues provided for the protection of their citizens, avenues that have long been available for the rest of Canadians. I know all first nations families would be interested in seeing this come to pass.

As I noted previously, another mechanism to ensure that Bill C-44 does not cause any group undue hardship in including itself, we have included this in the legislation. A parliamentary standing committee must conduct a thorough and open review of the impact that this repeal will have on first nations after five years have passed. The committee must also submit a full and public report to the House of Commons.

The Canadian Human Rights Act has become a cornerstone of Canada's democracy and today we have the opportunity to ensure that it applies to all Canadians, first nation Canadians, so all citizens can be treated with equal respect and dignity before the law.

I urge the members of the House to support Bill C-44.

February 6th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Chair, could I also please clarify, in relation to Bill C-34, that it did achieve royal assent due to the agreement of all parties? It didn't require a final vote.

I think that was your question.

February 6th, 2007 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I believe that children's well-being is an ongoing concern. I agree with the proposal that we are considering. In fact, we discussed this on Monday. However, when we do begin the study, we will have to take into consideration federal, provincial and municipal jurisdictions. Mr. Chair, we are going to have to decide how we will deal with this specific issue.

I see in the fourth report of the subcommittee, that there is a point which has already been studied. We had agreed to point out to the committee of the whole that we wish to obtain an update on the situation, to avoid redoing work that has already been done. For example—I thought this would be included but I don't see it—I suggested that we be given a briefing on the Kacheshewan situation every six weeks. What is happening in Pekangikum?

I wish to address the government party directly. We do not want to start all over again every month. I request that the department forward information to us so that we do not have to request it every six weeks. However, if this requires a motion, I will table one immediately even if it is only in French, and it can be translated into English later. In any case, regardless, we have to be given regular updates on the issues before this committee.

Allow me to give a very specific example. The government asked the opposition parties to make bill C-34, concerning education in British Columbia, a priority, and to deal with it quickly. We, that is myself and my counterparts from the other opposition parties, agreed to this request and passed the bill expeditiously in the month of December. We were waiting for the bill to be put to a vote in the House before adjournment in December. My leader asked me what happened and why bill C-34 was not tabled in the House for swift adoption, as was requested by the government. I would like an update on these matters.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

December 6th, 2006 / 3 p.m.
See context

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, it was with considerable pride yesterday, accompanied by the students from the Chalo School of Fort Nelson, the Bella Bella Community School and also the first nations education steering committee, that Bill C-34, the first nations jurisdiction over education in British Columbia act, unanimously cleared this House and was fast-tracked to the Senate.

This legislation would allow British Columbia first nations to assume full control over education on reserve at both the elementary and secondary school levels. It would give the means to deliver high-quality, meaningful education with provincial comparability. I believe passionately in this because bright, young, and articulate aboriginal children--

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

December 6th, 2006 / 3 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in the presence of a very enthusiastic group of British Columbia students, all parties in this House came together to support Bill C-34, the first nations jurisdiction over education in British Columbia act, truly a historic event.

Could the Minister of Indian Affairs please inform the House of the key elements in this bill and how it is important for aboriginal generations to come?

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-34, An Act to provide for jurisdiction over education on First Nation lands in British Columbia, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education in British Columbia Act
Government Orders

December 5th, 2006 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that we have visitors who will be learning another language because they have to listen to me in French, which is a good thing. I would like to welcome them to this House to witness a debate that is not really a debate.

It is rare for all of the parties to support moving a bill through all of the stages as quickly as possible. That is what is happening with Bill C-34. When political parties, including the Bloc Québécois, recognize the fundamental value of a bill, they ensure that it is passed as soon as possible and encounters as few obstacles as possible so that it can be implemented for those who need it most.

Who are the people who need this bill the most? It might seem that the Bloc Québécois has no business talking about Bill C-34, which is about first nations education in British Columbia. However, when we read the bill, we saw clearly that the department had finally done its homework, as it should. We received mountains of documentation and I took the time to look at all of the work that had been done prior to the bill coming before us. A lot of work was done, work that took much longer than two months. So we must not take two months to study this bill, which fulfills all of the conditions set by the first nations of British Columbia.

Who will benefit from this bill? Six thousand students in British Columbia—6,000 first nations students attending schools on reserves, and possibly 11,000 others attending schools under the jurisdiction of the Province of British Columbia.

What should be emphasized in this bill, what I think is the most important aspect, is that it is going to grant jurisdiction to participating first nations. That word is important. In this House—I will probably not be alone—I am going to invite the first nations of British Columbia to come together under the authority that will be established to carry out the program developed by the first nations. This program will be concerned with education on the reserves, from kindergarten to grade 12. It should be respectful of first nation customs and first nation languages. This is one of the things most painfully explained to the committee.

Let me explain. We are studying—and we are soon going to submit a report on this subject—first nations education at the post-secondary level. Before we can support the post-secondary level, however, we have to begin by taking care of the elementary level. We have been told that what is happening now, not only among the first nations, but also among the Inuit, is that they are at risk of losing their culture. Every effort must be made to avoid that. That is why the Bloc Québécois will support this bill, so that it can be passed as quickly as possible, because we must prevent the first nations from losing their cultures and their languages. We are well placed, we of the Quebec nation, to know that we risk losing our culture and our language if we do not take every means available to defend them. What we can do—quickly—to defend the cultures and languages of the aboriginal peoples is to pass this bill quickly.

This bill also provides for the creation of an education authority, hence an agreement between Canada and the first nations.

There will be a transfer.

My colleague from the Liberal Party and the members of the Bloc Québécois—and I am almost certain that my colleague from the NDP as well—agree with the transfer of jurisdiction over education with respect to the first nations. However, when we say “a transfer of jurisdiction” we also mean a transfer of the funding that goes with the jurisdiction that will now be delegated to the first nations.

In the coming months, in order to speed up the vote to implement this bill, we will make sure that this government includes in its next budget the money required to put Bill C-34 into effect.

This is essential and very important because it is all well and good to transfer jurisdiction to the first nations, but if we do not transfer the necessary funding, this has little meaning and we are talking in a vacuum. It is especially important to do this because this bill is very important.

As the minister was saying earlier—and allow me to underscore this because it is in the legislation and the government will now have to respect it—clause 9 states:

A participating First Nation has, to the extent provided by an individual agreement, the power

(a) to enact laws respecting education on First Nation land; and

(b) to delegate to the Authority its power to make laws under paragraph (a).

As the saying goes, the legislator does not speak in vain; so, what this very important section says is that once the participating first nations have signed an agreement, the government will transfer to them the authority to enact laws respecting education.

I believe, as does the Bloc Québécois, that this is the proof that we want and desire that the first nations will not only have complete control over their education—from kindergarten to grade 12—but that such an education will be adapted to their skills, their culture and their language.

How will this culture and language be protected within this program? Clause 9(2) states the following:

(2) A participating First Nation shall provide, or make provision for, education so as to allow students to transfer without academic penalty to an equivalent level in another school within the school system of British Columbia.

Unfortunately, we know that when first nations students arrive at another secondary school, they often have to take remedial courses. Under clause 9(2) that will no longer be the case. The school authority will be responsible for all education and will do its utmost to ensure that these students take the time they need to succeed. If there is one thing that is important and vital, it is the success of first nations students.

We have seen the statistics. They can succeed, they are capable of succeeding, they are able to take their rightful places not only within their own community, but also within Canadian, Albertan, British Columbian and Quebec society. We will support this bill.

We have also seen that everything has been done so that the first nations in British Columbia can establish a competent education authority capable of administering education in British Columbia for the first nations.

This bill is vital to the future of the first nations. I believe that it gives them and will give them what they want most: autonomy. It is a first step toward autonomy.

Allow me to explain. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

Autonomy begins with education. With this bill, we think and we believe that the first nations are taking their first step toward autonomy.

We are going to support this bill, but we want to ask the minister and the departmental officials whether such an agreement could be signed by other provinces and especially by other aboriginal, first nations and Inuit communities across Canada. I am thinking specifically of the first nations in Quebec.

We believe that such a bill could be extremely worthwhile, and I invite the leaders of the first nations in Quebec who are watching today to look carefully at this bill and consider whether it could apply to the first nations and Inuit in Quebec.

We firmly believe that this bill is an important step toward aboriginal self-determination.

I will conclude, as I do not want to go on any longer because, unfortunately, I am suffering from the flu, but also because this is one of those rare bills that will receive the unanimous support of this House.

We therefore ask that this bill be passed as quickly as possible. We will support this bill.

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education in British Columbia Act
Government Orders

December 5th, 2006 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved that Bill C-34, An Act to provide for jurisdiction over education on First Nation lands in British Columbia, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my enthusiastic support for Bill C-34, the first nations jurisdiction over education in British Columbia act. This is legislation that will give effect to future agreements in respect of first nations education in British Columbia. As I do so, I would like to acknowledge the support of the other parties in the House of Commons for this legislation. I know they will be speaking. My hope this afternoon is that through a display of cooperation and good faith on the part of all the parties in this honourable House that this legislation will clear the House this afternoon.

I note as well that the Chalo School of Fort Nelson First Nation, the Okanagan Indian Band school which is called Snc’c’mala?tn, and the Bella Bella Community School are with us today as the students watch the passage of this legislation.

Three parties signed an agreement earlier this year: Canada, the province of British Columbia and the First Nations Education Steering Committee, also known as FNESC, in the province of B.C. The agreement enables first nations in British Columbia to assume meaningful control over education on reserve at both the elementary and the secondary school levels. Bill C-34 is the legislation that will give effect to these kinds of agreements.

This legislation is extremely important. In terms of the framework for self-governing first nations in this country, education is extremely important. Legislation such as this will provide the framework for a modern legislated school system driven by first nations in Canada. I would describe this legislation as the most important bill that I will have brought forward as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. It is something that I am quite passionate about. I have spoken for some time about this subject.

Essentially, at the present time--and I make this comment in a non-partisan way; I attribute responsibility to successive governments--we have not had a system of education for primary and secondary education in this country for first nation children. First nation children, frankly, have been the only children in Canada who have lacked an education system. Instead they have had the mere legislative authority of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs expending a budget of approximately $1.2 billion per year, with really a framework of only 30 employees in the department. What those departmental employees do is they basically administer one-off grants to individual schools.

What we have lacked is a school system. What we have lacked is a first nation driven school system that will provide first nations with authority over their own education which will inculcate a sense of possession on the part of the community, a sense of pride in the school system. What we have also lacked is working relationships between the respective provincial government and the first nation authorities working hand in glove to make sure that the system of education works properly and to make sure that there is provincial compatibility. That is very much at the heart of this particular legislation.

When the first nations take responsibility for developing curricula, defining educational standards and certifying teachers, I am convinced that the quality of on reserve education will only improve and that this education will also be more pertinent for the students.

Over the years, dozens of studies have demonstrated that the quality of education that young people receive is one of the most accurate predictors of the standard of living that they will experience in adulthood. I was reading a report that was published not long ago and I was struck by the fact that an aboriginal woman who graduates from high school has the same opportunities throughout life that any other Canadian would. In fact, aboriginal children who graduate from high school carry on to succeed, whether it is as lawyers, doctors, engineers, tradespeople. They carry on and succeed at rates that exceed those of the Canadian population at large.

The challenge is high school. I was struck by the fact that an aboriginal woman who gets through high school has the capacity in her life to have a normal lifetime earning span, but an aboriginal child who does not graduate from high school will make over the course of his or her lifetime less than $100,000 of private sector income in total. The longer one thinks about these numbers, the more disturbing they become.

The studies and pilot projects that have been done have demonstrated quite clearly that this sort of an approach encapsulated by the FNESC education system is one that will work. The pilot projects have been enormously successful. Well-educated young people will be the predictors of the increases in standard of living for those first nations that adopt this sort of report.

Recent reports by groups such as the Fraser and the C.D. Howe institutes reconfirm the disheartening truth about the majority of on reserve schools in this country and the educational outcomes of their learners. That is what we are all trying to cure, aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians alike.

Students who attend on reserve schools have in the past been much less likely to complete high school and to study at the post-secondary level than students who have attended provincial and private schools. I resolved and made it very clear when I became the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development that this was an issue that we were going to do something about, this was an issue that I would attack personally as a minister. It was with considerable pride in June of this year with Premier Campbell at my side and other representatives of FNESC that we signed the agreement that brought into place FNESC and prepared the way for this legislation here today.

This discrepancy in the quality of education has serious repercussions, not only on students in reserve schools, but on all Canadians as well. For example, it is likely that students who have attended a reserve school will one day experience long periods of unemployment.

That means that society can expect an increase in the demand for social programs as well as in associated costs. Given the rapid increase in the native population in Canada, the expectation is that these problems will become more serious.

Currently, approximately 120,000 first nations students attend on reserve elementary and secondary schools throughout Canada. This figure represents about 60% of all first nations students. The other 40% attend provincial or private schools either by choice or because their community does not have a school on the reserve. At present, band operated schools suffer from several significant disadvantages. They do not benefit from aggregated systems of service delivery, nor do they enjoy the legislated protection afforded to provincial schools.

Basically, education of the first nations remains in a kind of legal limbo and the Government of Canada serves as the main department of education for reserve schools.

Given the remote location of many first nation schools and communities, there is necessarily a large disconnect between many on reserve schools and the authorities that are supposed to manage them; that is, there is not a strong link, as is required, between the federal government which is technically responsible for education on reserve and the communities that manage the system on a day to day basis.

Bill C-34 proposes to eliminate these disadvantages for on reserve schools in British Columbia. I am convinced that the legislation will lead to significant improvements in the education outcomes for first nations students in the province by providing communities with the tools to improve the quality of education and to build on current success. As I will speak in a moment, my conviction is founded on a remarkable story of a first nation school in northeastern B.C., which I will come to in just a moment.

Bill C-34 is well drafted. It is not a lengthy piece of legislation. It establishes in clause 11 the first nations education authority to be managed by a board of directors in British Columbia.

The purpose of the legislation, as expressed in clause 4 is to allow individual agreements to be entered into between participating first nations.

I would emphasize that the first nations that decide to participate in this legislation are doing so voluntarily. They are doing so because of the strength, the wisdom and the compassion in their communities and their willingness to work toward the education of their children. They are voluntarily participating first nations.

It allows the first nations to enter into an agreement with respect to jurisdiction over education. The agreements that this legislation contemplates are agreements between Canada, the first nation and the province of British Columbia.

The fundamental concept underlying the legislation is really expressed in subclause 9(2), and it is referred to as transferability. I am going to quote this subclause, for the record:

A participating First Nation shall provide, or make provision for, education so as to allow students to transfer without academic penalty to an equivalent level in another school within the school system of British Columbia.

The underlying concept of this and the wisdom behind it is that we are trying to ensure transferability or compatibility between this first nation driven school system and the provincial system of education. The consequence is that students, upon graduation from high school, will have the same ability to qualify as other students in British Columbia for entrance whether it is into the trades, apprenticeships, technical colleges or universities. There will be full transferability. Likewise, the wisdom behind this is that the students, over the course of their high school education, for example, would be able to transfer back and forth from one school to another, maintaining the quality of education.

That is obviously not to say that there would not be unique aspects of the first nation education schools that would benefit the students. I have said myself over many years that what we need in the building of this remarkable country is strong first nation partners. We need strong first nation children who know who they are, who know their history, who celebrate their language, who celebrate their traditions and who will assist all of us in building this remarkable country. They are part of the enduring strength of Canada. This school system as envisioned will celebrate that and allow a thousand flowers to flourish and bloom across this magnificent country.

The legislation itself allows for the school authorities to deal with matters which are pretty crucial to a system of education. It allows them, as expressed in clause 19, to establish standards that are applicable to education for curriculum, for examinations. It allows them to provide for a teacher certification process for those teachers who will teach in the primary and secondary schools. It provides, as well, for a teaching certification process for teachers who will participate in teaching language and culture to first nation students. It also allows for a process, among other things, of certifying schools.

The long and short of it, as set out in clause 23, is that the Indian Act ceases to apply. This is in a sense sectoral self-government legislation. It is legislation that allows first nations to assume full control over the education of their bright, young people. It does so in a way that is compatible and jurisdictionally integrated with the adjoining public school system.

We can see in all of this something that is quite remarkable and that really holds the keys for the future of our country.

I mentioned earlier that there is a remarkable story about a first nations school in northeastern B.C., and I will share it with my colleagues in the House. It is the Chalo School operated by the Fort Nelson First Nation. It was inspired by a hopeful yet potent idea that when a community took control over the education of its children, it built a stronger future for itself, a deeper sense of community and a stronger sense of place.

For generations, the only educational option available to the children of the Chalo School was the provincially operated school system. Attending schools in town, navigated a very different world for first nation students. They were following a curriculum that was completely disconnected from their lives on the reserve. Not surprisingly, very few first nation children performed well academically.

In 1981 the Chalo School took its first humble steps toward changing these outcomes with a single teacher, a small portable classroom and a handful of elementary students.

Today, almost 200 primary and secondary students attend this school, which has become the dynamic and flourishing centre of life on the reserve.

Earlier this year, 15 students passed 24 of the 27 provincial secondary exams in basic subjects such as mathematics and English.

The bill being studied will enable communities such as the one in Fort Nelson to achieve even better results. Even though the legislation targets only students in British Columbia, the proposed approach could be duplicated by other regions of the country.

I can advise the House that in the time since June, when this agreement was executed with the representatives of FNESC and the Premier of British Columbia, I and my department have had discussions with virtually every province in the country regarding what I refer to as the model for the future of education for first nations in Canada. I acknowledge the hard work in British Columbia.

FNESC did not come into existence accidentally. It cannot be described as something that was created instantaneously. Very hard-working people have worked for many years to give birth to FNESC and to put British Columbia in a circumstance where there is the capacity on the ground to have a first nation driven education authority for the province of British Columbia. This has taken a lot of work by a lot of very fine and decent people, and we as Canadians are indebted to them.

I salute as well Premier Campbell, who has shown leadership on this. He has ensured that we are working together in British Columbia with our first nation partners. I celebrate and salute his efforts as a Canadian in shepherding this legislation through in British Columbia and for the commitment that B.C. has shown. At the end of the day, this does not work if governments retreat to their jurisdictional compartments. It works based on cooperation and an honestly held sense of the way forward.

A similar agreement in a different form has now been signed in a tentative way in Quebec. I can assure the House that I have had discussions with virtually all other provinces to implement this across Canada.

Today members of the House have an opportunity to show support for first nations across Canada. We have an opportunity to provide first nations in British Columbia with the means to deliver a high quality, meaningful education. We have before us legislation that will inspire hope in all first nations. It is a bill that speaks to the future of Canada.

I know this if I know nothing else about my term as the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. If we can make the education system work and if we can graduate bright, young, capable, articulate, dynamic children from high school, then everything else will take care of itself and our country will be a brighter place.

I urge my colleagues to support Bill C-34.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

November 29th, 2006 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I will do better than just tell the hon. member what will happen next week, I will tell him how we will conclude this week.

This afternoon we will be on the report stage of Bill C-24, the softwood lumber agreement. As you may know, Mr. Speaker, tomorrow and Friday the House will be adjourned for the Liberal leadership convention, and we will all be watching that with interest.

On Monday it is my intention to call ways and means Motion No. 12, a motion to refer Bill C-30, the clean air act, to a legislative committee before second reading. We will continue that week with Bill S-5, on tax conventions, and Bill C-34, on the first nations education agreement.

On Tuesday we will then consider the third reading stage of Bill C-24.

Later on that week it is my hope that we will begin the debate on the marriage motion. I will continue to consult my colleagues with respect to a date for the final vote on that. After that it is my intention to proceed with Bill C-28, the budget tax measures.

I hope that is of help to the hon. member.