House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.

Topics

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education in British Columbia Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

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

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and being from British Columbia, I am pleased to speak in support of this bill. New Democrats fully support this bill and are pleased to see that all parties in the House have come together to fast-track this important initiative.

I think it is important to put it in context about why this is such an important bill. The department's own materials show that first nations' education in British Columbia has lagged behind provincial norms and standards, not in terms of the quality of the education but in terms of results. It talks about the fact that there are currently 125 schools operating on reserve in British Columbia and the fact that the graduation rate was only 43% for grade 12 students living on reserve and 48% for aboriginal students living off reserve. This compares to statistics overall in the province where 79% of non-aboriginal students graduate from high school. I think it is important to emphasize that there is not a significant difference between on reserve and off reserve schools for first nations, Métis and Inuit students. I think it is important to talk about what needs to be done to address that gap both on and off reserve.

In addition, the 2004 Auditor General's report on elementary and secondary education talked about the fact that this gap was so serious that at the current rate of initiatives that were underway that it would to take 28 years to close that gap, which is clearly not acceptable.

It has been a long-standing contention of first nations peoples that they need to take control of their education. In fact this goes back to a 1972 research paper called control of Indian education. We are talking about decades that the first nations peoples have been talking about the fact that they need to the right and the ability to assert jurisdiction over first nations education.

As a result of that document in 1972, the first nations education steering committee was established in 1992, 20 years later I might add but it did happen. From thereon in, first nations across British Columbia have been stepping in and asserting their right to control first nations education in B.C. To their credit, I must mention that the elders, the first nations' chiefs and their councillors, the community members, the students in school and their teachers, all came together to talk about how important this was and to put initiatives in place.

One of the things that people have been talking about is the importance of asserting control, not only over the schools but also around the curriculum and the delivery methodologies, and around a wide variety of tools and mechanisms that first nations know will work in increasing their success rates.

Business of the House
Government Orders

December 5th, 2006 / 4:50 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise on point of order. I extend my apologies to the hon. member for interrupting her but I have spoken with the House leader of the New Democrat Party about this particular point of order.

Mr. Speaker, I think that you would find unanimous consent in the House for the following motion. I move:

That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, the House shall proceed with Government Business No. 12 as follows:

when the motion is called on Wednesday, December 6, private members' business shall be held as usual and the House shall sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for the purpose of considering Government Business Motion No. 12;

after the first round of speakers, no member shall speak for more than 10 minutes and that following each speech a period not exceeding 5 minutes shall be made available, if required, to allow members to ask questions and comment briefly on matters relevant to the speech and to allow responses thereto;

the Speaker shall not receive any amendments, dilatory motions, quorum calls or requests for unanimous consent during debate;

at midnight, or when no member rises to speak, the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day; and

that on Thursday, December 7, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions, every question necessary for the disposal of Government Business Motion No. 12 shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

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

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan has 15 minutes remaining in her speech.

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education In British Columbia Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that for people observing the proceedings there are sometimes important matters that need to come before the House and be dealt with expeditiously. We all try to cooperate in order to have those kinds of things happen.

I was starting to talk about the process. In this context, I think it is important to reiterate comments that have already been made. This is a made in B.C. solution. This is a solution that works for first nations peoples across British Columbia. It was done through an extensive consultation process. I would argue that each and every province and territory in this country must come up with its own solutions. The process must be driven by first nations communities. It cannot be a top down process.

To that end, extensive consultations took place in British Columbia. From 2003 to 2006, the first nations education steering committee held a variety of regional and community meetings. This was all part of the process to talk about what an agreement like this should look like, what a tripartite agreement should look like, what the important elements were, what needed to be included, and how the community needed to be involved. As a result, we have ended up with a piece of legislation that truly reflects a consultation in British Columbia and has ended with an agreement that is going to work for British Columbia.

Part of that agreement includes things like jurisdiction over data collection and school certification. Although that is going to meet provincial standards so that there is a seamlessness between the provincial education system and the on reserve education system, there is a recognition that some things need to be under the control of the first nations. In addition, in case people think this is something that was pulled out of the air, for seven years there was a first nations school assessment project that talked about the successes, the best practices, what was working well and what did not work.

This is a critical opportunity to integrate culture and language into the first nations school systems in order to ensure the survival of the language, which is essential for the survival of the culture.

One of the things that people are expecting as an outcome is the fact that we fully expect from assessments that have been done in British Columbia that there will be better outcomes. I know that students have travelled to Ottawa for this very important occasion. There are students from Chalo, Bella Bella and the Kamloops Indian Band who came here to observe the process.

Chalo was named one of the 10 exemplary programs for aboriginal learners in western Canada and the Yukon, based on student achievement data. Clearly when there is Indian control over Indian education we can end up with results that say these students can be successful by any criteria that is put before them. The evidence is before the House. I fully expect that we will see more students like the ones from Chalo graduating and meeting those achievement tests.

One of the things we have talked about in the House is how critical it is to make sure that there are resources and funding available, not only to provide for the per capita per student basis, but also to talk about infrastructure, teacher education and curriculum development. It just will not be good enough if the House passes this bill, as it will, but fails to provide the resources and the funding to make sure that first nations students can be the very best they want to be.

I am going to step outside of the province for just one moment and talk about a school called the Mosakahiken school. This school burned down on February 12, 2005. The fire destroyed the Frontier School Division's Rod Martin School and left 381 students without education facilities. Now we are in 2006 and a submission will not even go to Treasury Board until 2007 to rebuild this school. There are 381 students in that community who are farmed out across the community in portables and basements. It is not an ideal situation for education.

We do not want to see that kind of situation in British Columbia, so I would urge all members of the House and certainly the government to ensure that appropriate resources are put into making sure that state of the art schools are available for students.

The projections for this particular school, based on student population growth, show a need for a school that will house 650 students and an allowable growth area of 5,110 square metres on a site of eight hectares. It is a significant need. I would hope that there would be a way to fast track that request through Treasury Board so that students are not treated as second class citizens in their own community.

One of the things we have been talking about in regard to the importance of first nations education is around language. We know that British Columbia has two-thirds of the first nations languages in Canada but currently receives only 10% of the national funding. If B.C. has two-thirds of the languages in Canada, surely there should be an equitable amount of funding that would support those language initiatives. I would argue that in the K to 12 system it is absolutely critical to make sure funding is there for language initiatives in a way that looks at state of the art language labs, curriculum for the teachers, teaching assistants and whatever it takes to make sure that the language stays vital and alive, because it is essential to the culture.

As we are talking about language, I want to take it up to an international context just for a second. In the preamble of the 2005 declaration on the protection of indigenous languages--and I think this is why it is so important to talk about languages in the context of the K to 12 system--it is stated that:

We, the Indigenous People of the Americas, consider our Languages to be a sacred and inalienable gift, for it is through our languages that our world view is defined.

We, the Indigenous peoples of the Americas as a collective have experienced both isolationist and assimilationist government policies which have, with the participation of all levels of government, significantly encroached on the fundamental right of Indigenous nations' languages.

I think that says it all.

Recently we have seen some funding cuts to language programs through the heritage department, cuts that will significantly impact on first nations people, Métis people and Inuit people from coast to coast to coast in regard to making sure their languages stay vital and alive. We know the elders are passing and we must make sure that the transmission of that language from the elders to their grandchildren happens. Without some support to capture their words, we are going to lose those words.

In my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan right now, Halkomelem is the language of the Cowichan people, and there is a dictionary project under way. This project is happening in collaboration with the Cowichan people and the non-first nations people in the community. They are working together to make sure that they build a record of the Halkomelem language, that they have the words written down so the young people have a way to learn when the elders are not with them any more. They are recording the elders' speeches so that the young people have a way to hear the elders speaking to them, because they know that without that language they are going to lose their culture.

When we are talking about first nations education, I would urge hon. members not to lose sight of the fact that an essential part of first nations education is the language, which then helps the survival of the culture.

I will wind up here, but I want to talk about the fact that this is an example of how the House has been able to work together to support a very important initiative in British Columbia. I commend the House for its willingness to do this. It is an example of how we might look at some other very important issues like language, housing and water. I would hope that we could find some solutions that work, just as this very successful example before the House right now has worked.

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education In British Columbia Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been wanting to ask this question for a long time. The member just alluded to it. It is about the linkage between language and culture and how important that is. We have heard that statement very often in this place with regard to many issues that have come before this place and that I am sure will come before this place in the future.

I know the member is very knowledgeable in this area. Would she give us a little more of her knowledge about the circumstances as they have evolved and about what is happening within the aboriginal communities to try to retain and to bring back or to renew the aboriginal languages so that the cultures can revive themselves?

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education In British Columbia Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we have had happening from coast to coast to coast is a number of very good practices, but there has been no way to actually pull those best practices together and share them.

For example, in Nanaimo--Cowichan, the Cowichan people have a language lab that is set up for children under the age of six. It is a wonderful lab that has computer stations and learning tools for those kids. The problem, of course, is continuing to fund it. I also have talked about the dictionary project in the riding.

In other parts of the country, there are web based tools whereby people can log online to their language. Not only can they see the verbal parts of it, but they can also see the written parts of the language. There has been a real effort, because many of these traditions are oral. There have been many efforts to actually put these oral traditions in writing so a written legacy is left behind, because again, as I have said, the elders are passing.

Those are just a couple of examples. One of the ways in which we can encourage and support the retention of first nations languages across the country is having that repository of best practices so that people can share the tools that have worked well in some of their communities.

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education In British Columbia Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to order made on Monday, December 4, Bill C-34 is deemed read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed.

(Bill deemed read the second time, considered in committee, reported without amendment, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education In British Columbia Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think if you seek it you would find the unanimous consent of the House to move to private members' business at this time.