First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act

An Act to establish a framework to enable First Nations control of elementary and secondary education and to provide for related funding and to make related amendments to the Indian Act and consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Bernard Valcourt  Conservative

Status

In committee (House), as of May 5, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment provides for the control by First Nations of their elementary and secondary education systems. It establishes a framework to enable First Nations to exercise that control by administering schools situated on their reserves, by delegating the power to administer schools to a First Nation Education Authority or by entering into a tuition or administration agreement. It also creates a right of access to elementary and secondary education to persons of school age who are ordinarily resident on a reserve, establishes the Joint Council of Education Professionals, sets out the roles and responsibilities of the main participants in First Nations education systems and provides for the necessary funding. Finally, the enactment makes related and consequential amendments to the Indian Act, the Mi’kmaq Education Act and the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act.

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.

Votes

May 5, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
May 1, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-33, An Act to establish a framework to enable First Nations control of elementary and secondary education and to provide for related funding and to make related amendments to the Indian Act and consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than one further sitting day after the day on which this Order is adopted shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise to speak to Bill C-33, an act to establish a framework to enable first nations control of elementary and secondary education and to provide for related funding and to make related amendments to the Indian Act and consequential amendments to other acts.

In speaking to this bill, it is incumbent upon everyone to remember Shannen's Dream. I feel the emotion coming. Anybody in this place who has had the opportunity to meet with the family of Shannen Koostachin from Attawapiskat and experience the incredible energy and drive of the children from her community who have continued her campaign cannot help but feel a little emotional in discussing this legislation.

Those in the House are aware of Shannen's campaign. Shannen campaigned for every aboriginal child to have equal access to quality education in this country. It was a pretty reasonable campaign. Sadly, Shannen was killed in an accident driving from her community to high school, because she could not receive quality education in her own community.

Quotes from Shannen during her campaign that have led schoolchildren across this country for years toward the provision of funding and guarantees and the ability of first nations to deliver their own programs include these: She campaigned to “Help end the underfunding of First Nations Schools”, and, “School should be a time for dreams. Every kid deserves this”.

I have to share with members that when I had the privilege of being the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP, I had the honour of receiving a cardboard schoolhouse made by elementary school children in this province. It was filled with letters they had written to the Prime Minister begging him to extend equal opportunities for quality education to aboriginal children so that they would have the same privileges as all other children in Canada. We actually managed to get approval and we delivered it to the Prime Minister's Office. It was an incredible moment in time. Since then, I have had the opportunity, with my colleagues, to attend many of the occasions when Canadian children have spoken out on behalf of extending equal rights to aboriginal children.

We have also often heard the statement by the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. It is a very sad commentary on the long-standing state of education for aboriginal children. It is that more aboriginal children are incarcerated than graduate from high school.

In speaking to Bill C-33, it is important at the outset to set the stage for assessing this bill and whether it respects critical overriding rights and responsibilities. I will be concentrating my comments on Bill C-33 on two factors. First is the extent to which the government has met its legal and constitutional duty to consult. Second are comments made by Alberta first nations that they shared with me and that they requested I share with this place.

I will concentrate my comments of first nations' overriding right to establish and deliver their own education programs, within their cultural and language traditions, for their children and their communities and to determine if those rights and opportunities have been accorded. My colleagues in the official opposition and I hold firm with the position that we must uphold the Constitution and international obligations and commitments as well as our personal commitment to first nations that we will respect their right to assert self-government and to plan and deliver their own education program for their own families.

It is our duty in this place, all of us who are duly elected, to ensure that aboriginal peoples have access to education, can determine their own education systems, and can practise their traditional and cultural beliefs. Those rights, and our obligations, are specified, as I mentioned, in a number of international conventions and UN treaties. For example, the Convention on the Rights of the Child states, in article 28:

States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:

(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all...

Article 29 states:

1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to: ...(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;

We on this side of the House were delighted when the government finally came around and agreed to assent to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, in so doing, what has the government committed to undertake?

Article 14 states:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.

3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.

Article 15 states:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information.

Articles 18 and 19 speak to the duty of the government and the right of aboriginal peoples to government their own matters.

Article 18 states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures...

Article 19 states:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith...in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

It is pretty clear what the obligations of the government are, what commitments it has undertaken, and what the associated rights and opportunities are for first nations. Included among those is the duty of the federal government to consult and accommodate aboriginal people's views, perspectives, and interests.

In implementing the support of first nations education, the federal government has an overriding duty to advance consultation and to accommodate aboriginal rights and titles. This is required under the Canadian Constitution and under provisions of the historic and modern treaties. That duty applies to any federal policy, law, or regulation-making process that may potentially or directly impact the rights and titles of first nation peoples.

The matter to consider is this: do the substantive measures set forth in Bill C-33 actually deliver on the rights, principles, and duties ascribed to in the preamble of the act?

Well, what does the preamble hold out? I think it is very important for us to consider it and not just the substantive provisions. A preamble sets forth, to those who are affected by the law, exactly what the legislation intends to do. It states the intent.

It is noteworthy that the government, right at the outset, notes the failings in the establishment and running of the residential schools and the need to seek partnerships with first nations in the spirit of reconciliation.

I might share here that I had the privilege several times of participating in the truth and reconciliation proceedings. At the national conclusion assembly in Edmonton a few months back, I was struck very personally by the fact that in a residential school on the edge of my city, children from as far away as the Queen Charlotte Islands were transported by train and held in that school with no contact with their friends or families for up to a year and longer. That was while I was attending elementary school.

To hear first-hand of the abuses that went on has made me all the more dedicated to making sure that their rights are respected.

I will mention some of the provisions in the preamble. In doing so, I highly recommend to all the members of this place that it is absolutely critical that they carefully read this preamble. This is what the government is holding out that it is about to deliver on behalf of the first nations people of Canada.

For example:

Whereas First Nations education systems should be designed and implemented in accordance with the principle that First Nations have control of their children’s education;

Whereas First Nations must receive support that enables them to exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities relating to the elementary and secondary education provided to their children;

Whereas First Nations children attending schools on reserves must have access to education that is founded on First Nations history, culture and traditional values and enables them to participate fully in the social, economic, political and educational advancement of First Nations;

On it goes, making a variety of undertakings.

An equally important one is:

Whereas First Nations education systems must receive adequate, stable, predictable and sustainable funding that provides for the teaching of First Nations languages and cultures as well as for education support services;

Whereas elementary and secondary education is an essential part of lifelong learning;

Continuing my presentation, I will make reference to those specific undertakings by the government.

As I mentioned, I feel that in speaking to the bill, it not be my personal opinion; I am obligated to reach out to first nations to find out their views, both about the process of developing this legislation and about what actually would be delivered under this legislation. I have continued to dialogue with first nations in Alberta particularly as well as with those across the country, in co-operation with my colleagues.

I spoke only yesterday with Alberta regional chief Cameron Alexis and also with chiefs from Treaty 8, and I have reviewed materials they have prepared and letters they have submitted to the Government of Canada.

What views have they expressed about respect for first nations' determination of the education system, whether adequate funding is provided, and whether we are finally enabling their education system to incorporate first nation language, culture, and traditions?

I was advised by regional chief Alexis that he was directly in the process of continuing to consult Treaty 6, 7, and 8 first nations, who are still going through the process of trying to understand and review the bill for many of the chiefs in isolated communities and their community members. It is an extremely complex process. They are struggling to comprehend the implications of the provisions and whether they actual address their priorities.

What are the issues they have raised? The top issue, which has been raised by my colleagues in the House, is the lack of adequate consultation in the very drafting of the bill. This is coming from first nations themselves. It is not a determination I have made.

Chief Alexis shared that their remains considerable contention over whether the government has fully addressed the long-standing issue of first nations' access to quality education. First and foremost, he expressed strong concern that the first nations themselves were not accorded adequate opportunity for consultation and necessary accommodation, as is the duty of the crown.

Chief Alexis stated that the consultations were held only in major centres. I heard this a year back when I met with a number of the chiefs and councils. They are concerned that no consultations were held in any of the first nation communities themselves, with their membership, particularly in isolated communities.

Many first nations are still struggling with comprehending the bill. In many cases, there has been a change in leadership and council, and they feel responsible for ensuring that this legislation actually represents the rights and title of their members.

Regional chief Alexis is requesting that Bill C-33 not be tabled until after the summer break to provide a more reasonable time period for the individual first nation leaders to consult their communities on the provisions of the bill. He has already requested that Parliament take the bill out to the communities for consultation. I anticipate that the minister and the government will be hearing this message from the individual chiefs.

What have some of the individual chiefs said about this legislation? Grand Chief Kappo of Treaty 8 has stated:

We are looking for something that is developed in the true spirit of co-operation and co-development, we are willing to work with the Minister on anything that will be developed, from the ground up, into a system that will help our children meet our educational goals. The old way of including First Nations input as a footnote to the process hasn't been successful in the past and won't work moving into the future.

That statement was issued April 16 of this year, so clearly they are still very dissatisfied with the consultation process.

What are some of the substantive concerns that have been identified to date by the regional chief and the individual chiefs and councils from Treaties 6, 7, and 8? One of the critical concerns is around the transfer of governance. A key demand of these first nations, and all first nations, has been to gain back control of their educational programs from the federal government. There are substantial concerns expressed by the regional chief, the grand chief, and the individual chiefs, including Chief Rose Laboucan, who is the Treaty 8 chief responsible for education. They are concerned that the minister still retains substantial control.

I would like to share some of their comments. Chief Rose Laboucan has stated:

We already have a process in the works in Alberta and it has been in place for some time. Now that we have heard this announcement, we are wondering what this is going to mean for our children. It sounds promising but we hope that it is not another historic broken promise. Treaty 8 nations in Alberta have been working on a grassroots education process for years already.

Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta say that, “One of the concerns was to have First Nations control over First Nations Education”. On the matter of controlling their own system, Grand Chief Kappo said:

They have definitely changed the name [of the act] but the core of it remains the same as before. Ultimate authority to dissolve, change or transfer any entity that handles First Nation education still resides with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

He goes on to say, “While an oversight board has been created, they simply advise the Minister, he is still able to unilaterally do anything he wants in any given on-reserve school”.

Those are concerns of the first nations themselves.

I heard similar concerns from the regional chief regarding the joint council for education. The concern is that there is absolutely no assurance of who would be appointed to this advisory body, the power to appoint rests singularly with the minister and cabinet and there is absolutely no requirement that there be any first nations representatives sitting on the council.

The second concern goes to the issue of transfer of liability. The regional chief has expressed very strongly to me a deep concern that, similar to the Safe Drinking Water Act that was recently enacted, Bill C-33 transfers liability to first nations to deliver quality education programs and provide safe schools, absent any guarantees of future funding support from the federal government that has that mandate and responsibility to be financing those quality schools. He added that, while the bill mentions comparable programs, there is no specified criteria on how to determine that.

Third, there is great concern expressed by Treaties 6, 7, and 8 on the delay in the funding increases. The substantially less funding support for first nations education compared to provinces and territories has been long-standing and reprehensible. The government has promised increased funding, but on what basis is this figure calculated? Does the increase adequately consider and factor in the rapid increase in aboriginal population and the commitment in the preamble to lifelong learning, where first nations adults wish to go back to school and continue their education, or address the potential for the return of first nations members to their community to finish their education? What is the timeline for ensuring all first nations children would have access to quality education in safe schools and are accorded equal opportunity?

The Alberta first nations are raising a reasonable concern. They are asking why the increase in funding is being delayed until 2016, in other words, until after the next election. They stated additional annual funding is needed now. Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta say that, “Another outstanding concern is around statutory funding and funding to support Indigenous languages and cultures. However, the act, only states the portion of funding First Nations would already be receiving must go towards language and culture”.

I will close with a quote from Grand Chief Kappo. He stated:

It's not new support. We are getting the same amount of funding, still lower than our provincial counterparts, and all they have done is added a section to the act that says we have to spend part of that same funding to teach language and culture. They have just painted an old car a new colour.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I am listening this morning I am reminded that some of us are far more aware than others in this country of the havoc that the policies of the New Democrats continually wreak when they get a chance to implement them. Once again this morning we hear them being completely out of reality. I would argue that they are once again demonstrating that they do not have the capacity to govern responsibly.

On Wednesday, their aboriginal critic stated that they are opposing this bill. This is a bill that is aimed at lifting on-reserve high school graduation rates, which are less than half of those in the rest of Canada. Certainly, any reasonable Canadian cannot possibly agree that the status quo is acceptable or sustainable. I do not think we can do that.

Our government has brought forward a bill that would finally address this issue. It would give first nations control over their education, and it addresses the five conditions that the chiefs laid out in their special assembly in Vancouver, yet every step of the way the NDP members have chosen to oppose this bill.

I want to ask the opposition this. Why do they continue to support the status quo? How will they explain that to this next generation of first nations students who are trying to get through school?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have no trouble whatsoever standing by the comments that I have shared with the House today. It is my first and foremost obligation to represent the perspectives of the first nations peoples. I am obligated to do that by the Constitution. I am obligated to do that in keeping with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Perhaps the members on the other side do not feel that they actually have to comply with international obligations that they sign on to.

I have simply shared with the House today what the first nations leaders in my jurisdiction are saying. The members on the other side can either respect that perspective or choose to ignore that perspective. I am simply conveying it. I am being a voice for them until the time that they can fill more of the seats in this place, which is my personal desire.

I feel I am taking a very responsible position. The first nations have an absolute right to be consulted in advance and accommodated in how the system of education will be delivered. The government has held out in its preamble that it will do that. Regrettably, it is looking like the substantive provisions are not delivering on the preamble.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank my friend from Edmonton for her comments. I think she based them both on her personal experience and the experience of this country in connecting the travesty and the tragedy of what happened with residential schools when governments acted unilaterally, imposing their will on first nations people and saying that they knew what was best for them.

We know that path has led us to great harm that has lasted generations. It is a shame upon this country. The Prime Minister did the right thing in offering the apology, but within weeks cancelled the aboriginal healing foundation program, which was established to help people deal with the effects of residential schools. Therefore, one could understand why first nations people in this country feel a certain amount of cynicism or dread when they see the Conservative government come up with a first nations act and say, “Trust us. This one is good for you. We know best.”

To the member's point about what is happening on the ground in terms of where the solutions lie, because they do not lie here in Ottawa, not with the minister and certainly not with the government, the solutions to the challenges faced by first nations people in Canada rest with first nations people in Canada, and those educators who are out there with minimal resources doing a remarkable job and in some places a job that has been noted by many groups.

I will ask my friend this question. The C.D. Howe Institute, not generally known for progressive analysis, had noted in its research on British Columbia that the programs that had been established in coordination with the B.C. government with first nations people had been producing results and were in the process of dramatically increasing those graduation rates and those success rates. The first nations education steering committee in B.C. just had the rug completely pulled out from under it by the government. All the funding is gone, all the work is gone, all the progress is gone.

I ask my friend from Edmonton what, from her experience, and that of the first nations people who she has spoken to, the chiefs and educators, the sentiment is like on the ground for those who have worked so hard to achieve results under difficult circumstances when they now look at this act and the way that this act is being brought in by the government, and the details in there, the unilateral control and power that rests with the minister, who has made himself the minister of first nations education that the panel established but without any true, joint consultative process? I am wondering what message she believes is being sent to first nations people and to first nations educators across this country when they look at this act, despite all the efforts they have been doing on behalf of the entire country.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very complicated question and I would love to have the opportunity to elaborate. That is exactly what we are supposed to be doing in this place. It is regrettable that the government has already cut down the opportunity for debate. I am hoping the government will actually deliver on the request by first nations that the bill be taken out to the communities so they can actually give their direct feedback, particularly the members of those communities.

It is really important to keep in mind that when the government is holding out that it would be providing equivalent education opportunities for first nations children and families, we are not at the same, equivalent starting place. As Chief Laboucan points out, “our children need better learning environments and quality lessons...Classrooms in furnace rooms and basements are appalling and unacceptable for anyone's children. Our teachers' salaries are below the Canadian average. There have been many inequities going on for years”.

While the government says it will give a greater supplement, I think 4.5% over time, that may well not be enough. The question they are asking is, how is that calculated? Is that considering the rising aboriginal population, the high percentage of youth, and how much money it will take to rebuild and provide safe schools, equivalent teaching and so forth?

It is a big task, but the first nations should have a direct voice.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to build on what my colleague from Edmonton has said. I have the honour of representing a constituency where 33 first nations all share major concerns when it comes to education funding.

Yesterday, I had the chance to rise in this House and talk about a school that does not have a fire alarm system. There are schools that have 69 students in a classroom, schools that have mould in them, schools that have portables that in -40° weather, freeze, and the students are cold.

The member talked about underpaid teachers and the lack of resources. There is a lack of books, a lack of paper, and a lack of pens. There is a clear indication that first nations students, because they are first nations, have unequal education in this country.

I would ask the member if she could comment. Why are the Conservatives not acting, fixing these schools, and dealing with the resources right away? Why did they not do that last year? Why did they not do that when they became government a number of years ago? Why these empty promises and, worst of all, this paternalistic approach that the minister knows best? Why did they not act earlier and why are they not listening to first nations in taking that action now?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Churchill has been a long-standing representative for these first nations since she was elected, and I commend her for that.

Indeed, as I mentioned, we are starting at a different place for first nations in the education system. It is not simply a case of, “We are going to give them supplemental funding so they can build up their library, they can buy equipment for their labs”. They do not have labs. They do not have libraries. In most cases, their schools are mould-ridden. I have been to those schools. It is a travesty.

The question is, what is the real amount of funding that is necessary, and why are we waiting until 2016? This is a false promise. There is no guarantee that the government of today will be the government of tomorrow. It is absolutely critical that the funding come forward now. We should not be reducing the deficit on the backs of aboriginal children.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-33, first nations control of first nations education act. I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Centre.

My hon. colleagues have spoken at length about the many important facets of this landmark legislation. These are facets, I would like to remind the House, that ensure that the control of first nations education is placed squarely in the hands of first nations.

I would like to confine my remarks today to how this bill addresses the five conditions for success as set out by the Assembly of First Nations, in December of last year.

As members may recall, this past winter, as part of the extensive consultation process that preceded this bill's introduction, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development released an early draft of the legislation. The purpose of this was to engage first nations and solicit their feedback.

In response, the AFN released an open letter that outlined five conditions they felt were essential to the success of any piece of legislation that reforms first nations education. I am proud to say that our government has accommodated each of these five conditions listed.

The first of these conditions was on respect and recognition of inherent rights and title, treaty rights, and first nation control of first nation education. To begin with, Bill C-33 explicitly meets this condition in the wording of the preamble of the bill. Furthermore, the text of the bill legally enables first nations control of first nations education in several specific ways.

First nations can choose their governance options, develop their own curricula, decide how they will incorporate language and culture into the curricula, choose their own education inspectors, control the hiring and firing of teachers, determine how their students will be assessed, and determine how the school calendar will be structured to meet a set number of days.

With respect to governance options, first nations can choose to continue to operate their schools directly, enter into a service delivery arrangement with a third party such as provincial governments, or they can choose to aggregate into a first nations education authority that would operate multiple schools.

These governance models are designed to respect existing education systems that have been built by first nations communities, which would be supported by, and funded under, Bill C-33. If they choose, first nations can also opt to pursue self-government arrangements in which they take on full jurisdiction over education.

It is important to remember that first nations who already have self-government agreements that cover education would be exempt from this bill and would be able to continue to educate their children exactly as they have in the past.

The second condition of success was the statutory guarantee of funding. Bill C-33 includes extensive and unprecedented statutory funding obligations on the part of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. In fact, subclauses 43(2) and 43(3) exceed the second condition set out by the Assembly of First Nations, by not only setting statutory guarantee of funding, but by taking the steps of legally requiring that federal funding be sufficient to support reasonably comparable service delivery to that offered in the provincial system.

In addition, the statutory funding is subject to a 4.5% escalator, which will replace and remove the 2% funding cap that the Liberal government placed on first nations spending. This will ensure stable, predictable, and sustainable funding for years to come.

The third of five conditions is funding to support first nations education systems that are grounded in indigenous languages and culture. Clause 43 speaks explicitly to funding for first nation language and culture instruction, as follows:

43(4) The amounts payable under subsection (1) must include an amount to support the study of a First Nation language or culture as part of an education program.

Meanwhile, other clauses ensure the option of incorporating first nation language and culture programming in the education curriculum. This includes immersion in a first nation language in a manner that ensures transferability of students between education systems and allows the students to obtain a recognized high school diploma.

As we can see, Bill C-33 sets out legislative supports and protections founded in the recognition that a culturally relevant learning environment is key to the success of first nation students and also key to achieving reconciliation more broadly.

The fourth condition stipulates mechanisms to ensure reciprocal accountability and no unilateral federal oversight or authority. Bill C-33 makes it clear that the powers of the minister with regard to the administration of first nation education are measures of last resort and can only be carried out with advice of the independent joint council of education professionals. It is important to note that these powers are more limited than those that lie with the provincial ministers of education.

Once Bill C-33 is passed, the minister will have significantly less authority over first nation education than he does today. The bill states that the oversight role of the joint council is to advise both the first nations and the minister on the implementation of the governance systems, which first nations will choose for themselves. It would also ensure that first nations' views and concerns are taken into account in the implementation of the legislation, by requiring that half of the joint council be comprised of representatives nominated by first nations. The joint council of education professionals would also serve as the body supporting the co-operative development of regulations and would be responsible for consulting with first nations on the development of regulations and providing this input to the minister as part of its advisory role.

Once the bill is passed, if a school is in compliance with the legislation and a first nation wants to continue to operate the school, it would be illegal for the minister to withhold funding for the operation of that school. In the event that a school has difficulty complying with the act, the legislation establishes a process through which the challenges can be addressed. Again, it would be illegal for the minister to withhold funding, and the process for addressing the challenges would likely include the assistance of a temporary administrator appointed only at the advice of the joint council. In the current context, the minister may withhold funding without seeking any additional advice whenever a first nation is in default under their funding agreement.

The fifth and final condition for success is ongoing meaningful dialogue and co-development of options. The mutual accountability structures included in Bill C-33 serve the role of entrenching the requirement for ongoing dialogue, not only between the federal government and first nations, but between all parties involved in the administration of education on reserve. First nations and the government will continue to work together to develop and confirm an enabling framework in law for the success of first nations schools and students. This includes collaborative development of mechanisms and regulations moving forward.

I am very pleased with the direct manner in which Bill C-33 responds to conditions of success, as expressed by first nations themselves through the Assembly of First Nations. This is legislation that has long been lacking and its time has come. I encourage all honourable members to support Bill C-33.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has suggested that this bill in fact gives control of education to the first nations, but I would like to read from the bill, which states:

Subject to the regulations, the council of a First Nation is to offer English or French as the language of instruction and may, in addition, offer a First Nation language as a language of instruction.

The community of Six Nations actually runs schools in Mohawk and Cayuga, not in English, so it would appear that its decision to do this would be made illegal by this bill and the first nations would not be in control of its own education. Would he like to confirm or deny whether that is the truth?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, Grand Chief Shawn Atleo, of the Assembly of First Nations said:

What we are hearing the government commit to is a new way forward that we jointly design an approach to education that we have First Nations control and sustainable funding that has to be anchored in legislation.

This bill is about the children of first nations. It is about providing an education system that will give them a future and the ability to compete in an open job market, a labour market, as they choose. The control of this bill rests in first nations.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on what was said about the obligation to consult, which is part of Canada's constitutional law. It is the rule of law in our country. We need to fulfill the constitutional obligation to consult first nations about any and all legislative measures that are being considered. That is the case with this bill.

What does the member have to say to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, for example, which is saying that it was not consulted and that, as a result, the government should reject this bill? What does he have to say to the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, which has taken this government to court because it was not consulted? What would he say to those groups?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the debate on this bill for the last day and a half, and clearly consultation has been the primary issue of debate and discussion. The introduction of the first nations control of first nations education act follows years of discussion, dialogue, and studies, reflecting the efforts of many people in first nations and in government to arrive at this point. All first nations were presented with numerous means of engaging in the consultation process.

For example, in 2011, the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations launched a national panel on first nations elementary and secondary school education, which recommended a first nations education act in its final report. In December 2012, the Government of Canada launched a consultation process that released a discussion guide to help support open and meaningful consultation activities on the government's proposed legislative approach. Between December and May of 2012 and 2013, the Government of Canada held face-to-face regional consultation sessions, video conference and teleconference sessions, and online consultation activities, including an online survey.

The government has provided, through the minister, online and all other forms of consultation that would allow lots of input, lots of opportunity for every first nations member to provide their to input into this.

To refer back to my earlier comment, it is about the children. We need to go beyond this discussion today and deliver a bill for the children that will ensure their appropriate education.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joan Crockatt Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in support of Bill C-33, first nations control of first nations education act.

I had an opportunity to travel to the Kainai First Nation in February. One morning there was an absolutely magnificent sunrise on the trip from Calgary to Kainai. It was so apt, because this really is a new dawn for our first nations. This is an historic agreement. It has been 41 years that they have been waiting for control over first nations education, and this is a bill that all opposition members should be fully behind. This changes the trajectory for our first nations people in giving them control over their own education. It really is a huge accomplishment. We on the government side of the House recognize the inherent value of working together with our first nations to achieve this kind of a breakthrough in first nations education.

The NDP in particular continues to perpetuate myths and distort the bill. I would like to take the opportunity today to set the record straight. I feel very passionately about this because I spoke to the leaders in education, people like Chief Charlie Weasel Head, who really believe that this is going to change the future for them.

I would like to examine each of these myths one by one.

Some are saying that first nations do not need the government to tell them how to educate their children and if the government would just give them funding without strings attached, first nations would be better off. In fact, as it stands now, first nation students are the only students in this entire country who do not benefit from minimum legislated standards for such things as teacher qualifications or attendance requirements. The result is that kids from these reserves have diplomas from first nation schools that are not recognized by post-secondary institutions.

Do the NDP and Liberals really want that? Do we want those kids to finish their schooling thinking that they can get into post-secondary institutions and then be denied that opportunity? No, we do not want that.

The bill, in consultation with our first nations, proposes five basic minimum standards that would ensure our first nation kids would have access to the same high-quality education as kids from the rest of the country. As well, it would allow for flexibility to incorporate first nations language and culture. Those are two things that are really key in the bill, including first nations language immersion.

Another misconception being spread about the bill is that it would not actually give first nations control over their education systems. Well, Chief Charlie Weasel Head, National Chief Shawn Atleo, the educators I spoke to, and the many other leaders who were there for that announcement on that day entirely disagree.

It has been claimed that the minister would have the ability to appoint temporary administrators to take back control of first nations education because the joint committee would also be appointed by the minister. Let me set the record straight on that too. The goal of the bill is to improve outcomes for first nation students on reserve, and both first nations and the government agree that this is best achieved through first nations control over education.

To this end, the bill has been structured to, one, allow first nations to choose their own governance model; two, develop and deliver their own curriculum; three, choose how they are going to incorporate language and culture if they wish to do so; four, choose their own inspectors; five, control the hiring and firing of their teachers; and six, determine how their students are going to be assessed and how the school calendar will be structured to meet a set number of days.

The joint council of education professionals would have five to nine members, all of whom would have to have knowledge of and/or experience in elementary or secondary education. Four of them would be nominated by the AFN, based on their own selection process. These are people who are very skilled in education. They have a strong track record and they want to mentor their own people to be able to deliver this kind of quality education.

The chair of the committee would be recommended by the minister in consultation with the Assembly of First Nations, and, further, the legislation would ensure that the minister must consult with the joint council on matters related to the creation of first nation education authorities, appointing temporary administrators, and creation of regulations.

This shows an unprecedented level of both trust and respect for the idea that first nations people will know how to deliver education that is going to meet the future needs of their first nations kids.

Another erroneous myth surrounds money. The NDP claims that the core funding is not enough. It says that $1.2 billion over three years does not go far enough and that the new funding supports have to begin immediately.

It does not surprise me that the NDP is mistaken again. The bill would establish a statutory funding obligation on the part of the minister not only to fund education but also to do this in a way that allows for quality services that are reasonably comparable to those off-reserve services in the provincial system, and that is key.

Economic action plan 2014 confirmed the new investments of $1.252 billion in core funding beginning in 2016, in addition to the $1.55 billion that we already spend on first nations education every year. These are big numbers, and they need to be there because education is so important.

We removed the 2% cap that was put in place by the Liberals and we replaced it with a 4.5% escalator that is going to ensure the sustainability of this funding. It is estimated that over the next five years we are going to spend $9.2 billion in core funding alone for first nations education. Our Conservative government has committed all along to the principle of investing in these reforms.

It is worth noting that the NDP voted against this much needed funding, which was included in economic action plan 2014. What else is new?

Members from the NDP also took issue with infrastructure investments, in one case even claiming that the government should be spending upward of $50 million per school in over 600 communities. We do believe that investments are needed in infrastructure, but we do not want all the money that should be spent on the education of these kids, our kids, on these reserves going into bricks and mortar. We have to do that efficiently and make sure that, yes, our first nations students have safe and proper facilities in which to learn, but, more importantly, that they also have funding for the teachers and the programming that are going to help them succeed in the future.

We will use $500 million to support new school projects and renovations to existing school infrastructure across the country in a way that ensures healthy, quality, safe environments for first nations students.

Another common refrain that we hear is that Bill C-33 is simply a cosmetic change from the draft legislative proposal released in November. Our first nations leaders certainly do not believe that. I would like to point out that the five conditions for success were set out in a resolution by the Assembly of First Nations at its Special Chiefs Assembly in December. Our Conservative government worked collaboratively to respond to these conditions in the first nations control of first nations education act. These conditions are now going to be entrenched in law.

This is truly amazing. This is one of the moments that all Canadians should be celebrating as absolutely historic.

We will establish, in legislation, control by first nations of their own elementary and secondary school systems, recognizing first nations treaty rights and respecting their inherent right to self-government. We will create an independent joint council of education professionals with a robust oversight role to ensure that ministerial powers are only used as a last resort. It would ensure in law the ability to incorporate first nations language and culture programming into the education curriculum, including immersion. It would establish in law, for the first time in history, a statutory funding obligation on the part of the minister for education on the reserves. It would establish in law the requirement for ongoing, meaningful engagement on first nations education by the Government of Canada, supported by the joint council.

Anyone who suggests that Bill C-33 did not take into account the input of first nations is simply wrong. I hope that I was able to reassure the House that the misconceptions being perpetuated by the NDP hold no water.

I call on all members to support this bill, including the NDP and the Liberals, who have been strangely silent on this bill despite the fact their own government proposed something very similar just before it fell in 2005. They have been silent on this bill. I call on all of them to support this bill.

As Shawn Atleo said:

This work is simply too important to walk away and abandon our students to the next round of discussions....

It is time to act. It is time to pass this historic legislation and give our kids on first nations reserves the education they deserve and first nations the ability to control that education.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the speech by the hon. member for Calgary Centre and I have two questions for her.

First, in formulating her comments on Bill C-33, did she directly consult with the regional chief for Alberta? Did she consult with the grand chiefs from Treaties 6, 7, and 8? Did she consult with any of the chiefs or council or members of those first nations?

Second, while the member claims that there were intensive consultations on the bill, she will note that in the bill itself there is provision for zero consultation with first nations on promulgating the regulations that would actually implement the bill. Would she like to speak to that?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joan Crockatt Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member for Edmonton—Strathcona asked that question, because it was historic that this legislation was announced in Alberta, her home province and mine.

The number of first nations leaders who were there, the chiefs who were there, the diversity of the chiefs from across the country, the quality of the educators who were there was positively phenomenal. We really do have a core of amazing leaders in first nations education who are ready to take on this mantle and do a tremendous job with it.

The member was asking about consultation. The national panel led by Chuck Strahl, who we all know did an amazing job as minister, visited 30 communities and 25 schools. There were seven round tables, telephone town halls, 30 teleconferences, and 600 chiefs and councils had this document shared with them. In every first nation in Canada, the joint council of education professionals will carry that forward.