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.