House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.


The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to a reiteration by the second parliamentary secretary of the same statement that allegedly the government has made stricter federal environmental laws.

I look forward to the parliamentary secretary outlining to this place what these new stricter environmental protection laws are that are going to ensure protection of first nation rights and interests, and of threatened species.

I also wonder if the parliamentary secretary agrees with the recent decisions by the Alberta energy regulator to deny standing to first nations and Métis in oil sands expansion projects, and to deny the request for a buffer between recently appended lands for traditional harvest and a major new oil sands operation.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, our government has always been and will continue to be committed to consulting with Canadians, including aboriginal people, and giving careful consideration to their concerns.

Building relationships with aboriginal groups and encouraging and supporting their active participation in the review of projects is essential to making sure that aboriginal peoples can benefit from the economic development opportunities associated with these projects. Aboriginal participation during environmental assessments that may affect them also helps in the decision-making process.

Our government will continue to engage and consult with aboriginal peoples as part of our support for the responsible development of Canada's resources.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

November 5th, 2013 / 6:25 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, we go from lack of consultation and accommodation with regard to resource development to lack of consultation and accommodation with regard to the first nation education act.

I asked the minister whether or not he would look at closing the funding gap. In the minister's response, he said that they would pay the cost of education at the secondary and elementary levels for first nations, but it was lacking in any kind of true commitment in detail.

I want to turn, for a moment, to a letter written on June 13, 2011, from the then provincial minister of education in British Columbia to the then minister of aboriginal affairs. There are a couple of points in here that are important. The minister is talking about a number of agreements that take place between B.C. first nations and the Province of British Columbia. He says that, “The form of agreement between the province and an interested first nation is significant. It is not a typical agreement as between the province and a service provider. It is a government-to-government agreement. Much of the language that typically is in a service agreement is not in this agreement. In this respect, it is unique and recognizes the TCA 2005 commitment to strengthen the relationship on a government-to-government basis”.

In the closing of the letter it says, “While the province and first nations often go forward on parallel agendas, the province does not provide oversight of first nations' education on first nations' lands, nor over the various initiatives of the FNSA or FNESC. This respects the integrity of the commitment of establishing a new relationship based on mutual respect and recognition”.

Those two points are important when we come to talk about funding.

I also want to mention the report “Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nations Students”. That report clearly outlined statutory funding that is needs-based, predictable, sustainable and used specifically for education purposes.

The minister led any listeners, and this House, to believe that somehow what is in the draft proposal meets that requirement. In fact, it does not.

I want to turn to something that comes from Australia. It is a document that talks about what ministerial obligations are.

In the introduction, it says:

how to determine whether a legislative provision imposes an obligation or confers a discretion;...

It goes on to talk about a particular section, section 33.

(1) states:

In any Act or instrument, the word 'may', if used to confer a power, indicates that the power may be exercised or not, at discretion.

(2) states:

In any Act or instrument, the word 'shall', if used to impose a duty, indicates that the duty must be performed.

When I look at the proposal the government has put forward, in section 31(1), on funding, it says in the notes:

This provision establishes that the Minister may fund a First Nation or a First Nation Education Authority to operate one or more schools.

It is clear that the proposed legislation does not require the government to come up with equitable funding, equitable comparable funding, to what provinces provide for their students.

When will the government provide that equitable funding?

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.


Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. I also appreciate the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming supporting me in giving my answer tonight.

I would remind the hon. opposition member that our government firmly believes that all first nations students across Canada deserve access to a school system that meets provincial and territorial standards while respecting first nations culture, language, rights, and treaties.

It is not just our government that has been calling for change. First nations have been advocating for greater control over their children's education for decades. This has been reiterated to the minister on numerous occasions by first nations across the country that have been pressing for education reform.

Our government is listening to these calls from first nations leadership, educators, technicians, and youth who are unhappy with the current non-system that has been failing first nations students for years. It is time to provide first nations with choice in terms of the management and delivery of education in their communities. It is time to work with them to ensure that first nations students get the education system they deserve. In short, it is time for reform of the first nations education system.

Over the past year, our government has contributed over $1.5 billion to support first nations elementary and secondary education. On a per capita basis, this amounts to approximately $14,000 per full-time equivalent student. Not included in this calculation is an investment of approximately $200 million to maintain and improve education infrastructure for band-operated schools.

Despite these investments, it is clear that money is not the only solution. The non-system of education is not working for the majority of first nations students who do not graduate from high school. This is the sad reality and undeniable truth. Many with direct experience in first nations education, as well as the Auditor General of Canada, have said that this is due to a patchwork system that does not have the supports and services that are available to most Canadians.

Our government is committed to addressing this situation and is building on the successful models that already exist. That is why we have shared “Working Together for First Nation Students: a Proposal for a Bill on First Nations Education” with every first nation across the country. We have asked them to share a copy with their membership, along with provinces and key stakeholders, as part of the ongoing consultation process. We look forward to receiving everyone's feedback and input.

This draft legislative proposal would support the vision of first nations control of first nations education and would create a comprehensive framework to enable first nations to design and implement their own education systems, while meeting or exceeding minimum standards.

In addition, the proposal would ensure that education standards were equivalent to the quality of school systems off reserve and would deliver a curriculum that is reflective of first nations' unique needs, culture, and interests. This would help first nations students achieve a quality education that would allow them to move seamlessly between first nation and provincial schools and to pursue their studies in a consistent manner.

It would be up to first nations to decide how best to meet or even exceed these standards within their education programs. This draft legislative proposal is a significant step forward, in the spirit of reconciliation, in pursuing our shared goal with first nations of closing the gaps between first nations and all Canadians.

We continue to invite all first nations to provide input on the important issue of improving education outcomes and the proposed way forward.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, first nations schools on reserve can only dream of having $14,000 per student per direct delivery of education. In a recent CBC interview, it was indicated that the federal government spends well over $1 billion annually educating aboriginal children, although much of that money goes to provincial governments, since most of the kids go to provincial schools. When first nations kids on reserve go to provincial schools, they have to pay the provincial school rate, which means even less for the first nations students on reserve.

I come back to my original question. In the section on regulations, which is where the minister said the funding will be defined, it says that the minister may make any regulations. There is a huge amount of discretion in what the minister would do with regard to funding. Nowhere in the draft regulations or in this draft document does it talk about equitable funding comparable to provincial schools.

When will the government provide equitable, comparable funding to provincial schools for first nations on reserve? When?

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to reforming the first nation education act and not simply addressing it with more money. We have to have reform of the system—of the non-system, as the minister has called it—before addressing the funding issue.

Our government remains committed to the principle of first nation control of first nation education. We will continue to consult with first nations to ensure that first nation students have the same opportunity as all Canadians to succeed in their education and we will continue to implement the principle of first nation control over first nation education.

We are continuing to consult with first nations to improve on-reserve education. Ultimately, all input will contribute to improved on-reserve education that guarantees base standards; provides the mechanism required for stable, predictable, and sustainable funding; and improves first nation control over first nation education.

We all need to work together to provide the quality education that will open up opportunities for first nation youth, thereby preparing them to make major life choices around post-secondary education, secure good jobs, and become self-sufficient and engaged citizens.

Aboriginal AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:35 p.m.)