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.
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.
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?