Mr. Speaker, I have tried to remain consistent since I started my term nearly three years ago to the day, so in today's debate I will focus on the bastions of identity associated with providing education services adapted to the realities of first nations youth.
The bastions of identity are a notion I have discussed in the past, and I think that this notion is crucial when it comes to the bill we are discussing today. When we talk about the emancipation and governance of first nations, the first bastion is education, since increased intelligence, economic development and the emancipation of peoples are closely related to it. It is very much a matter of identity. These are the concepts I will be talking about today.
I must stress how important it is to take a practical approach that is free of electioneering tactics. This outdated political approach is responsible for making the public disinterested in and distanced from the process of enacting public policy.
As for the bastions of identity, it is essential to get front-line players and members of first nations involved. That is one of the issues I mentioned yesterday when the bill was introduced.
When I made recommendations to my colleagues, I made sure that I encouraged my colleagues to keep a low profile during the big demonstrations that will be held in the coming months—that is a scoop—since in 2014, the Canadian public and all members of first nations are cynical when people use contentious issues and aboriginal identity issues to win votes and serve their own ends.
That is why we need to focus on the work on the ground. I invited my colleagues to start by visiting the communities in their own ridings and to do grassroots work, instead of trying to monopolize the microphone and cameras, as we have seen in the past. These kinds of methods were used by other parties and a political elite whose day has come and gone.
In 2014, the power needs to be given to members of first nations, since these issues are important to them now, and that is the problem with the bill.
I will talk more about that over the next few minutes, but first nations involvement in the drafting and implementation of this bill has been rather minimal. This needs to change in the future.
Based on those observations, the NDP would like to see an education system that is culturally relevant, that includes the people affected and that is effective for students, teachers and communities. This ideal will only be attained by taking an approach that places members of the community at the forefront. The Canadian government's role should be limited to co-operating fully with those who want a modern system to be created.
In that regard, the NDP would like to see education standards developed in partnership with first nations educators, and at their initiative, in order to achieve that goal. We recognize that standards are needed, but they cannot be imposed by Ottawa. Provincial standards may not suit the needs of first nations communities.
The first way to demonstrate the progressive nature of any proposed approach is to recognize the chronic underfunding of first nations education. That is precisely the problem. The government admitted this indirectly in recent months with the announcement of a massive infusion of money, which will begin in 2016 or 2017—basically, who knows when. The government announced considerable investments. This does constitute tacit recognition of the underfunding, which was always denied by previous successive governments.
The consent of first nations members must also be obtained before any new public policies are adopted that aim to control, manage or hem in first nations members.
I will continue my speech later.