House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was students.


First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Miramichi.

I rise in the House today in support of Bill C-33, the first nations control of first nations education act. I am proud to be a part of a government that supports first nations education success. Our government is proud of the deeply collaborative approach that has been taken on this important file and we are seeing the results.

From the outset, our government committed to working with first nations to develop a first nations education act. Consultations and engagement with first nation parents, students, leaders and educators, as well as the provinces, were integral to the development and drafting of this proposed legislation. I would like to highlight some important milestones.

In 2011, the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations jointly launched a national panel on first nation elementary and secondary education. Over the course of five months, the national panel held seven regional round tables and one national round table. Panel members visited 25 schools in 30 first nation communities across Canada, meeting with key individuals and organizations in each region.

In its final report, the national panel described education legislation as a fundamental part of an education system. In the words of the national panel:

—legislation...establishes and protects the rights of the child to a quality education, ensures predictable and sufficient funding, provides the framework for the implementation of education support structures and services, and sets out the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of all partners in the system.

Following this report, our government made a commitment in economic action plan 2012 to put in place first nation education legislation and launched an intensive consultation process in December 2012. The consultation process consisted of two stages.

. First, our government shared a discussion guide with all first nations across Canada. The discussion guide informed first nations of components which would be covered in proposed elementary and secondary education legislation for first nations on reserve. The guide was informed by years of studies, audits and reports, including the 2011 June Status Report of the Auditor General of Canada, the 2011 report by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and the 2012 report of the national panel.

From January to May 2013, our government engaged first nation parents, youth, educators, provincial partners and others with an interest or expertise in education through regional consultation sessions across the country. As well, more than 30 video and teleconferences were held and opportunities included email submissions and an online survey to make available and provide additional input.

Areas of interest and concern raised throughout these consultation activities included first nations control over first nations education, funding, the transition to a legislated system, parental involvement in education, language and culture, and aboriginal treaty and treaty rights.

After considering the findings from the national panel and feedback received through the consultation process, our government developed an annotated outline of the proposed legislation. The blueprint was released in July 2013. It was shared with first nations chiefs and councils, organizations, provincial governments, and others with an expertise or interest in first nation education for feedback.

In October 2013, following additional feedback and comments in response to the blueprint, the government released “Working Together for First Nation Students: A Proposal for a Bill on First Nation Education”. In addition to posting this draft legislative proposal on the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website, our government shared the draft legislative proposal with more than 600 chiefs and band councils and every first nation community across the country, as well as provincial governments, for further input.

We have undertaken unprecedented and intensive consultations with first nations across this country, which have led to the exchange of open letters and dialogue between the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

In November 2013, the Assembly of First Nations released an open letter to the Government of Canada asking for collaboration on five issues. These included first nation control and respecting inherent and treaty rights, a statutory guarantee for funding for education, support for first nation languages and cultures, jointly determined oversight that respects first nation rights and responsibilities, and, finally, an ongoing process of meaningful engagement.

In December 2013, my colleague the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development responded in an open letter with a commitment to address the issues raised.

Our government worked with the Assembly of First Nations to address its five conditions for success. As a result, in February 2014, Canada and the Assembly of First Nations announced the first nations control of first nations education act.

The bill includes important changes, such as the creation of a joint council of education professionals to provide advice and support to first nations and the Government of Canada on the implementation and oversight of the first nations control of first nations education act; first nations control in incorporating language and culture programming in education curricula, and providing funding for language and culture programming within the statutory funding stream; third, a commitment by the government to work in collaboration with first nations to develop the bill's regulations; and last, adequate, stable, predictable, and sustainable funding.

It was a historic moment for Canada-first nations relations, and we must not lose this momentum. These changes responded in full to the AFN's five conditions for success.

Our government has taken an open, transparent, and iterative approach to legislative development, including, as I have mentioned, the unusual step of the online release of draft legislation ahead of time.

We have listened and responded to concerns. Throughout the consultation process, our government provided updates to all first nation chiefs and councils on next steps in the development of a proposed approach to legislation.

As demonstrated by the name, first nations control is the central principle upon which this proposed legislation is based. It would recognize the ability and responsibility of first nations to educate their students. It would recognize the importance of treaty and aboriginal rights, which are protected by the Constitution. It would not apply to first nations that are part of an existing comprehensive or sectoral self-government agreement that covers education.

When our government announced our intention to introduce legislation, we made it clear that the partnership does not end with the introduction of the bill. Going forward, through the creation of, and the role of, the joint council of education professionals as proposed in Bill C-33, Canada and the Assembly of First Nations will continue to explore ways to further engage first nations as part of the commitment to respecting first nations control over first nations education.

It is in this vein that the minister is committed to negotiating a political protocol with the AFN on the role and membership of the joint council. First nations and all Canadians will have the opportunity to continue engaging during the parliamentary process.

In addition, when this bill receives royal assent, our government will work with first nations to ensure that there is a smooth transition for communities and first nations education organizations, and it has committed funding to do so.

Given the importance of this issue, these discussions have sometimes raised passionate and differing points of view. What we all agree on is that every child in this country has a right to quality education, no matter where they live in Canada. We can also agree that despite the best efforts of countless parents, teachers, and communities, too many first nation children are being left behind.

The historic way forward with the Assembly of First Nations is reflective of a constructive exchange and consultation process with first nations. I am proud of the deeply collaborative approach we have taken on this file. Working closely with first nations, we have reached a historic agreement on giving first nations control of first nations education, something that has been desperately needed for generations.

Bill C-33 represents an important step forward together. Our government will continue to focus our energies to work even harder now to ensure improved outcomes for first nation students on reserve.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.


Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Why did the Conservative government not consult or collaborate with the real partners, meaning the communities, educators, teachers and people who work in the education system in these communities? Why did the government not work with them?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in fact we have worked in collaboration with so many stakeholders. Years of discussion, dialogue, and studies have illustrated the point that consultation is such a high priority for this government.

The government took into consideration the views and perspectives that were shared during this consultation with first nation educators, first nation leaders, parents, and teachers. There were meetings and online meetings. There was a sneak preview for everyone of the legislation online ahead of time. These are the kinds of things that teachers and other educators had many opportunities to respond to during the course of the consultation process, which lasted a number of years.

I am proud to say that the minister took the advice that was given to him and to the government as part of the consultation and incorporated it into the new bill.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the first nations control of first nations education act is a constructive and necessary step toward a better future for first nation students across the country.

I am both shocked and saddened that the NDP would stand in the way of improving the lives of first nation students for purely partisan reasons.

The NDP is opposing legislation that, for the first time in our history, would give first nation students the right to a quality education. NDP members are choosing to stand with those calling to bring Canada's economy to its knees and opposing an unprecedented investment of $1.9 billion for first nations' education. I am disturbed that they would play politics on the backs of first nations children.

Can the hon. member please elaborate on the benefits that would flow to first nation students across Canada?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Don Valley West for raising this important issue and allowing me to talk a little about the economic prosperity that I believe the bill would ultimately bring to this fast-growing segment of our population, first nation youth.

Frankly, it has been unfair to them that, through no fault of their own, they have not been able to share in the prosperity that other Canadian children have had as a result of a good education system. That is why we on this side of the House believe so strongly in this proposed legislation.

The goal is to improve educational outcomes with a view to improving the lives of children and their economic prospects. The bill would enable first nations to exercise control over their own education system.

There are other issues too that I did not have a chance to mention in my speech; for example, the funding formula. I was able to touch on it a little, but ultimately secure, stable funding would be provided. We are now replacing the 2% increase with a 4.5% escalator in funding. This would allow first nations to be assured for years to come that they will be able to fund a strong system for their children.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House today in support of Bill C-33, the first nations control of first nations education act. I welcome this opportunity to outline the advantages of Bill C-33 and the many benefits it would bring to the first nations and all Canadians.

The proposed legislation would provide flexibility for each first nation, while establishing legislation that sets out standards to encourage students' success. For the first time ever, every first nation youth would have a guaranteed access to the high quality education that all Canadian students enjoy.

I want to speak about the need to improve the quality of education for first nation students and why it is a shared priority for our government and first nations. First, I want to acknowledge the first nation communities across Canada that have demonstrated commitment to improving education for their youth. We have seen the success these approaches can deliver, and we hope that Bill C-33 can empower other first nation communities to achieve similar results.

While first nations have worked hard with our government, provincial governments, and other partners to establish quality schools, the vast majority of first nation children do not have the same educational opportunity as other Canadian children do. Statistics show that this has a dire impact on their chances for success later in life.

There are numerous success stories, but we still have an urgent situation at the national level. According to the 2011 national household survey, only 38% of registered natives living on reserves, ages 18 to 24, had completed high school, compared to 87% of non-aboriginal Canadians. I am sure members will agree that this is a shocking and appalling number.

When we consider that aboriginal youth represent the fastest growing segment in the Canadian population, it becomes clear that steps must be taken to close this education gap. Currently, standards vary in on-reserve schools and, as a result, students have no guarantee of being able to transfer to a provincial system without academic penalty or to receive a diploma or certificate that is recognized by their university or employer of choice.

Recognizing that first nations are best placed to determine how to achieve the best results for their communities, the bill is informed by and built upon the fundamental principle of first nations control of first nations education. It gives first nations the same authority that is awarded to provincial school boards. The ability to set curriculum, hire and fire teachers, and set student and teacher evaluations are just a few examples that come to mind.

First nations would retain these authorities as long as they meet basic standards that are legislated in the act, and these would include requirements for teacher certification; requirements for minimum instruction days similar to provincial requirements; a recognized high school diploma; transferability between systems without penalty; and access to education for every first nation student.

These are basic requirements that every school off reserve must fulfill and are essential to ensuring a high quality of education. By setting standards, education legislation ensures that the features of a quality education system are there for our children every day.

In the rest of the country, legislation allows provinces to set standards for schools and school boards, like annual planning, health and safety, and requirements for daily operations. Legislation ensures that everyone involved knows their job and their responsibilities, from education directors and school principals to teachers and parent community committees.

Such legislation is in place in every province and territory in Canada except on first nation reserves. The proposed legislation would provide stable and predictable statutory funding consistent with provincial education funding models. This means the first nation would have the resources to determine the best means for educating its children, integrating language and culture, and developing policies and procedures for its school system.

Equally important is that first nations would be able to choose the governance model for their education system. First nations would get to decide whether they wanted to operate their own community school, whether they wanted to join a first nations education authority, or whether they wanted to participate in a provincial education system.

Supported by funding for governance and administration costs, first nations education authorities would be school-board-like organizations that would be run by first nations and would have the size and capacity to provide participating first nations with functions such as hiring teachers, setting policy, and purchasing supplies, as well as providing a wider range of support services for students. Whether first nations chose to enter into agreements with provinces or decided to form first nations education authorities, these organizations would provide support to schools to ensure they are meeting their requirements under the act and providing a quality education for students.

Let me emphasize again that the bill would establish first nations control over first nations education and would provide first nations with the flexibility to determine what is effective for their students' success. Parents, community members, and first nations leaders would be able to work with school administrators on the operations, planning, and reporting processes in their schools.

In addition to setting important standards, Bill C-33 would strengthen governance and accountability and provide mechanisms for stable, predictable, and sustainable funding.

We want to ensure that on-reserve schools provide the support services that are so important in achieving good educational outcomes and in ensuring that first nations children get the resources they need in order to succeed. We want all first nations students to have access to the quality and the quantity of the tools they need to learn: desks, textbooks, computers, sports equipment, and all the rest. We also want to ensure that first nations students are able to transfer seamlessly between schools on reserve and the provincial system if necessary.

First nations students and parents deserve to feel confident in their quality of education and confident that graduation comes with a recognized diploma or certificate so they are prepared to enter the labour force or continue their education.

We know that in order to provide the high quality of education that all other Canadian students enjoy, we need to ensure that first nations students are being taught by certified teachers and are spending a minimum number of days in class each year.

The proposed legislation would help turn the corner for first nations elementary and secondary education. That is why the historic announcement made in February by our Prime Minister with the Assembly of First Nations on first nations control over first nations education legislation included an unprecedented amount of money, $1.9 billion, to support it. When this bill passes, the funding would be guaranteed by law. It would also be subject to a 4.5% escalator, replacing the 2% funding cap that the Liberals put on first nations spending.

The proposed legislation and the new funding respond to the five conditions for success set out in a resolution by the Assembly of First Nations and endorsed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly in December 2013.

These are investments in the future of first nations children and in Canada's prosperity. Bill C-33 would establish first nations control over first nations education, with the flexibility for first nations to choose what works best in their communities. It is not about making all on-reserve schools the same; it is about making sure that every student has the same opportunity, no matter where he or she lives in Canada.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the government side is saying with respect to consultation, a lot of first nations across this country are saying they were not consulted.

I have a letter written by Chief Shining Turtle, dated May 1, 2014, that was sent to all members of Parliament. It discusses a resolution and it speaks about this legislation as infringement legislation, as opposed to first nations act legislation. It says, “These resolutions reject the unilateral imposition of these bills” in talking about their resolutions, and it goes on to say:

There has been no meaningful consultation and accommodation of First Nations interests in any of these documents (emphasis added)!! We have no record of any consultation with Whitefish River First Nation on this piece of legislation.

It also indicates, as the government should know:

We have the right to free, prior and informed consent on anything that would affect our rights.

The question I am asking on behalf of Chief Shining Turtle is this: can the hon. member explain how the government fulfilled its duty to inform Whitefish River about any of these pieces of legislation that have been passed by Parliament, including the first nations education act?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, our government will keep fighting for first nations children and the Assembly of First Nations and will continue to move forward with this historic and necessary bill.

Reform of first nations education has been a topic of discussion for many years, including through dialogue in the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education for Students on Reserve.

The way forward negotiated between the government and the Assembly of First Nations in February follows years and years of discussions, dialogue, and studies reflecting the efforts of many first nations and governments to arrive at this point of legislation that would recognize first nations control of first nations education.

If we followed the ideas of the opposition, the bill would be at a standstill and the money that our government is ready to put into the studies of aboriginal students for their benefit would be at a standstill. However, our government is ready to act and move forward.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I need to correct my colleague across the way. Actually, we do not need legislation in order for the money to flow.

The money is very important to first nations education, and it should have been flowing immediately, if not a long time ago. Let us not forget that the 2% funding cap came from the Liberals.

On that note, the member did not answer the question I asked. I mention again that the government had a responsibility with this piece of legislation. The legislation should have been telling the government of its responsibilities and describing the government's responsibilities to first nations education. It does not do that. It actually legislates directions.

Again, the question from Chief Shining Turtle is this: can the member actually tell us how the government fulfilled its duty to inform Whitefish River First Nation about any of these pieces of legislation that have been passed by Parliament, including the first nations education act?

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, from June to November of 2011, the national panel held seven regional round tables and one national round table, conducted site visits in 30 first nation communities and 25 schools, and held meetings with key individuals and organizations in each region.

The panel's final report, issued in February 2012, provided the government with valuable feedback and recommendations on the next steps to improve educational outcomes for first nations, including the development of legislation.

We have done our work and we are ready to move on.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: The hon. member for Winnipeg North, Democratic Reform; the hon. member for Malpeque, Employment Insurance; and the hon. member for York South—Weston, Rail Transportation.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today and first take note that today is May 1, the international day of solidarity, which is about the workers of the world. My colleagues on this side of the House take that day very seriously. I say this to remind members that “mayday” has a second meaning. Mayday is the international voice call of distress among mariners. That is precisely what we are hearing today from first nations across Canada, with the introduction of Bill C-33.

I put to the House, and I maintain, that Bill C-33 is pure Orwellian newspeak at work. In George Orwell's 1984, it was the minister of peace who waged war. It was the ministry of love that oversaw torture. It was the minister of plenty who oversaw rationing. Here we have the Conservative government introducing into Parliament a bill euphemistically called an act for first nations control of first nations education, which should more appropriately be called a bill to increase ministerial power over first nations education and to limit first nations' inherent rights.

Today, as we speak, the minister does not have the long list of powers that this bill is designed to give him by statute. Currently the minister has to rely on a not so genteel form of extortion, by which first nations must agree to sign a contribution agreement, which stipulates those powers to the minister in order to get money to educate their children. Bill C-33 would give the minister, who I would remind the House is a person of another culture, another background, and another language and history, all of those intrusive powers by law.

I have news for the minister. The right of first nations to control their education already exists. It is for this Parliament to recognize that right, an inherent right, a right confirmed by sacred treaties, a right recognized by international covenants. I argue that Bill C-33 would put limits on those rights by design.

First nations are demanding nothing more than what we already take for granted: the right to see that their children receive an education in accord with their own culture, language, and teaching of history and values. The right was not surrendered by first nations at treaty. It is not necessary to have an act of Parliament to confirm an existing right. All that is needed is a mechanism so that the right can be fulfilled and made manifest and realized by having the means provided to do it. In fact, letting Parliament give that right or afford that right makes it a legislated right and not an inherent right, which is one of the inherent flaws of this bill.

After the exercise in creative writing that is the title of this bill, I ask the House to consider the preamble. We all know that the preamble does not have the effect of committing Canada to doing anything, but I challenge members here today to read those lofty verses in the preamble and then to try to match them in any meaningful way with the real content of the bill.

I will give the House an example. The preamble states:

Whereas First Nations must receive support that enables them to exercise their rights and fulfil their responsibilities relating to provided to their children;

All that sounds good, but compare that with the actual fact that we offer them a paltry 4.5% annual increase on the already miserly amount they receive now, which is half or less than what their provincial counterparts receive. It would take up to 22 years to catch up, without even considering population increases, inflation, and the increasing cost of education. Compare that with the lofty principles of the language in the preamble. What a cruel deception we are being asked to pass here with this legislation.

Another example in the preamble states:

Whereas First Nations education systems must receive adequate, stable, predictable and sustainable funding...

Then we give them a bill that makes this promise empty, which is an utterly cruel deception and Orwellian doublespeak, if I have ever seen it. These are inherent contradictions meant to deceive.

The minister is crowing that under the current system, there is no recognition of first nations languages and first nations culture, and he is giving them that by virtue of this bill. This is another example of the Eurocentric, paternalistic, colonial attitude of the government. It is not his to give, because that is already their inalienable, inherent right.

First nations can already teach language and culture if they choose to do so. The permission of the minister is not required. However, under Bill C-33, the minister can impose the regulations that would set out how that language and culture would be taught. He can impose the amount of money that can be spent for that purpose. He can impose who is qualified to teach the language and culture and whether the laws of the province apply to the teaching of that language and culture. The end result is that first nations would have less control over the teaching of language and culture than they have now. It is blatantly disingenuous or ignorant to imply otherwise.

Clause 43 is another example of contradictory Orwellian newspeak. It provides that the minister must pay to a first nation education authority an amount of money determined by a calculation, which is what it costs for a provincial public school in a similar location, per pupil, to provide educational services. On first reading, one would assume that by this legislation, they would get the same amount of money as provincial students do, except that reading further, on the very next page, clause 45 of the bill states that the minister will obtain an order in council limiting the amount of money in any fiscal year to whatever amount the minister wants to set, or whatever amount of money the minister can pry out of the hands of his minister of finance around the cabinet table. Presto, the obligation to provide equitable education has just completely vanished, because the reality is that clause 45 trumps, again, the lofty principle, the carrot dangled, by clause 43.

I know that members opposite will say that we have to be fiscally responsible, that we cannot do this all at once, and that it has to be phased in gradually. In actual fact, there are two problems with that argument. The first is that if a first nations school decides it can no longer deprive its children of the education they deserve and decides to send its children to a nearby provincial school, the minister will pay that full school tuition for those students, double the amount he planned to spend if those children stayed on reserve. The money will be there for that, so why is it not available as a first option for students to stay at the reserve school?

The second reason is a larger picture, perhaps, that we really have to address in the context of this kind of funding question. It is that first nations receive absolutely not one penny from the tens of billions of dollars from oil, minerals, forestry products, and natural resources taken from their lands. It is trillions of dollars over the years if we were to add it up. One cannot tell people that there is no money to provide for the basic needs of first nations children to realize their full potential when we are harvesting tens of billions of dollars per year from first nations lands and territories. In all good conscience, those of us in the House of Commons have to address that fundamental issue. First nations children are Canadian children, and all Canadian children deserve the right to realize their full potential through a quality education.

I want to take a moment to look at the international obligations the bill fails to acknowledge or recognize. The year 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 28 recognizes the right of a child to equal opportunity to have an education.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that indigenous people must have access to schools consistent with language, culture, and values and that “indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages” and cultures.

Article 13 of that UN declaration states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.

Bill C-33 gives no recognition to any of these international instruments, nor does it acknowledge that Canada has any responsibilities and obligations in this regard. I believe that this is by design, not by any oversight.

We have also heard the minister say that Bill C-33 is a first step, a transition to something better and that this will evolve into something more acceptable in time.

That is exactly what they said about the act for the gradual civilization of the Indians 14 decades ago, and we still have the Indian Act today, an act best described as 140 years of social tragedy, an act unworthy of a western developed democracy. Instead of rising above that act, this piece of legislation is consistent with the Indian Act in that regard.

What is the purpose of this legislation? Clause 3 states:

The purpose of this Act is to provide for the control by First Nations of their education systems by enabling councils of First Nations to administer schools situated on their reserves

That, perhaps more than any one phrase, is the nutshell of the problem.

There is a considerable difference between control of education by first nations and enabling councils to administer the schools. The whole structure of Bill C-33 is to give control over first nations education to the minister and then to provide for the administration of the minister's will at the local level by the council. The boss gets to dictate the means of production, and the workers get to decide what colour to paint the lunchroom. That is what this boils down to, but then it would not be a vision of industrial democracy.

In the bill, first nations are finally going to be allowed to be their own Indian agents. Again, that is what this boils down to. They would be the administrators of regulations decided in Ottawa by the minister on their behalf.

The charade continues with clause 7:

The council of a First Nation must, in accordance with this Act, provide access to elementary and secondary education to any person who is ordinarily resident on a reserve

Thus Bill C-33 would impose an obligation on a first nation council to provide education, whether or not the resources were provided to do so, and neither is there freedom of the council in how it complies. It must do so in accordance with the bill.

The bill would expand the discretionary powers of the minister in more than one way. If we cannot see what is wrong with that mindset and world view, then we have no right to be addressing such an important subject today.

In clause 10, we come to the joint council of education professionals. Why does the government call it a joint council when all the appointments are made by cabinet, the chair is appointed by cabinet, and the minister can kick out anyone who does not toe the line? That is what a powerless group it would be. Essentially, it would sit and wait until the minister asked for its advice on certain matters, but the minister would be under no obligation to follow the advice or to explain why the advice was not followed. This is not self-determination under any sense of the word, nor does it meet the test of true implementation of authority over the system.

The minister would only be obliged to ask the council for its advice when he wished to do so. We would never know what that advice to the minister was or why it was being implemented, or not, because advice from a statutory body to a minister is considered a confidential cabinet confidence and is protected from release. The council would not be obligated to support first nations control of education.

The minister says that the council would provide oversight to the operation of the act, but unfortunately, Bill C-33 provides no oversight powers. Again, it is an inherent flaw in this legislation that is deliberate and not by accident.

When concerns like this are raised, the minister's response is, “trust me”. There will be political protocols, he has assured his doubters. I do not have to remind the House that Ottawa is a boneyard of discarded political protocols. Why does the minister want to wait until after the bill becomes law to offer a protocol? We all know the answer to that question.

In clause 20 of Bill C-33, we move into governance, and again we find what I believe is tricky and calculated deception. We have to read clause 21 with one eye focusing on what the bill says first nations can do and the other eye focusing on the power of the minister to make the regulations. For example, the council must establish policies and procedures; establish education programs, attendance policies,and success plans; monitor the quality of education; and provide the minister with an annual report. The minister says this is evidence of local control.

The bill goes on to provide the minister with the unilateral authority to impose regulations that set out the form and content of the budgets, the plans, the programs, and the policies. The minister may also impose provincial law to govern such matters.

Again, this bill has to be read in its totality, not as isolated clauses selected to make a certain case that local autonomy or local control is in fact a reality.

Clause 21 also provides that first nation language can be the language of instruction, but it has to be in addition to English or French. That clause pretty well wipes out the possibility of immersion instruction. Just imagine telling a French immersion school that it must also be providing parallel instruction in English.

Will there be any extra funding for instruction in a first nation language? Again, Bill C-33 is silent in this regard. Then, once again, the instruction of the indigenous language must be provided in accordance with the regulations unilaterally set out by the minister. “Trust me”, the minister says.

I am almost out of time, and I am not even halfway through this bill. It gives cause for us to reflect on just how pockmarked and potholed, with one-way streets, with arrows pointing both ways, this bill really is. I have not had time to mention how the provinces are going to react when the minister starts to force the provinces to pick up part of the tab, bit by bit, until, I would argue, the whole expense is going to be offloaded.

I have been assisted by comments and analysis that are starting to emerge from first nations, and I urge members opposite to do the same.

I will end my formal remarks by pointing out how appalling I find it that a bill of this nature has been subjected to time allocation and closure before the opinions of those first nations can be registered and made manifest before decision-makers and policy-makers.

I cannot imagine anything more contradictory to first nation culture than to shut down debate in a culture that values oral tradition, that values letting everyone's voice be heard until consensus is achieved.

I honestly did not think the Conservatives would have the gall to invoke closure on a bill of this nature, on this subject matter, but they have. They keep saying that the AFN is in favour of this bill, and that is why they are plowing ahead. We have heard from first nations. As of two hours ago, the executive council of the Assembly of First Nations has overridden the opinion of their leader. A resolution to that effect is coming forward.

On May 14, there is a confederacy scheduled for Ottawa where these first nations leaders are going to bring the true position of the affiliates of the Assembly of First Nations to convey their real opinion of this bill, which is unanimously opposed. No one can find a first nation constituency in the country that supports this bill.

To implement it now would be the height of hypocrisy and Eurocentric arrogance, colonial, Eurocentric arrogance. I say this looking at the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, who I think knows better and who knows how offensive to the sensibilities of first nations and all Canadians it would be to continue this legacy of paternalistic colonialism and impose on them a piece of legislation that they are not in favour of.

Whether the Conservatives say their consultation met the test of true consultation or not, and I do not believe it did, the tables have turned as of today. As of two hours ago, this has all changed. Yet by May 14, will we even still be debating this bill, or will it have been rammed through the House of Commons and sent on to the Conservative-dominated Senate?

This bill warrants and deserves careful examination. First nations have a right to have input in the legislative process and to give testimony at committee. If there was ever a bill that should be taken on the road by committee for consultation in each region of the country, this is one.

I know it is not my job to ask them questions. They will ask me questions. However, how do the Conservatives justify clamping down debate on such an important piece of legislation, denying the opportunity for first nations to participate in the legislative process? It is beyond me.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.


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

Mr. Speaker, it is always good to hear from one of Parliament's great storytellers. Unfortunately, a lot of his analysis of the bill was fiction when it comes to his conspiracy theories about the sinister plot of the minister to wrest control away from first nations by giving them more control, by denying them funding, by giving them more funding. He described as miserly the $1.55 billion per year that the government provides in funding, as well as the $1.9-billion increase that was proposed in the last budget, which, of course, he voted against.

Perhaps that is the reason why the member for Western Arctic, who has not been given an opportunity by his party to participate, mentioned in his question yesterday that he thought if every reserve in Canada, of which there are 600, got a new school, in his estimation, $50 million to $100 million per school would be needed. Therefore, according to the NDP, just $60 billion would do the job and meet the obligations.

The member for Western Arctic was the deputy critic for aboriginal affairs until very recently.

I would ask the member, is $60 billion what the NDP is proposing, or is that miserly as well?

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4:30 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, we do not need legislation to elevate the standards of contribution for first nations students to the provincial equivalent. The province of Manitoba is a good example. There are reserves near Thompson, Manitoba, where the funding per capita per student is $7,000 or $8,000 by the federal government. The province's funding per student in Thompson, Manitoba, right nearby, is $15,000. One could argue that the amount of money per capita in reserve schools could in fact be even higher than the provincial average because of the special needs and historical catching up that may need to be done in order for first nations students to achieve their full potential through education.

We do not need legislation to do that. It could have found its way into the 2014 budget, but even with implementation of this bill we will not see any improvement until 2016, conveniently just after the next federal election. I suppose the Conservatives will be dangling that as some kind of a carrot in front of the noses of aboriginal voters. This is the hypocrisy of it.

Then what the Conservatives contemplate is this paltry increase of 4.5% of the current 2% cap. It will be 22 years, by the NDP's calculation, before there is a catch-up to where first nations schools are funded to the same degree as their provincial counterparts, and that is without taking into account the increase in population and the increase in the cost of providing education. There is no built-in escalating formula in that model. He knows it is paltry. He knows it is cheap. I do not know what wild numbers he is pulling out of his hat now, but the total amount of money that goes to first nations people is paltry on a per capita basis. One might say it is not all about money. A lot of it is about money.

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4:35 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the member for Winnipeg Centre started his eloquent speech, he rightly centred the concerns and approach in a rights-based approach. Unless we deal with education and other matters with regard to first nations from a rights-based approach, we are always going to get it wrong. This piece of legislation that is before the House should really be called the first nations administration of first nations education, not the first nations control of first nations education, because the bill would provide administrative functions for bands, administrative detail, and administrative reporting.

The other piece of this is that the government consistently says that first nations are consulted. The member for Winnipeg Centre referred to one part of the bill that is a really important indicator of how this is not consultation and referred to the regulations. What we have heard previous Conservative members talk about is that first nations will have control over how those regulations are going to be developed. Of course, those regulations are where all of the details are in terms of how this act is going to move forward. It says the joint council. That is not first nations. The minister has the overall authority in terms of appointment on that joint council and that joint council is made up of nine people.

I wonder if the member for Winnipeg Centre could comment on how the joint council simply does not constitute appropriate first nations engagement and involvement in the development of regulations.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Nanaimo—Cowichan for her advocacy on behalf of first nations people during her long tenure as the official opposition's senior critic for aboriginal affairs.

The member is right, the joint council process would by no way give first nations control over their education. It would give them an obligation to administer carefully the directives dictated by the minister. The unilateral, discretionary authority of the minister has been enhanced and augmented. It is hard to believe that one could expand on the overwhelming powers that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has over first nations people, but the bill does. The bill contemplates an increase in support for first nations students but at the direction and control of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and not first nations people, and again, subject to what he is able to wrest from the Minister of Finance in any given year.

The Conservatives' model is not equal funding as it would be for provincial students, and then work backwards. Their model is to seek to achieve equal funding if the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has enough clout around the cabinet table to divide the pie to provide better resources to first nations people. That is a far cry from the rights-based approach that my colleague for Nanaimo—Cowichan says should be guiding and informing the development of this important public policy.

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4:35 p.m.


Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that we set the record straight, because what my colleague had in his performance before was not necessarily reflective of what we are hearing from the AFN.

First of all, there are the five conditions that were set out by the AFN, which are in this piece of legislation.

The legislation, if passed, would not define nor alter aboriginal or treaty rights that exist. The member's comments on that are, of course, incorrect.

Clause 4 of the bill specifically notes that it does not “...abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”.

In fact, the AFN national chief said that this will serve as a bridge to self-government.

What disappoints me is that we are talking about $1.9 billion that would go to educating kids on reserve to give them the education and skill sets that they require to achieve in this great economy that is going on here in Canada, but the NDP members will not even let the bill go to committee. They would defeat it on second reading if they had their choice.

Of course, the NDP solution is to spend some $60 billion in trying to solve this. It is total hypocrisy in what they think is reasonable and what is required. It just shows that the NDP has no clue what first nations people really need and want.

My question for the member is: will he allow the passage of the bill to second reading so that it actually goes to committee, moves forward, and at least give these kids a chance to participate in the strong, booming economy and get the skill sets they need so that they can achieve and succeed?

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4:40 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the members of the party the member represents have not only denied the ability of first nations to come forward and have their voices heard in the process of establishing this legislation, they have undermined the democratic institution that we are sitting in as we speak by repeatedly, and again, imposing closure.

How often does the Conservative Party invoke closure on bills? Every time, and on all of them. At every stage, the Conservatives shut down the ability for the voices of Canadians to be heard.

People on this side of the House represent the majority of Canadians, including many first nations whose voices deserve to be heard. The Conservatives have no concept of consultation and accommodating the legitimate concerns of all Canadians.

One thing the Conservatives never learned when they managed to achieve their majority government is that they have to be government to all the people and not just those who voted for them. There is a great section of the population who did not vote for them but who still have legitimate points of view. The Conservatives have an obligation to accommodate those legitimate points of view instead of shutting down debate like a bunch of goose-steppers. It is appalling.

For the member to characterize the speech I just gave as a “performance” just shows how truly ignorant he is perhaps of the issues facing first nations people and those who struggle on a daily basis to provide the best education possible for their people with the impossible funding mechanism that we have now.

We would support a bill that truly did lead towards equality of educational opportunities for first nations people. However, the bill before us does not do it, and the Conservatives will find very soon that there is not a first nation in the country that agrees with them. They will be trying to impose this legislation in their Eurocentric, colonial, paternalistic attitude that is an extension of the Indian Act.

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4:40 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with a fellow educator, the member for Palliser.

It was 40 years ago this week that I entered my first classroom as a teacher, fresh out of the University of Alberta. One of my instructors was J.W. Chalmers, a great historian on native education and advocate for aboriginal youth. I gained an insight and appreciation for native culture that has stayed with me over the years.

I was also honoured in 1976 to attend the centennial commemoration of the signing of Treaty No. 6 at the Saddle Lake Indian reserve with numerous provincial political leaders, including the former Alberta minister of education, Bob Clarke, premier Peter Lougheed, and NDP leader, Grant Notley. One of the mementoes that I brought back that day was a bumper sticker that not only commemorated the ceremony, but contained a very important message:

As long as the sun shines, the river flows and the grass grows.

That message was in my classroom for the rest of my career, and it is proudly displayed in my office here in Ottawa. It is in that context that I am so proud to be able to speak to this important legislation this afternoon.

There are many reasons to support Bill C-33. Among these, it must be said, are the accountability and governance measures contained in the legislation. They are vital to ensuring that the gap in educational outcomes is closed between first nations children and youth and other Canadian students, which is the ultimate goal of this legislation. The first nations control of first nations education act addresses the need for clarity regarding governance and accountability, one of the five priority issues identified by the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and endorses in a resolution by the Assembly of First Nations of December 2013.

As the Prime Minister stated in February, when he and the national chief made this historic announcement:

The legislation will end Ottawa’s unilateral authority over First Nations education, while requiring First Nations communities and parents to assume responsibility and accountability for the education their children receive.

The fundamental principle on which this bill is founded is establishing first nations control of first nations education. While our Conservative government may be the first to take this important step and to bring this principle into legislation, the idea behind it is actually not something new.

The Government of Canada began the process of devolving control of first nations schools to first nations councils back in 1973. This was, in part, a response to the 1972 policy paper, entitled “Indian Control of Indian Education” and written by the National Indian Brotherhood, now known as the Assembly of First Nations. More recently, the call for legislation that gives control to first nations has been repeated in various reports, studies, and audits, including those done by the Auditor General and the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

While these may have led to small structural improvements, the major piece of legislation devolving control of education to first nations is the one before the House today. As a result of Bill C-33, first nations would, for the first time, have the ability to choose how they want to operate their schools.

They could choose to operate their own community schools, or they could choose to aggregate into a first nations education authority with other first nations in order to manage a number of schools. If such a body is formed, it would effectively serve as a first nations-led and operated school board. Alternatively, they could choose to enter into or continue an existing agreement with the provincial school board to manage a school on reserve.

Whatever the choice, first nations would be responsible for providing first nations students on reserve with access to an elementary and secondary education that would enable them to obtain a recognized high school diploma. Whether a first nation chooses to administer its community school or delegate this responsibility to a first nations education authority, the management of schools and the provision of educational services would need to meet basic conditions set out in regulations.

For example, students and their parents, elders, and community members would need to be consulted on school policies and education programs, including policies or programs that relate to aboriginal language and culture.

First nations councils would also need to report back to their community members. This would enable them to evaluate whether their needs and the needs of their students were being met under the arrangement that they were currently in. These changes would build more robust and responsive education systems for students on reserve. Equally important, they would establish a relationship of mutual accountability among governments, first nations and community members, which would contribute to long-term success in educational administration. In turn, this would improve educational outcomes for first nations, which is of course the overarching objective of Bill C-33.

It is important to understand that in addition to first nations having control over curriculum and the day-to-day management of reserve schools, provincial governments also carry responsibilities. Provinces are important partners in first nations education due to the high rate of student mobility between first nation-operated and provincially operated schools.

In 2011-12, approximately 39% of first nations students attended provincially operated schools subject to tuition agreements. It is important to remember that joining a provincial education system is one of the government's models available to first nations under Bill C-33. As well, provinces have expertise on curricula, criteria for high school graduation and standardized testing, all of which can be of interest to first nations-run schools.

Bill C-33 would clarify roles and responsibilities for education on reserve, acknowledging both the Government of Canada's ongoing obligation and the role of the provinces. Most important, however, it would provide a vehicle for first nations to take control of their own education systems.

For their part, first nations' responsibilities reflect the broad control they would have under the legislation, including choosing and implementing one of the three governance options to operate schools and delivery education services; determining appropriate measures for the inclusion of language and culture; developing bylaws to establish policies and procedures for their education systems; exercising responsibilities and accountability for the management of their education system; hiring and firing of teachers, principals and inspectors; developing curricula; developing the school calendar; and reporting on outcomes.

All the while, the federal government would be limited to providing funding for education, including $1.9 billion in core statutory funding transfers, infrastructure and capacity building. It would establish a joint council of education professionals with the Assembly of First Nations, developing regulations and collaborations with first nations and with the advice of the joint council; providing additional resources to aid in implementing the act, including capacity building and; and based on advice from the joint council, appointing interim administrators in exceptional circumstances and only in cases where the minister has received advice to do so from the joint council.

Partnerships with first nations and the provinces will be increasingly important under the act to ensure that all governments are working in the most coordinated manner possible.

Many of the details surrounding these issues will be addressed in the regulations and will be developed together with first nations. The regulations would set out provisions regarding the establishment and operation of first nations education authorities, including bylaw making powers and conditions, as well as governance agreements between first nations and first nations education authorities. Regulations would also elaborate on the functions of councils, first nations education authorities, directors of education and principals. The joint council would be required to consult with chiefs, parents and educators before working in partnership with a government to develop necessary regulations.

Those are details to be worked out collaboratively over time. For now, our objective is to move Bill C-33 forward so we can finally realize the shared goal of our government and first nations across the country, recognizing first nations control of first nations elementary and secondary education on reserve.

I urge members of all parties to support this worthy legislation, the product of consultation and years of collaboration, which will finally enable us to achieve our mutual objectives.

Since my first involvement as a university student and throughout my 34 years as an educator, I have always believed that parents of native children, because of their traditions, want the very best for their children. As such, this bill would give these children the opportunity to grow and flourish, “as long as the sun shines, the river flows and the grass grows”.

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4:50 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I was in the House on Tuesday night when we talked about the issues in South Sudan. I made the comment at the time that I had a daughter who was married to a man from Ghana and she was currently teaching in a grade 4-5 class. She has 72 students in her two classes. She is home for a bit of R & R between semesters, but she undertook a project with her students to write to the students at the school where she taught in Newmarket for the last two years.

I was going through those letters with her as she prepared them for the students to respond to the students back in Ghana. I was struck particularly by one comment in the letter of a young girl, who is nine years old in her class. The letter said, “I am glad to be in school because I want to be somebody in the future”.

I do not think there are any of us in the House who cannot think that it is not the plea and the call of every child both here in Canada and abroad, “I want to be somebody in the future”.

Could my colleague speak to how this legislation will help our young people in first nations and aboriginal communities be somebody in the future?

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4:55 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, when I started teaching again 40 years ago, my cousin ended up going to Botswana and was teaching at same time. Similar to the story that the member just mentioned was something he talked about. People would walk for miles and miles to classrooms of 50 people and it was the significance of the education they had.

If I go back to some of the earlier experiences I had as a teacher, I could see the excitement that young students had as they would come into school. However, as time would progress, they would find they were having some difficulties. I had many situations where people from first nation schools came back into the public school system and a lot of remedial work was required. However, they worked as hard as they possibly could to get back to a level where they could read and process , and from that point they did amazing things.

This is the second time I have been on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The first time we did a study in the territories and we had a chance to talk about different barriers to development. One of the key barriers that was mentioned was education. We had a chance to speak to various individuals there, and these were young people in their twenties and thirties. They had such amazing skills because they had learned it from the land and also from the education system, which they had been able to work through.

Therefore, if we give first nations the opportunity, the talents are certainly there and we will see some amazing things for our next generation of aboriginal students and for our country.

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4:55 p.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the debate with great interest.

I want to echo what my colleague said, that the Conservative government did not consult the first nations on this bill. We talked to a number of communities across the country and we found, in fact, that the communities are against this bill that, among other things, is not increasing funding for the first nations education system to an acceptable level.

I would like to ask my colleague why he thinks that it is acceptable not to consult the first nations on this bill. The Conservatives did that in the past with Bill S-2, which aboriginal women opposed.

Why does the government keep introducing bills that do not have the support of aboriginal communities across the country? Let us not forget that the government has a constitutional duty to consult the first nations.

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4:55 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we did. We went through consultations.

I would like to remind the hon. member that in 2011, the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations launched a national panel on first nations elementary and secondary education, which recommended in its final report a first nations education act. This would be the first level of consultation.

Then in December 2012, the government launched a consultation process and released a discussion guide to help support open and meaningful consultation activities on the government's proposed legislative approach.

Between December 2012 and May 2013, the Government of Canada held face-to-face regional consultation sessions, video, teleconferencing sessions and online consultation activities, including an online survey.

The government received input on a variety of topics, including first nations control over first nations education, inherent rights and treaties, the transition to legislative funding, language and culture, and parental involvement in education, which is what we see in this legislation.

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4:55 p.m.


Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I feel very privileged to stand today and talk about something near and dear to my heart, which is education. I had the opportunity, as a younger person, of spending 35 years in education, all the way from being a chemistry and algebra teacher to working in the department of education for the Province of Saskatchewan as director of provincial exams and student records. Also, I had the opportunity to serve a number of school divisions as their director of education. Therefore, I look upon this bill as a very worthwhile piece of literature, a document that says it is time to put some sort of structure around a program of education for aboriginal youth on and off reserves.

Let me just make a couple of general statements to start with. Aboriginal students have two choices really: going to school on a reserve or going to school in a town, a village, or a city. Most students who are not of aboriginal descent do not attend aboriginal schools. In the school structure there is a designed course of studies known as a curriculum. If one is going to be a student in a school in a town—for example, Whitewood—then one would follow the prescribed curriculum of K-12 there. Whitewood is a community in Saskatchewan, and Saskatchewan has a provincial K-12 curriculum. That is not a rare or isolated thing. That is the norm. When we look at schools in Saskatchewan and coast to coast to coast, we will find a provincial curriculum in place.

The bill we are looking at this afternoon says that aboriginal students, their parents, and their boards of education would have a right to choose a school in their community and follow a provincial curriculum, or follow a curriculum as designed and implemented by the first nations folks. That is quite different from a student going to school in a provincial elementary or high school. Parents do not design that curriculum. Curriculum writers design the curriculum. It is approved by the department of education, and that is the one that is followed. This difference alone would certainly assist aboriginal students in their learning programs, because it would be something near and dear to their hearts and they would be able to feel part of the design and presentation of that curriculum as they study things like mathematics, science, English, social studies, history, et cetera.

Those two big items are very worthwhile noting. The bill lays out the principles that say there are two ways to follow. It is very important for us to understand that, because if we are sincere about presenting a curriculum that would be acceptable to aboriginals and first nation folks, then we have to give them an avenue to implement that curriculum. With Bill C-33 we have put forward an opportunity for them to do just that.

This introduction of legislation comes after years of dialogue and consulting with first nations across the country and with the Assembly of First Nations who identified the need for a better education system for first nations. There was ample consultation across Canada, with various groups meeting to talk about what works for them in their educational programming at the K-12 level. It is interesting to note that British Columbia has a well-developed program. Other provinces are catching up to that. They lead the charge with developing their own curriculum, as well as implementing some curriculum from B.C.

In December 2013, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations set out the following five conditions for a successful first nations educational system.

The first is first nation control of education, so nation by nation control of their own education, which is a quantum leap of faith compared to one universal control of education called the curriculum. The second is guaranteed federal funding, which may not be as generous as it could be. In the regulations, as the parliamentary secretary said earlier today, we would find some dictation around the idea of funding.

The third is protection of language and culture. Many schools and educational opportunities extend the school day for specific instruction. For example, the folks in the Hutterite colonies speak German, and the German is taught outside of the regular school time, which in Saskatchewan is from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. That is an option that aboriginal schools may look at, an extension of the school day, again, with their approval. The fourth is joint oversight of the new education system. Point five is meaningful consultation with first nations.

These are the things that happened that preceded the actual design and writing of the bill.

Carrying on with that, greater first nations oversight over education systems on reserve--this is the objective of the curriculum design; providing stable, predictable and sustainable funding; reinforcing first nations' ability to incorporate language and culture programming in the educational curriculum; and creating a joint council of educational professionals who would have a robust oversight and would serve as the mechanism for engaging with first nations on the development of regulations.

Here is a further example of the desire of the curriculum writers to bring in the first nations folk to address these issues, such as what should be the language and culture programming for the curriculum. This is consultation. This is what would happen throughout the implementation of the bill.

Let me speak for a minute or two on what we see happening with the bill. The bill would recognize first nations control of first nations education and create a joint council of education professionals to provide advice and support to Canada and to first nations on the implementation of the act.

Bill C-33 would put control of education on reserve squarely in the hands of first nations, specifically: first nations choose their governance options, which is their first choice, that they choose which way they want the governance; first nations develop their own curricula, which could include the incorporation of language and culture, if they choose, which is far from dictatorial when we see words like choose and choice and the assembly to design the curricula; first nations choose their own inspectors, control the hiring and firing of teachers, and determine how their students will be assessed, in other words, what kind of evaluation would be used; and first nations determine how the school calendar would be structured to meet a set number of days. There again, it is a committee meeting to decide how many days the school would run throughout the course of the calendar year.

The act would recognize the importance of language and culture as an essential element of first nation education and enable first nations to incorporate language and culture programming into the education curriculum, including the option of immersion in a first nation language. This is hardly dictatorial. This is very consultative.

It would establish a legislative framework that would set out minimum standards. For example, the proposed legislation would require that first nations schools teach a core curriculum that meets or exceeds provincial standards, that students meet minimum attendance requirements, that teachers are properly certified, and that first nations schools award recognized diplomas or certificates. That could be said for any school division across Canada from coast to coast to coast. There is nothing outlandish about that at all.

To conclude, Bill C-33 offers a transformative reform so that first nation youth can reach their full potential and become full participants in the Canadian economy. I strongly urge my hon. colleagues to support this important legislation for the economic and mental growth of young people on and off reserves.

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5:10 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, in February 2014, the Prime Minister announced that the bill would be drafted. In April, the bill was introduced.

Aboriginal groups were not at all pleased with the way this was done. The first nations were not satisfied because they felt their concerns were not heard and that all the government had to do was simply change the draft bill to ensure it met the five conditions the hon. member talked about earlier. I will not repeat them.

Why did the Conservatives not do that?