Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced an historic agreement between the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to proceed with the final drafting and introduction of the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. This agreement is the result of years-long, unprecedented process of consultations and discussions.
The Government of Canada and the AFN are committed to improving K-12 education outcomes for First Nation students, and providing First Nations children on-reserve with a high quality education, just like every other Canadian. To this end, the Government of Canada also announced today that it will make a significant financial commitment of over $1.9 billion to support the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. Funding will account for language and culture programming.
What will the bill do?
- The legislation will ensure First Nations control of First Nations education while establishing minimum education standards, consistent with provincial standards off-reserve. For example, the legislation will require that First Nation 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 Nation schools award widely recognized diplomas or certificates. These requirements do not currently exist. This has resulted in situations where First Nations youth graduate from education institutions on-reserve but cannot demonstrate a recognizable diploma to a workplace or post-secondary institution and are therefore required to return to school.
- The legislation will also improve transparency and promote accountability by establishing clear roles and responsibilities for First Nation education administrators, and annual reporting requirements. The bill will also allow for the establishment of First Nation Education Authorities. These Authorities will act like school boards in the provincial education system to provide the key secondary support to help ensure that First Nation schools are meeting their requirements under the Act, and are providing a quality education for First Nation students.
- Following on our Government’s 2010 commitment, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act will also repeal the provisions in the Indian Act related to residential schools. This measure is of great symbolic importance and aligns with the purpose of this bill; namely, to turn the page on the dark chapter of the Residential School system, and provide the framework for First Nations to develop and implement a quality education system under the control of First Nations.
What is new?
The First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act will contain a number of significant changes to the October 2013 draft legislative proposal shared with all First Nations Chiefs. These include:
- Creating a Joint Council of Education Professionals to provide advice and support to the Government of Canada and First Nations on the implementation and oversight of the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.
- Outlining our Government’s commitment to adequate stable, predictable and sustainable funding. This funding will replace the complex structures now in place with three funding streams: a statutory funding stream that will have a reasonable rate of growth; transition funding to support the new legislative framework; and funding for long-term investments in on-reserve school infrastructure.
- Enabling First Nations to incorporate language and culture programming in the education curriculum, and providing funding for language and culture programming within the statutory funding stream.
- Committing the Government to work in conjunction with First Nations to develop the Act’s regulations.
Core Funding (includes language and culture) + 4.5 per cent escalator
$1.252B over three years, beginning in 2016-17 and increasing annually thereafter, per the escalator.
$500M over seven years, beginning in 2015-16, when Budget 2012 investments expire.
Implementation Fund/ Education Enhancement Fund
$160M over four years, beginning in 2015-16.
- December 2010 - The Government of Canada and the AFN announce the creation of the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education.
- June 2011 - The Government of Canada, together with the AFN, officially launch an engagement process.
- February 2012 – The National Panel releases the Final Report.
- December 2012 – The Government of Canada launches consultations for development of a First Nations Education Act and releases a Discussion Guide.
- July 2013 – The Government of Canada releases the Blueprint for Discussion with all Chiefs; a document outlining what the Government heard during the consultative process.
- October 2013 - The Government of Canada releases a draft legislative proposal.
- November 2013 – The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations sends an Open Letter to the Government of Canada.
- December 2013 – The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development sends an Open Letter to the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
For a more detailed chronology of activities to date please visit: Chronology of First Nations Education at http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1358799301258/1358799341720.
The Path Forward:
The Government of Canada and First Nations agree to work together on the passage of the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act and on the joint development of necessary regulations to follow. The partnership does not end with the introduction of a bill. The overriding goal of the legislation is better outcomes for First Nation students. First Nations and the Government of Canada agree that this is best achieved through First Nations control over First Nations education.