After careful consideration, Meadow Lake Tribal Council and the Battleford Tribal Chiefs believe that the proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, Bill – C33 should be reintroduced in the House of Commons.
Tribal Chief Eric Sylvestre stated, “It is time to address the chronic under-funding of education on-reserve and that funding for our education programs should be supported by a statutory authority. Our communities cannot continue with project based funding and annual increases for education that are substantively less than annual provincial funding to school divisions.”
Chief Robert Merasty, Flying Dust First Nation added, “As leaders it is our responsibility to have a complete understanding of legislation being proposed to our First Nations and make decisions based on the best interests of our people. I believe the new education legislation presents an opportunity for our First Nations to sit down with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and entrench an agreement that will benefit our communities and control the education of our future leaders with the resources for which we have fought.”
Chief Lori Whitecalf, Sweetgrass First Nation, and Chair of the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs, expressed concern about the focus on politics and rhetoric and the loss of attention on the interests of our children and our communities. She highlighted that, “It is time that we get Bill – C33 back on track and roll up our sleeves and get to work on developing a regulatory framework together, a framework that Minister Valcourt committed to develop collaboratively.”
Chief Lance Byhette, Buffalo River, recognizes the need to move forward with the proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. Chief Byhette said, “There is a need to have the proposed legislation reintroduced and a willingness to assess areas that the legislation can be improved upon through constructive dialogue and not political posturing and rhetoric.”
The First Nation and tribal leaders want to see the legislation reintroduced in the House of Commons and hope other First Nation leaders reconsider their positions. In a statement they explain their position, “As leaders we acknowledge the efforts of Minister Valcourt to correct the historic funding imbalance and his desire to establish a new statutory funding authority. It is recognized that the Minister has agreed to collaboratively develop a regulatory framework and is open to addressing appropriate amendments to the proposed legislation that would add clarity and address concerns.
“With regard to potential amendments to the proposed legislation there is need of clarification regarding the compatibility of bylaws with aggregate First Nation education authorities. Also of importance is the need to ensure that the collaborative development of the regulatory framework be independently facilitated.”
They further stipulated, “The regulatory framework would establish the fiscal requirements and not be arbitrarily restricted to a pre-determined budget allocation. In addition, the panel of experts will require an independent professional support capacity to ensure that they can fulfill their obligations to First Nations and not be dependent on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.”
The Saskatchewan First Nation and Tribal Council leaders concluded, “This proposed legislation affords an opportunity to enhance the educational opportunities for First Nations children.”