Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Native Leaders Reaffirm Call on Feds to Drop Aboriginal Education Legislation

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Native Leaders Reaffirm Call on Feds to Drop Aboriginal Education Legislation

Article excerpt

AFN, feds still at odds over education


HALIFAX - The Assembly of First Nations concluded its annual meeting Thursday with no sign it is budging from its position that a contentious aboriginal education reform bill needs to be dropped, an issue that has put it at odds with the federal government.

After considering various counter-proposals to the legislation during their gathering in Halifax this week, First Nations leaders opted to stay the course and continue their call for the withdrawal of Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

While the federal government put the bill on hold after First Nations representatives from across Canada flatly rejected the changes in late May, the assembly's interim national chief said that for many native leaders, suspending the plan fails to go far enough.

"There needs to be a clear indication that the bill is being withdrawn," said Chief Ghislain Picard.

"What is even more important is that the assembly agrees there is a process that needs to take place, that it be as broad as possible and that it be as inclusive as possible."

The proposed legislation -- along with $1.9 billion in accompanying funding -- deeply divided the aboriginal community, with some viewing it as an opportunity to improve the lives of aboriginal children and others dismissing it as exerting too much control over First Nations affairs.

The suspension of any additional funding for aboriginal education while the bill remains in limbo has led to general frustration among aboriginal leaders.

"They have a fiduciary responsibility to provide education to our kids and they've got to start changing their attitude and be more accommodating and work with us," said Chief Ava Hill of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario, who put forward the education resolution that was ultimately adopted by the assembly.

"If the (aboriginal affairs) minister is serious about doing something here, he should be open to sitting and meeting with us."

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office has said the bill will remain on hold and no new money will be spent until the assembly gets behind the legislation. …

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