Assembly of First Nations National Chief Cites Action on Education as Key to Reconciliation: “First Nation Control of First Nation Education Must be Our Shared Goal”
(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, having attended Reconciliation Week events organized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Reconciliation Canada in Vancouver, BC this week, reaffirmed today that action on First Nations education remains a top priority for the AFN and essential to the work of reconciliation.
“The residential schools were an attack on First Nations cultures and the sites of assaults, abuse and experiments on our children, none of which would have happened had First Nations been in control of education for our young people,” said National Chief Atleo. “As we conclude the events of Reconciliation Week, we move forward reaffirming our clear vision that First Nations control of First Nation education must be our shared goal. Now is the time to turn our efforts to action, consistent with commitments made in the statement of apology by the Prime Minister on behalf of all of Canada. There is a profound requirement to establish new relationships founded on mutual recognition and respect that will forge a stronger and brighter future.”
Earlier this week, the AFN Chiefs Committee on Education met in Ottawa, and the National Chief met yesterday in Vancouver with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC), a BC-based independent organization comprised of First Nations community representatives dedicated to improving education for First Nations students in BC. A key topic at both meetings was the Government of Canada document “A Blueprint for Legislation” which sets out elements of the federal government’s proposed legislation on First Nation education.
AFN Nova Scotia-Newfoundland Regional Chief Morley Googoo, who holds the Education portfolio for the AFN, said: “To this point, the federal government has undertaken a unilaterally designed and inadequate consultation process and the result is a flawed ‘blueprint.’ The AFN Chiefs Committee on Education has sent a strong message and will be asking the Minister to meet with them collectively to address concerns with the process. First Nations must be fully and meaningfully engaged in the design, development, and implementation of First Nation education. We demand real engagement based on the Honour of the Crown in a way that truly fulfills the Crown’s duties.”
National Chief Atleo stated that First Nations have been clear about the actions required on First Nations education: “First Nations demand that any proposed legislation will enable and empower First Nation solutions, will include a commitment to fair, stable and needs-based funding including for language, culture and technology and furthermore that it will support the implementation of Treaty-based systems of education consistent with Aboriginal title and rights. This is the criteria we will use in judging any efforts involving First Nations education.”
The National Chief noted First Nations-driven approaches like the Mi'kmaw Education Authority - Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey – in Nova Scotia, self-government processes that have led to First Nation control of education, FNESC and other agreements as success stories that point the way forward.
“First Nations oppose unilateral federal policy and legislation after a history of failed and harmful attempts have been devastating for their communities and resulted in the lowest graduation rates across the country,” the National Chief said. “First Nations know what works and are demonstrating tremendous success through a variety of approaches that begins with First Nation control. We must support these approaches and ensure they become the reality, not the exception. This is fundamental to our journey together towards reconciliation.”