First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (FNCFNEA) - Bill C-33

A collection of materials on the proposed Bill-C33 - The First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (FNCFNEA). Postings are from a variety of sources including our
staff and other media.

This section will be updated regularly with any new developments and updated content.

Follow the latest news releases on twitter @windspeakernews

Pull Quote Lori Whitecalf

Kill the Native education bill? Not so fast

Via Glkobe and Mail - June 10

When Shawn Atleo quit his job as National Chief of the Assembly of First
Nations last month, Ottawa’s proposed overhaul of aboriginal education,
which had been so close to success, seemed doomed. The Conservative
government regretfully yanked the bill, citing the same resistance from
some native leaders that fuelled Mr. Atleo’s departure.

In recent weeks, however, cracks have appeared in the wall of
opposition to Bill C-33. Several native leaders – from Meadow Lake
Tribal Council and the Battleford Tribal Chiefs in Saskatchewan – have
called on Ottawa to reintroduce the legislation. They argue there’s no
reason the bill’s fate should hinge on Mr. Atleo’s resignation, or the
opposition of other native leaders, and they’re right. “It is time that
we get Bill C-33 back on track,” said Chief Lori Whitecalf of Sweetgrass
First Nation. Ottawa should listen to her.

Bill C-33 wasn’t
perfect, but it was better than the status quo. It would have improved
the plight of native children at on-reserve schools by setting minimum
education standards and increasing funding. The legislation, the end
result of a four years’ effort between Ottawa and native leaders,
shouldn’t be allowed to simply die on the vine.

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We won’t go back to ‘Square 1′ on First Nations education bill: Valcourt

Via Canadian Press - May 29

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt sounded a note of
frustration Thursday after chiefs from across Canada flatly rejected
proposed changes to First Nations education.

In his first public comments since a special assembly of chiefs voted
this week to reject Conservative education reforms, Valcourt lamented
the fact that the Assembly of First Nations has walked away from its
agreement with the government.

“One thing is sure: we thought we had an agreement. Those chiefs
present there decided not to honour that agreement that we had reached
with the AFN,” Valcourt said.


The aboriginal community remains split over Bill C-33, dubbed the
First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. Some saw it as a
step in the right direction, and welcomed the $1.9 billion tied to the
bill. To others, it was a government imposing too much control over
First Nations.


The divisions within the First Nations community were on full display
this week when chiefs gathered in a downtown Ottawa hotel to decide how
they would respond to the legislation.

After hours of sometimes heated debate, the chiefs voted in favour of
a resolution that rejects the bill and calls on the government to
negotiate a new education agreement that provides transfer payments to
aboriginal communities.


But Valcourt says too much time and effort have gone into the bill to
start all over again. It was already re-tooled once before to include
five key conditions needed to get the AFN’s support, he noted.

“In good faith, we worked together. I incorporated — we incorporated —
those five conditions in Bill C-33 and we jointly announced a way
forward that we had agreed to in Alberta,” Valcourt said.

“Then, we tabled the bill that incorporated those conditions. And
moreover, the prime minister personally committed the funding necessary
to implement this so that it’d be successful. And now, you know, we are
back to — what? — Square 1? I don’t think so. Too much work has taken

The bill remains on hold while he considers his options, Valcourt added.

He also sounded frustrated when he spoke about the AFN.

“It was represented to us that the AFN was representing those First
Nations across Canada and they were our interlocutor,” Valcourt said.

“We have invested tens of millions of dollars in the last 10 years,
eight years, into the AFN for that very purpose, to have this
relationship rebuilt. And, you know, so I respect their charter, I
respect their way of doing business, but we have got to find a way to
move this file forward, because it is the kids, the students on reserve
who are paying the price — not the chiefs.”

Read more:

First Nations education: No legislation, no money and no plan

Via  - May 29

Both First Nations education and the Assembly of First Nations face
uncertain futures after an extraordinary Chiefs' meeting and the
predictable Conservative government reaction that followed.

Gathered in Ottawa on Tuesday for a special assembly, Chiefs and
their proxies rejected the Conservatives' Bill C-33 but called for the
government to start flowing the $1.9 billion in new education funding
the Prime Minister had promised.

Wasting no time in responding, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office said,
"Our Government is extremely disappointed that the Assembly of First
Nations (AFN) did not honour its agreement with the government." Pressed
to identify that dishonoured agreement, Minister Valcourt's office
admitted nothing had been signed, but claimed that the media event
accompanying the announcement of funding constituted a deal.

As I said in my last post on this issue,
there never was a deal. The Harper government misrepresented the entire
affair. Those who claimed that former National Chief Atleo had sold out
First Nations got played. That this led directly to his resignation is
the responsibility of both the Conservative government and Atleo's
critics alike.

Laid bare in this process are growing divisions among First Nations.

Some of the conflict has deep roots. The existence of treaties that
speak to federal responsibilities for education in Alberta,
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario is one of the most significant, while
the fact that legislation already exists for First Nations education in
B.C. and Nova Scotia may play an equally important role. 

But some of the conflict is simply a difference of approach. There is
a willingness by some to compromise principles for the practical
benefits of promised funding. Others are committed to making their local
education programs work despite underfunding, pointing to the retention
of federal control in Bill C-33 as the bigger problem. For still
others, the issue is personal political ambition.

The disrespectful tone of debate in Tuesday's assembly -- including a
serious breach of protocol by Chiefs shouting down those who had the
floor -- suggests that these divisions will not be reconciled easily.
Mistrust of the AFN executive only adds to that challenge. And confusion
over the role of the Confederacy of Nations within the AFN, a body that
has not formally existed for over a decade, is not helping to clarify

Underlying all of this is the growing division over the function of the AFN itself. 

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AFN rejects Harper government's bill C-33 - the First Nations education bill - but calls for immediate injection of $1.9 billion contained in the bill

Via APTN - May 26

The Assembly of First Nation called on the Harper government Tuesday
to withdraw its First Nation education bill while also demanding the
federal government immediately inject the $1.9 billion promised for 2015
in the last federal budget.

Chiefs from across the country gathered in an Ottawa hotel conference
room to hash out their position on the First Nation Control of First
Nation Education Act, Bill C-33 and to decide when to hold the next
election for AFN national chief as a result of Shawn Atleo’s

After much procedural wrangling, driven by regional tensions over the
direction of the AFN, the chiefs unanimously adopted a statement
calling on Ottawa to scrap the bill and begin a new process of talks to
craft another option.

“Canada must withdraw Bill C-33 and engage in an honourable process
with First Nations that recognizes and supports regional and local
diversity leading to true First Nation jurisdiction of education based
on our responsibilities and inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights,” said
the statement, which was tabled by Kahnawake Grand Chief Mike Delisle,
whose Mohawk community sits by Montreal.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office issued a statement saying that there would be no money without the bill.

“Our government is extremely disappointed that the Assembly of First
Nations did not honour its agreement with the government,” said the
statement. “We will not invest new money in an education system that
does not serve the best interest of First Nation children; funding will
only follow real education reforms.”

Chiefs, however, said this issue was about more than money.

Valcourt response to AFN

Read more:

Bill C33 - First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act on hold

The Harper government has announced through the Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt that it will be putting the First Nation education bill on hold until the Assembly of First Nations clarifies its position regarding the bill after the surprise resignation of Shawn Atleo on May 2, 2014.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office said in a statement that Bill C-33 would be put on hold.

“Given the recent resignation of the national chief, following today’s second reading vote, any further consideration of this legislation will be put on hold until the AFN clarifies its position,” said the minister’s office.



Atleo receives pushback on education agreement

Shari Narine Windspeaker - March 10

The First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, announced Feb.
7, has not received a better reception than its predecessor, the First
Nations Education Act, proposed last October.

Even before Prime
Minister Stephen Harper unveiled the new proposal at the Kainai High
School, Treaty 7 grand chief and chief of the Kainai First Nation
Charles Weaselhead was distancing himself from the announcement.

agreed to host this national announcement, but in no way endorse the
proposed legislation in its present form,” said Weaselhead in a
communique to Kainai members.

Then less than two weeks later, the
Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador submitted a
request for a judicial review before the federal court challenging the
consultation process leading to the First Nations Control of First
Nations Education Act.
AFNQL says the Assembly of First Nations,
which had come to an agreement to work with the feds on the Act, cannot
sign agreements on behalf of the Quebec and Labrador First Nations.
AFNQL leadership say they were not privy to discussions between AFN and
the federal government.

Vocal opposition from First Nations about
the new proposed legislation centres more on how the agreement came
about than on the specifics of the agreement.

Response to an
email issued by Atleo announcing that “tentative plans are underway for
an announcement of (federal government) investment and a framework to
support First Nations control of First Nations education” was met with
tweets of dismay, ranging from “I may head down to protest this” to the
“AFN has no jurisdiction… to agree to any legislation on behalf of First
Nations people in Canada. There is no democracy in the ‘Top Down’
approach to legislation inflicted on First Nations people.”

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard
Valcourt introduced the First Nations Education Act last fall, Atleo,
chiefs and education advocates slammed the government for taking
unilateral action and proposing a one-size-fits-all approach to
on-reserve education.

The bill was also criticized for not including dollar figures and for giving the minister control over First Nations education.

many are accusing Atleo, and select members of the AFN, of taking the
same unilateral action on the second run at a First Nations education

Read more:

guarded to reworked First Nation Education Act - See more at:

Reception guarded to reworked First Nation Education Act

Darlene Chrapko - Alberta Sweetgrass - February 10

Alberta Chiefs are not sold on the federal government’s new education
plan which was laid out Feb. 7 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in

“We are still very concerned about where we are going
with respect to any legislation impacting Indian education, but I
believe we must be engaged and open to opportunity and building
relationships based on trust,” said Treaty 7 Grand Chief Charles
Weaselhead, who is also Chief of the Kainai First Nation.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt
and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo were at Kainai
High School where Harper introduced the First Nations Control of First
Nations Education Act.

“In Canada we have never had the system of
First Nations education that we truly need. The federal government
which has the constitutional responsibility for this has historically
veered between a sometime disinterested neglect and at other times
arbitrary decrees,” said Harper.

The new proposed act makes
fundamental changes to the draft legislation first introduced by
Valcourt last October and which came under heavy criticism by First
Nations leaders across the country.  At the top of that criticism was
lack of consultation. The AFN led the charge to move toward new
legislation including passing a resolution in December that identified
the changes outlined by Harper.  However, not all First Nations leaders
are pleased by the role Atleo played, although the National Chief claims
his position is as facilitator only.

“Not every First Nation has
been consulted or part of these negotiations,” said Saddle Lake Cree
Nation Councillor Shannon Houle.

The new legislation will be tabled over the next few months and is expected to be in place for the September 2014 school year.
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,” said Harper.

For over 20 years, First Nations
leaders have sought funding of First Nations education that is equitable
to that provided for off-reserve students. On-reserve funding for
education has been stagnant since the 1990s when it was capped at two
per cent.
 “We have decided to put our money where our mouth is,” said Valcourt.

Read more:


PM Stephen Harper and AFN Chief Shawn Atleo


First Nations education deal the best sign Conservatives are finally focused on governing

Via John Ivison National Post - February 7

In a radical shift of gears, the Conservatives appear to have concluded that their electoral fortunes might actually improve if they bring in some popular, thoughtful legislation.

The past week has seen the fair elections bill, the citizenship act reforms and a more flexible approach to the relations with the provinces over the Canada Jobs Grant – all signs that the government is focused on governing, rather than campaigning.

The legislation that most typifies this approach is the revamped First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, unveiled by Stephen Harper and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo on the Blood Tribe reserve in Alberta on Friday.

“Today is about the beginning of a new era of fairness, opportunity and hope for First Nations children, youth and students,” said Mr. Atleo.

This deal has been a long time in the gestation — $1.9-billion in additional funding aimed at creating a viable education system on reserves with standards for students and teachers that equate to those that operate elsewhere in Canada.

While the deal has been a long time coming, the Conservatives’ recent precarious showing in the polls appears to have focused minds on getting a deal.

Read more:

Prime minister announces billions to retool First Nations education

Via Canadian Press - February 7

The federal government has unveiled a retooled education plan for First Nations which it says recognizes aboriginal control over schooling.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the plan at a high school on the Blood reserve in southern Alberta on Friday.

is historic and it is a great day for Canada, for First Nations
communities and for the next generation," Harper said. "But it is also long overdue."

The plan calls for minimum education standards consistent with provincial standards off-reserve. It also says students will have to meet attendance requirements and teachers will have to be properly certified.

Ottawa is to provide funding for core education, which includes language and cultural instruction, of $1.25
billion over three years starting in 2016. There's a provision for a 4.5 per cent annual increase.

Another $500 million over seven years is to go toward infrastructure and $160 million over four years is set aside for implementation.

The Assembly of First Nations called the deal the beginning of a new era for First Nations children.

"Today is about ... fairness, opportunity and hope for First Nations children, youth and students," said the assembly's national Chief Shawn Atleo.

"Today is a victory for First Nations leaders and citizens who have for decades, indeed since the first generation of residential school survivors, called for First Nations control of First Nations education."

Graduation rates among First Nations children are among the very lowest in Canada. Many communities see only half of high school students finish their
basic education.

Part of the expectation in the deal is that Aboriginal schools award widely recognized diplomas and certificates to students who do finish their school on-reserve. The government says this requirement does not currently exist and has resulted in First Nations youth — not being able to prove their educational achievements — being turned away from jobs or post-secondary institutions.

It's a package that has been years in the making and came close to collapse several times.

Read more:

Direct Link to Government of Canada information:

First Nations education to get $500M infrastructure boost
New 'historic' reforms to First Nations Education Act unveiled today

Via - February 7

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced changes to First Nations Education Act in Alberta today that included $500 million for new infrastructure on reserves.

"In Canada we have never had the First Nation education system that we need," he told the gathered crowd at the Kainai High School on the Blood Tribe reserve north of Cardston.

He also announced $1.25 billion per year in funding for Aboriginal schools across Canada, which would increase by 4.5 per cent each year after 2016.

Total funding announced for reforms to the First Nations Education Act amounts to $1.9 billion over several years.


The legislation will also allow First Nations control of their education system.

The bill requires teachers on reserves to acquire provincial certification and include measures to improve attendance records and low graduation rates on reserves.

Harper was joined by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo and regional chiefs from across the country.

The announcement comes after many First Nations reacted with anger and disappointment to the federal government’s education legislation proposed last October.

Alberta chiefs and the Blood Tribe chief and council also rejected last year's proposal, but Chief Charles Weaselhead said it is important to continue engaging Canada on improving education and graduation rates among First Nation students.

The band agreed to host the announcement after a request from Atleo. 

Concerns remain

“We agreed to host this national announcement, but in no way endorse the proposed legislation in its present form," said Weaselhead in a release.

"However, we are open to continued dialogue and building relationships.”

The AFN passed a resolution in December that officially rejected
the proposed act, demanding long-term funding guarantees, First Nations control over education and a recognition of their languages and culture in curriculum.

Read more:

Direct Link to Government of Canada information:

Canada’s Aboriginal education crisis [ column]

Robert Laboucane - Guest Columnist - Windspeaker- September 2010

With a national labor shortage upon us across Canada, some employers are
expecting the availability of qualified Aboriginal employees to be part
of the solution.
Aboriginal people want to be included. From industry’s perspective, they must be included.

Inuit Leader Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, joined
forces with Canada’s four other Aboriginal leaders and provincial and
territorial premiers on Aug. 4 this year to ask Prime Minister Stephen
Harper to convene a First Ministers’ Meeting on Aboriginal education
within a year.

Today there are 518 schools on First Nations
reserves in Canada. First Nation schools on reserves are the
responsibility of the federal government. So, it is reasonable to think
that education is critical to improving the social and economic strength
of Aboriginal people and their communities to a level enjoyed by other

So, why is this not happening?

Parents of First
Nations students on reserves express the fear that their children are
failing to develop a positive sense of their identity and that curricula
rarely reflects their children’s true history, diverse cultures and
languages and their contributions to Canada.

It is conceivable
that there may be court challenges regarding curricula that exclude the
experience and histories of Aboriginal people. The federal government
claims that the Human Rights Act applies only to the delivery of
government services, and not to the funding decisions that ultimately
determine the kind and quality of services that can be provided.

Nationally, however, the education system as a whole is failing Aboriginal students.

Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards calculates that $71.1
billion will be added to Canada’s economy if Aboriginal people attain
the same educational levels as other Canadians. We cannot afford to lose
another generation, so why all the vigorous opposition and underfunding
of Aboriginal education, especially when one considers the tremendous
population growth in Aboriginal communities.

Provincial schools
are paid more than double that of on reserve schools for student
tuition. Over the past 10 years these on-reserve schools: education
funding increased 19 per cent, while in the same period provincial
systems funding increased 45 per cent.

In 2006-07, the
Elementary/Secondary Education Program supported 120,000 students, 518
schools and 45 post-secondary institutions with a budget of $1.2
billion, which is on average $2,000 less per student than provincial
student funding.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)
underfunds the education of children in kindergarten to Grade 12 who
attend schools on reserves or who attend provincially-run schools off
reserve. The department of Indian Affairs claims they do not know
whether the current spending of $1.2 billion has been used for the
purpose intended.

As well, INAC underfunds First Nations
post-secondary education. This year’s budget is $400 million for about
27,000 First Nations post-secondary students. The number of eligible
Aboriginal post-secondary students exceeds the budget, so applicants are
turned away. In 2009, more than 5,000 eligible First Nations students
were denied post-secondary funding.

So here is how it works:
First you create a funding gap, and then you end up with a real
readiness gap. This, in turn, gives the government, our country and
Aboriginal people an achievement gap and then, of course, we end up with
the terrible socio-economic gap.

Ninety per cent of preschool Aboriginal children have no access to appropriate early childhood education.

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