The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations is opposed to a national approach to First Nations education.
“We already [have] got resolution to say no to education legislation because it’s very, very premature at this time as well because we just got the commitment from the Prime Minister for a high level mechanism to help and assist in implementation of treaties and inherent rights in Sect. 35. So why go ahead with piecemealing one piece of legislation on education when there is a whole bigger piece that has to be addressed?” said FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde.
Bellegarde said protests about the Saskatoon meeting, which was the second education consultation to be hosted by Duncan, also centred on the process.
“(The government’s) consultation process is flawed because it was unilaterally done. There was no input from First Nations people,” he said.
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said Duncan’s undertaking lacked “both legitimacy and consent.”
In a letter sent to Duncan following the Saskatoon meeting, Nepinak wrote, “It would seem that your government is simply going through the motions of ‘consultation’ to meet the constitutional standard, despite no acceptance of the idea by our people.”
The Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution at its Special Chiefs Assembly in December opposing a First Nations Education Act.
In an earlier interview with Windspeaker, AFN Regional Chief Morley Googoo, who holds the portfolio on education, said the AFN recognizes that there is regional diversity and regional approaches.
“The most important outcome is how do we move forward to create a better education system for our children and that is our goal. Legislation for sure is not an option that is preferred by anybody,” he said.
The topic of process was also reiterated in the House of Commons where NDP Aboriginal Affairs Critic Jean Crowder stated, “Dates and locations for these meetings were picked by the staff at the department and published on the Web site. Now First Nation educators are saying they would like some of those dates to be moved to allow them more time to develop their proposals, but the government answer is no.”
However, since Duncan’s resignation, AANDC’s website only has the weeks listed for the five remaining meetings (Calgary, Vancouver, Winning, Quebec, Thunder Bay), along with the designation “Date TBC.” It had been Duncan’s goal to have First Nations Education legislation in place by September 2014.