First Nations should control education: report

The Assembly of First Nations has unveiled a report that says Canada's First Nations should have total control of their own education system.

The Assembly of First Nations has unveiled a report that says Canada's First Nations should have total control of their own education system.

In a report titled, First Nations Control of First Nations Education, the report by "experts in the field" calls for sweeping changes to the educational system, including a requirement that aboriginal language and culture be taught in all Canadian schools.

The 48-page report was tabled Thursday at the AFN's general assembly, now underway in Winnipeg.

"Education has been used as a weapon against us in the past, as during the residential schools era," AFN national chief Shawn Atleo said in a prepared statement.

"But it can now be a tool to unlock the full potential of First Nations people and communities. … We call on Canada to work with us to give life to our right to education," he said.

In 1972, First Nations and the federal government put forward a statement of values about indigenous learning in the Indian Control of Indian Education agreement.

However, despite advances made under that agreement — and an expansion in the number of on-reserve and other First Nations schools — the AFN said the graduation rate for First Nations children has not exceeded 48 per cent since it was signed.

Funding below national average

"Repeated attempts have been made to inform Canada, through numerous studies, audits and evaluations, that the status quo of First Nations learning systems is inadequate," the report states.

"Despite this evidence, success in achieving the identified objectives of First Nations education [has] consistently been stymied by Canada's unilateral failure to adequately fund and support First Nations education in a sustainable and meaningful manner."

Atleo said First Nations schools receive about $2,000 less a year in funding per student than the national average.

The report states three main objectives:

  • Ensuring First Nations students of all ages have access to an education system with programs and services grounded in First Nations languages, values, traditions and knowledge.
  • Building and sustaining the capacity of First Nations communities and their institutions to deliver a wide spectrum of quality programs and services throughout a person's life.
  • Gaining full and effective First Nations control of schooling now run by federal, provincial, territorial and First Nations governments.

"We want to stand up to these institutions and tell them we want to learn from our elders, from our people," said Ashley Julian, co-chair of the AFN's youth council. "It's time to write and implement our own curriculums," Julian said.

The report also calls for infrastructure improvements to Canada's 518 on-reserve First Nations K-12 schools and 45 post-secondary or trade schools.

The Assembly of First Nations describes itself as the national organization of First Nations in Canada, representing over 630 First Nations communities.