Educators at a reserve near Maniwaki are concerned the prime minister's new plan to recognize First Nations control over schooling may have the opposite effect.
The Anishinabeg people have been managing their own education for more than 30 years on the Kitigan Zibi reserve, said director of education Anita Tenasco.
"First Nations have the authority and the jurisdiction to control our education. We have a lot of very important work to do and we're ready to do it," she said.
Tenasco said she was "saddened" that the Assembly of First Nations stood by Stephen Harper as he made his announcement Friday.
Harper promised "historic" reforms to the newly-named First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act and a funding commitment of $1.9 billion, which includes:
- $1.25 billion over three years for aboriginal schools across Canada beginning in 2016 — an amount that he pledged would increase by 4.5 per cent each year;
- $500 million for new infrastructure on reserves over seven years starting in 2015;
- $160 million for an implementation fund starting in 2015.
The plan also requires that teachers on reserves acquire provincial certification, calls for minimum education standards and allows for the establishment of First Nation education authorities that will act like school boards.
"We do not need any provincial school board or any outside organization or agency to tell us what needs to be done for our youth, for our children and our community," Tenasco said.
The education program on the reserve currently interweaves language and culture into core courses, like English and math, said teacher Lynn Whiteduck. Making sure the Kitigan Zibi community continues to develop its own education program is "vital," she said.
"If we're going to serve the students that are in our classroom we have to do it on our terms and that can't be dictated from an external source," she said.