skpic perry bellegarde

FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde has said Bill C-33 "fundamentally fails" to address conditions set by First Nations leaders. He also said there's nothing wrong with diverse opinions among chiefs about the proposed education legislation. (CBC)

Saskatchewan First Nations are split over Bill C-33, the government's proposed First Nations control of First Nations education act.

Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations chief Perry Bellegarde said May 1 he's not in favour of the bill as it's written, adding it "fundamentally fails" and it would be a big mistake if the government passed it.

The Conservative government pulled the bill after former Assembly of First Nations grand chief Shawn Atleo resigned, citing the fact other chiefs were not supporting the legislation.

On Tuesday, however, Meadow Lake Tribal Council and the Battleford Tribal Chiefs said they want the government to reintroduce the bill in the House of Commons.

The chiefs said it's time to put politics aside and address chronic underfunding on reserve schools — something they think C-33 could help them achieve.

"It is time that we get Bill C-33 back on track and roll up our sleeves and get to work on developing a regulatory framework together," Chief Lori Whitecalf of Sweetgrass First Nation said in a news release.

Bellegarde, believed to be in the running in the race to replace Atleo, said it's OK to have varying opinions among First Nations about what the education bill should look like. 
"You have 633 First Nations in Canada," he said. "You tell me: are the Liberals unified? Are the Conservatives unified? Well, there you go ... You just respect the diversity."

According to the government, if the bill becomes law, it will provide $1.9 billion in new money to First Nations education.

Critics, including many chiefs, said it's unacceptable because it gives too much control to the minister of aboriginal affairs, doesn't protect treaty rights, and doesn't include enough money to make a difference for First Nations children.