First Nations education bill to be tabled in Parliament Thursday

The federal government will table its long-awaited bill on First Nations education Thursday, ahead of a scheduled two-week Easter recess.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to introduce long-awaited bill

Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt will table a long-awaited bill on First Nations education this week. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The federal government will table its long-awaited bill on First Nations education Thursday, ahead of a scheduled two-week Easter recess.

The government gave notice on Tuesday that Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt will table a bill “to establish a framework to enable First Nations control of elementary and secondary education, and to provide for related funding, and to make related amendments to the Indian Act and consequential amendments to other acts.”

The notice comes after a retooled education plan giving First Nations control over First Nations education was unveiled in February when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an agreement with the Assembly of First Nations to reform the First Nations K-12 education system.

The agreement would see the funding gap closed by earmarking $1.25 billion over three years for aboriginal schools across Canada beginning in 2016. That amount would increase by 4.5 per cent each year after.

Shawn Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said in February the agreement is a good step towards meaningful legislation.

“What we are hearing the government commit to is a new way forward that we jointly design an approach to education that we have First Nations control and sustainable funding that has to be anchored in legislation,” he said two months ago.

A draft of the legislation unveiled in October was rejected outright after it failed to meet the five conditions laid out by the AFN and national chiefs during a meeting in Ottawa last December.

Ghislain Picard, the AFN’s regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, is requesting a judicial review of the Conservative government's reworked plan for aboriginal education.

The group is asking the Federal Court to prevent the legislation from going ahead without its endorsement.​

All eyes will be on the fine print to see what changes — if any — the government has made since its announcement in February and draft legislation last October.

Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett said it's important that the government get it right this time because the proposal made last fall "badly undermined the trust of First Nations."

"It is critical that this new legislation meets the conditions set out by First Nations themselves," Bennett told CBC News in a written statement Wednesday.

The Liberals will review the bill after it is tabled. The party will also consult with First Nations to ensure they believe that it meets their criteria, Bennett said.


  • The story has been updated from an earlier version that incorrectly characterized the agreement reached between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Assembly of First Nations in February as a second version of draft legislation unveiled last October. In fact, the agreement was a plan to make changes to the draft legislation.
    Apr 09, 2014 2:21 PM ET

With files from The Canadian Press