First Nations education bill should be withdrawn immediately, chiefs demand
First Nations leaders opt to discuss education before deciding how to choose new leader
First Nations chiefs have voted to reject Bill C-33, which proposes to create the First Nations control of First Nations education act, and demand the government withdraw it immediately.
Their resolution calls on Canada, "based on the honour of the Crown to negotiate an agreement on new fiscal transfer payments to First Nations."
The chiefs demand that Canada immediately provide the $1.9 billion that was offered in conjunction with Bill C-33, with the core funding growing at an annual rate of 4.5 per cent.
Of the votes, 121 voted in favour, none were opposed, and 60 abstained.
The chiefs also unanimously supported a short statement from Quebec and Labrador chiefs. It states that
"Canada must withdraw Bill C-33 and engage in an honourable process with First Nations that recognizes and supports regional and local diversity leading to true First Nation control of education based on our responsibilities and inherent aboriginal and treaty rights."
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Earlier today, chiefs opted to discuss First Nations education before deciding how to choose a new leader to replace Shawn Atleo, who quit this month as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
"The facts are that we have a bill before the House, which has been shelved by the minister ... so that's where I feel we need to find a way to come together," Picard said.
Bill Erasmus, the Dene National Chief and AFN's regional chief for the Northwest Territories, said it's not fair to ask the
country's hundreds of First Nations to all agree on such a major issue.
"It's the dilemma that Canada has to understand," he said. "First of all, if you asked all of the mayors in Canada to come to consensus, would you expect them to? That's what we need to ask: why wouldn't you expect them, but you expect us to?"
By midday, a move was underway to overhaul a resolution the AFN executive drafted before the meeting that calls for First Nations to "co-develop" education reforms with the Conservative government.
Shortly before noon, the chiefs voted to break away into regional groups and meet behind closed doors to talk about the draft resolution.
Most of the people who took turns speaking at microphones around the room said they wanted to scrap the education bill. "I don't want to engage with this government about the five conditions any longer," said Grand Chief Gordon Peters.
"We talked about co-development from way back. There has never been any co-development that I'm aware of ... but as far as we're concerned there has been no relationship, no development, no co-development that has ever taken place with respect to any of this work."
Valcourt says bill met AFN's 5 conditions
But Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt has defended the bill, saying it meets the five conditions outlined by the AFN and chiefs during a meeting in December and received the support of the assembly.
A draft statement from AFN said the assembly on Tuesday was a "necessary forum" for pursuing "First Nations control of First Nations education."
"The statement and resolution now provide a path for First Nations to pursue approaches based on the needs and vision of their citizens and their communities supported by fair and equitable funding," the draft note said.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada also issued a statement saying the agency was "extremely disappointed" that the AFN "did not honour its agreement with the government."
"As we have said all along, this legislation will not proceed without the support of AFN, and we have been clear that we will not invest new money in an education system that does not serve the best interests of First Nations children; funding will only follow real education reforms," the statement said.
With files from CBC News