- Category: news
- Created: Thursday, 17 October 2013 14:06
- Published: Thursday, 17 October 2013 14:06
- Written by Administrator 3
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Ottawa’s proposed legislation aimed at improving education in First Nation communities will shift control away from local schools and may fail students, critics say.
In Wednesday’s throne speech, the Conservative government said it will “continue working with First Nations to develop stronger, more effective, and more accountable on-reserve education systems.”
The government has previously promised to implement the First Nations Education Act by 2014, but as many as 200 aboriginal leaders have already rejected it.
The government said it consulted with aboriginal communities on the legislation, but the Assembly of First Nations has opposed the blueprint for the Act, saying it does not affirm First Nation control over aboriginal education, among other issues.
“They are making decisions based on misinformation that are going to impact us for generations,” said Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Chief Arlen Dumas.
Aboriginal leaders also say the legislation would allow large education authorities to dictate what kids are learning and how funding is spent.
In the remote First Nation of Pukatawagan, located 900 kilometres north of Winnipeg, school children currently learn Cree, the language of their ancestors. Cree immersion starts in kindergarten.
The kids also learn hunting and trapping in an effort to reconnect with their culture. Community leaders say the First Nations Education Act could change that.
Pukatawagan residents have been grappling with high suicide rates and poverty. The community has the largest population of residential school survivors in Manitoba and believes that many of its problems stem from the abuse aboriginal kids suffered in the residential school system.
Pukatawagan leaders now fear that missteps in the proposed education legislation could affect a whole new generation.
On Manitoba’s reserves, just over 25 per cent of students finish high school, a rate lower than in some developing countries. By comparison, the graduation rate in public high schools across Canada is 85 per cent.
But in one Pukatawagan school, graduation rates have been improving. And there is fear that the students will lose what they’ve worked so hard to build.
Those students are “truly unique,” said Thelma Nice of the Pukatawagan Education Authority.
“They aren’t mainstream middle-class kids.”
With a report from CTV’s Jill Macyshon