- Category: news
- Created: Wednesday, 23 October 2013 14:10
- Published: Wednesday, 23 October 2013 14:10
- Written by Administrator 3
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Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News
The Harper government released a contentious plan Tuesday to reform education for First Nations children that one cabinet minister says will be "transformational," but that aboriginal leaders worry could be a setback for their languages and culture.
On Tuesday, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's department quietly posted online a draft of the First Nation Education Act. The intention is to gauge aboriginals' input before tabling the bill in Parliament. It was expected Valcourt's department would release the draft bill Tuesday morning, but that didn't happen. The 32-page document is entitled Working Together For First Nation Students and it provides a clause by clause proposal of what the bill will ultimately look like. The bill will be the centrepiece of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's aboriginal affairs agenda, and the governing Tories want it passed so that a new education system is in place when First Nations children start their school year in September 2014.
"Following the Prime Minister's historic apology to former Indian Residential School students, the Government of Canada is committed to moving forward in a spirit of reconciliation," says an introduction to the document. According to a blueprint, the upcoming bill will allow schools to be community-operated through First Nations or an agreement with a province, and there will be standards for qualifications of teaching staff and curriculum and graduation requirements for students. There will be regulations governing discipline (such as codes of conduct and policies on suspension and expulsion), hours of instruction, class size and transportation.
Earlier this month, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn Atleo told Postmedia News the government's approach to working with First Nations on the forthcoming act has been reflective of how federal governments have always acted - "paternalistic at best and assimilationist at worst."
Aboriginal leaders worry the act will impose standards that don't reflect indigenous culture, and that funding for education won't be increased.