Friday, April 18, 2014
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Writer takes issue with First Nations leaders on education rights and funding

Letter to the editor

Manitoulin Expositor

All schools should be racially integrated with all the other facets of “our beautiful Canadian mosaic”

To the Expositor:

Chief Madahbee wrongly states that the shortfall in funding for aboriginal schools “stems from the failure of the federal government in its treaty obligations (‘First Nations vow to oppose education act, December 23, page 17’).” Which treaty is he talking about? None of the treaties affecting the Manitoulin or North Shore—the 1836 Bond Head, the 1850 Robinson Huron, or the 1862 Manitoulin—mentions funding for education or education “rights” at all!

Chief Beardy wrongly states that aboriginals have the “inherent right to establish and control our own educational systems.” There’s no law or treaty that says that either. With respect, he’s confusing a political wish with a legal right.

Aboriginal youth, based on the honour of the Crown principle, do have the moral and legal right to a properly and equally funded, good education, and they should get that.

But the Native-run, “Natives-only” school system that Native elites are demanding would not be good for aboriginal youth. In fact it would be harmful to them.

American studies have shown that racially integrated schools produce far better academic outcomes and far better life outcomes for their students than do segregated schools. Thus it would be far more positive for our Canadian aboriginal youth to attend school with the youth of all the other races, ethnicities and religions that make up our beautiful Canadian mosaic.

The Bible teaches us that “God made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth.” (Acts 17-26)

Martin Luther King, who fought against segregation all his life, drew on the Bible to preach the unity of all mankind and to fight for the right of black youth to attend racially integrated schools.

Nelson Mandela preached racial unity and racial integration-one set of laws for all, including one public school system for all. He exemplified the inspiring moral example of living in a manner that transcended colour and race.

The Bible and these great moral leaders tell us what we already instinctively know—that we are all equal in the eyes of God. This is a fundamental tenet of both our Western value system and native spiritual teachings.

To be the best example possible for our young people, and for their best interests, we should all be trying to put these highest and best values and teachings into practice. One way to do so is for all our young people, Native and non-Native alike, to be educated in one racially integrated public school system.

Yours truly,

Peter Best, Sudbury

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