Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Text Size

First Nations education: No legislation, no money and no plan

By Daniel Wilson

rabble.ca

Both First Nations education and the Assembly of First Nations face uncertain futures after an extraordinary Chiefs' meeting and the predictable Conservative government reaction that followed.

Gathered in Ottawa on Tuesday for a special assembly, Chiefs and their proxies rejected the Conservatives' Bill C-33 but called for the government to start flowing the $1.9 billion in new education funding the Prime Minister had promised.

Wasting no time in responding, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office said, "Our Government is extremely disappointed that the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) did not honour its agreement with the government." Pressed to identify that dishonoured agreement, Minister Valcourt's office admitted nothing had been signed, but claimed that the media event accompanying the announcement of funding constituted a deal.

As I said in my last post on this issue, Harper Wins, First Nations lose, there never was a deal. The Harper government misrepresented the entire affair. Those who claimed that former National Chief Atleo had sold out First Nations got played. That this led directly to his resignation is the responsibility of both the Conservative government and Atleo's critics alike.

Laid bare in this process are growing divisions among First Nations.

Some of the conflict has deep roots. The existence of treaties that speak to federal responsibilities for education in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario is one of the most significant, while the fact that legislation already exists for First Nations education in B.C. and Nova Scotia may play an equally important role.

But some of the conflict is simply a difference of approach. There is a willingness by some to compromise principles for the practical benefits of promised funding. Others are committed to making their local education programs work despite underfunding, pointing to the retention of federal control in Bill C-33 as the bigger problem. For still others, the issue is personal political ambition.

The disrespectful tone of debate in Tuesday's assembly -- including a serious breach of protocol by Chiefs shouting down those who had the floor -- suggests that these divisions will not be reconciled easily. Mistrust of the AFN executive only adds to that challenge. And confusion over the role of the Confederacy of Nations within the AFN, a body that has not formally existed for over a decade, is not helping to clarify matters.

Underlying all of this is the growing division over the function of the AFN itself.

There has long been concern that the AFN cannot provide sufficiently independent advocacy for First Nations interests because it relies on the federal government for funding. But that criticism has reached a new level over the past two years.

The unremitting hostility of the Harper government toward the legal rights and legitimate aspirations of First Nations and the accompanying diminishment of those rights and interests are undoubtedly significant factors in this shift. In addition, the emerging role of social media and Indigenous academics in informing and catalyzing First Nations citizens have spurred an upsurge in engagement and activism among those who refer to themselves as "grassroots." This gave rise to the Idle No More movement and has driven increasingly vocal criticism of both the government and the AFN from many First Nations leaders.

Dubbing those critics as "rogue Chiefs," Minister Valcourt has only thrown fuel on the fire. The fact that the resolutions that emerged from Tuesday's assembly were supported by a majority of those in attendance has also shown that, far from being rogue, the number willing to take a stronger stand is greater than those who are willing to co-operate any further with the Harper government.

All of this leaves First Nations with no plans for addressing the dysfunctional relationship governing education on reserve and no expectation of redressing the continued underfunding. Nor, despite AFN plans to hold a general assembly in Halifax this July, are there clear plans for filling the vacant position of National Chief. And dialogue about the form and function of the AFN, and even its existence, continues.

Dissatisfaction with the status quo and no small degree of desperation has led to internal criticism and hostility -- lateral violence -- within the Indigenous rights movement. Shawn Atleo was a victim of this lateral violence.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper and Bernard Valcourt, having orchestrated the dissension that now marks First Nations politics at the national level, will do nothing to address the growing inequality in funding of First Nations education and will leave the education system itself as dysfunctional as ever. They must be very pleased with themselves.

Please support our coverage of democratic movements and become a monthly supporter of rabble.ca. Visit rabble.ca

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Blast from the past: FP archive

When is Consultation, Consultation?

Ovide Mercredi

National Chief – AFN

During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Read more...

Letting go of residential schools

by Gilbert Oskaboose, Nov 1993 First Perspective

There is a lot of "unfinished business" in Indian Country. Garbage that we as a people have never really dealt with. Chief among them is the whole issue of those infamous residential schools and their impact on people. Read more...

OBIDIAH

obidiah picture

ANALYSIS - Bill Gallagher

gallagher picture

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

JOBS

First Nations Cultural Interpreter PM – 02 Riding Mountain National Park Seasonal Indeterminate

(May to October) From $54,543 to $58,764

Closing Sept. 19, 2014

Read More

ASSISTANT DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, ABORIGINAL JUSTICE DIVISION (AMENDED)

Organization: Ministry of the Attorney General, Aboriginal Justice

Toronto, Deadline: Aug. 25, 2014 11:50 pm EDT Read more...

Regional Media Officer– Temp (Until Nov 2015) –F/T Position

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition / NDP Research Office

Location:131 Queen Street, Suite 10-02, Ottawa, ON

Responsibilities

Communicate regularly with regional media outlets (community newspapers, radio stations, student media, ethnic media, etc.) to propose ideas for interviews and opinion content Read more...

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Workforce Report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report that highlights initiatives to improve the workforce participation of Aboriginal peoples. 

Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s Workforce (December 2013)  

click image to download report

Wed Jul 23 @ 9:00AM - 05:00PM
Asinabka Film Media Arts Festival
Sun Jul 27 @12:00AM
World Indigenous Business Forum 2014

EVENTS

August 2014
S M T W T F S
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
imageimageimageimageimage
cartoonscartoonscartoonscartoonscartoons

Current Video

RIP Percy Tuesday

 

Thanks to Althea Guiboche for allowing The First Perspective to share her video taken at the Manitowapow book launch at McNally Robinson. 

Percey sings Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and people join in to harmonize. 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): The Washington Redskins