First Nations Will Not Participate in the National Panel on Education Legislation

Vice Chief Whitefish says that 230 First Nations from Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario will not participate in the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s (INAC) national panel on education regional meetings.

“We want our Treaty Right to Education upheld. The Chiefs Legislative Assembly Resolution #1771 rejects the national panel whose stated purpose and process will diminish the federal government’s Treaty obligations with respect to education,” said Vice Chief Whitefish.

The overarching intent of the panel, according to its terms of reference, is to assist the federal government to create one-size-fits-all education legislation.  Those opposed to the panel believe this will not take into account the diversity of cultures and languages among First Nations. Nor does it respect the First Nations right to control the education that their children receive, based on their Inherent and Treaty right. The Terms of Reference does not include reference to the government of Canada signing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that further supports the Treaty right to Education.

“At the end of the day, the panel will consult with an unrepresentative group of First Nations across Canada and then influence federal legislation that is not aligned with our belief systems,” said Vice Chief Whitefish.  “While the federal government issued a residential school apology that included a commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past, this national panel seems like a step back to the ‘we know best’ colonialist attitude.”

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations currently is in the process of collecting information directly from First Nations Elders and communities regarding what a truly Treaty-based education system would look like. A parallel report from First Nations in Saskatchewan, Quebec and Northern Ontario will be delivered to INAC and the AFN.

“Unfortunately, the AFN, our own national First Nations organization, is not listening to us, and appear to have been co-opted by the federal government in supporting a process that will only serve to create legislation that weakens our Treaty right to education,” said Vice Chief Whitefish. “As Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated ‘There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again,’  If that is the case, then our voice should be listened to and respected.”

“With federal legislation, the federal government will assume full control over First Nations education; they will drive it, develop it, change it, and do whatever they want with it, and First Nations children will be forced to dance to their tune, again,” said Vice Chief Whitefish.  The work of the Panel is continuing to move forward, despite these objections.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of Treaty, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.

For More Information Please Contact:
Gerry Hurton
Executive Director
FSIN Education Secretariat
306.956.6906