Conservatives set to introduce draft First Nations education act

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo looks on as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt holds a copy of the Royal Proclomation issued 250 years ago as they visit a Grade 7 class at a school in Ottawa, Monday October 7, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

Update: A previous version of this story suggested the legislation will be introduced in Parliament. In fact a draft will be shared with communities Tuesday.

OTTAWA – The Conservatives are set to introduce a draft version of their First Nations education act.

The draft legislation is expected to be shared online and with First Nations across Canada on Tuesday, who will be invited to give their input to the government.

The legislation, which will serve as the foundation of the Harper government’s Aboriginal policy, will set standards and give First Nations control over their own education.

Last week’s throne speech promised to develop “stronger, more effective, and more accountable on-reserve education systems.”

The government released a blueprint document this summer which promises sections on interpretation, education standards, and funding, and notes that the proposed act would place accountability in the hands of First Nations.

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But the idea has already been met with criticism from Aboriginal leadership, who say they haven’t been properly consulted.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo earlier this month compared the proposed legislation to residential schools.

“The blueprint does not meet the conditions that I’ve expressed, the principles that I’ve expressed here about First Nations, control of First Nations education,” he told reporters in Ottawa.  “Any suggestion that there be ministerial oversight on systems that are set up is just a shadow of residential schools that we’ve just come from (for) seven generations.”

James Anaya, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, last week urged the government to hold off on the legislation and to re-initiate discussions with Aboriginal leaders.

“I have heard a remarkably consistent and profound distrust toward the First Nations education act being developed by the federal government,” Anaya said following a nine-day tour of Canada.

The Conservatives have promised the act by 2014.


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