Harper Government Reveals Draft of First Nation Education Act

The Harper government has recently unveiled an anticipated draft of a bill planned to reform education for First Nations children on Tuesday. While a cabinet minister alleged that the bill will be “transformational,” several aboriginal leaders have expressed concerns over the bill asserting that it might infringe their own languages and culture.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s department silently uploaded a draft on its website on Tuesday, called the First Nation Education Act, as a move intended to scale aboriginals’ response to the bill before it is tabled in Parliament in coming months. The 32-page document with a heading that said ‘Working Together For First Nation Students’ illustrated a clause by clause proposal of what the bill will ultimately look like. The bill is deemed as a vital step of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s aboriginal affairs agenda, so the governing Tories are hoping to get it passed in time for the new education system to be in place by next fall. The bill’s blueprint released this summer says that schools shall be community-operated through First Nations or an agreement with a province, which will monitor standards for qualifications of teaching staff and curriculum and graduation requirements for students.

Aboriginal chiefs unanimously agree on the fundamental need for improvement in education, though they are concerned about the impact of Conservative government’s “unilateral” and “top-down” approach. Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Shawn Atleo, alleged that the government’s approach on the forthcoming act has been reflective of how federal governments have always acted, i.e. “paternalistic at best and assimilationist at worst.”

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