Five First Nations Leaders Side against On-reserve Education Bill

First Nations leaders from five provinces including Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan, have combined to oppose the government’s bill to reform on-reserve education, i.e. a legislation received supported by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and its National Chief Shawn Atleo. The chiefs are expected to go public about their plans on Monday, as they hope to force the government to make significant changes or scrap the bill titled as the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

Sources say that the chiefs are considering multiple options to voice their opposition, including demonstrations for multiple days, blockades of resource industries, constitutional challenges, and an appeal to the international community through the United Nations. Even though the bill is intended to give First Nations control over their own education, many chiefs complain that there was not adequate consultation on the bill. The Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Derek Nepinak, alleged that pushing the legislation through without complete support of First Nations would be an act of “discrimination and racism.”

Evidently, the leaders strongly criticize the AFN, i.e. their representative body in Ottawa, and Mr. Atleo, who endorsed the legislation as the best hope for transforming the system. According to an AFN analysis of the bill released to chiefs last week, the bill is a “constructive and necessary step, supportive of goals expressed by First Nations for control, respect for treaty and aboriginal rights, recognition of language and culture and a clear statutory guarantee for fair funding.”

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