Duncan says Ottawa moving forward with education legislation despite chiefs resistance

first_imgAPTN National NewsOTTAWA–Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Thursday his government was pushing ahead with plans to bring in legislation on First Nation education despite fierce opposition by many chiefs and threats of civil disobedience.First Nations chiefs on Wednesday rejected the government’s planned legislation during an education meeting in Gatineau, Que., across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill. The chiefs want Ottawa to make major funding increases for on-reserve schools and students.Duncan was unmoved and vowed to push ahead with the legislation and engage in consultation with First Nations leadersDuring question period, Duncan said he would be meeting with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo Thursday “to reaffirm our commitment to develop legislation through intensive consultations with First Nations across the country.”There was some confusion, however, over whether Duncan was scheduled for a meeting with Atleo. The minister’s office only requested the meeting and nothing was set, according to an AFN official.Atleo was meeting with the AFN’s executive and was participating in Day of Remembrance activities throughout the day in honour of murdered and missing Aboriginal women.Duncan’s office insisted late Thursday afternoon the meeting would happen.“As far as the minister’s calendar goes, the meeting was confirmed and in his calendar before (question period),” said an official in Duncan’s office.Atleo and Duncan met last week.The NDP pressed Duncan on the issue during question period.“Yesterday First Nations chiefs from across the country voted to reject the government’s unilateral decisions on education,” said NDP Aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder. “Chiefs are threatening civil disobedience to force the government to deal with the crisis in First Nations education…Will the minister admit that unilateral decision-making is wrong and commit to investments that actually help First Nations students on reserve?”Duncan said that was exactly what his government was doing.“We already have existing comprehensive First Nations education agreements in Nova Scotia and British Columbia which demonstrates improved student outcomes,” said Duncan. “We are committed to improving educational outcomes for First Nations students across the country.”While Duncan has talked about consultation, his department moved this week to undercut the claims of First Nations chiefs that on-reserve education is severely underfunded.The department released numbers claiming that at $13,542, Ottawa funding First Nations education at a higher rate than the Canadian average of $10, 439.The Assembly of First Nations says the department only spends $7,101 per student for on-reserve education.The department’s numbers are misleading because they include how much Aboriginal Affairs spends on putting First Nations students into the provincial system, according to the Assembly of First Nation.  And that inclusion would inflate the department’s per-student figure because about 36 per cent of First Nations students attend provincial schools, said the AFN.“It is insulting to all Canadians that their government would play with figures and suggest that First Nations students are better off than other children. We are the most impoverished and marginalized population in the country,” said  Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee. “The truth is that children attending reserve schools receive at least $3,000 less federal funding than students in other jurisdictions across the country.”The AFN claims there is an about $3 billion funding gap between on-reserve education and the rest of the country.A department and AFN recently commissioned blue-ribbon panel found that at least 100 on-reserve schools provided unhealthy learning environments for students.NOTE: Updated version clarifies confusion around whether Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan was scheduled to meet with AFN National Chief Shawn Atleolast_img

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