Posts tagged ‘First Nations education’

AFN: A Dysfunctional Mess

Chief Rufus Copage of Shubenacadie (Indian Brook) First Nations, N.S., carries the Assembly of First Nations Eagle Staff during the grand entry as First Nations leaders, elders, youth and delegates gather for the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Chief Rufus Copage of Shubenacadie (Indian Brook) First Nations, N.S., carries the Assembly of First Nations Eagle Staff during the grand entry as First Nations leaders, elders, youth and delegates gather for the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

From the outside looking in, First Nations are looking pretty dysfunctional these days.

The average Canadian does not get into the weeds and complexities of our issues.  They simply see that the government wants to establish legislation to improve education outcomes, set standards and invest $1.9 billion in additional funding to First Nation schools.  And they see that, for some reason, First Nations are absolutely opposed to this.

The average Canadian also sees that First Nation Chiefs are not only unhappy with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) over negotiating this, but they see the Chiefs outright challenging the AFN and it’s leadership in the media and in front of the news cameras.

Really, this situation looks like a banana republic coup d’état by rogue militant and outspoken revolutionary generals.

There are two issues at hand:

  • the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (Bill C-33); and
  • the function of the Assembly of First Nations.

With regard to education, I agree that Bill C-33 is not the best vehicle to addressing substantive education reforms.  But I think the Chief’s frustration over their treatment by the Harper government has clouded just about everything.  Any initiative, no matter how positive or progressive it may be, would not be accepted by First Nation Chiefs.  Years of funding cuts, lacklustre dialogue, substandard consultation and erosion of environmental laws will do that to you.

With regard to education, I really think it’s important to define our objectives.  (1) Is it our objective to improve education outcomes and address funding inequality? or  (2) Is our objective re-assert our jurisdiction and take full control of First Nations education based on implementation of the Treaties?

It’s okay to want to work towards achieving both these objectives.  But one objective can be much more immediate and the other.  By demanding the latter, it seems like an unlikely, all or nothing proposition.  Meanwhile, the horrendous status quo continues as does the reality that the First Nation education system is woefully inadequate and ineffective, ripe with a lack of trained teachers, substandard education, schools and funding.

Regarding the function of the AFN, I get it that former-National Chief Atleo and the Executive may not have delivered an education solution according to the will of the Chiefs.  Their misinterpretation of their mandate, and inability to reconcile the consensus of the Treaty Chiefs may have been a serious error in judgment.

But for heavens sake, this is getting a little embarrassing.  There must be a way to resolve these serious issues and internal reforms amongst ourselves.  Why not treat the Assembly of First Nations as a large parliamentary caucus?  Go in united – debate and resolve the issue – and come our united.  Or at least appear to go in united and appear to come out united.

At the end of the day, if we take our frustrations about Bill C-33 and the Harper government out on our own people, we will continue to be victims of the government’s divide and conquer strategy.  As I’ve said again and again, we need to focus our efforts and our venom on our opponents, not ourselves.

First Nation organizations and leaders – whether they be community-based, regional or national level – are convenient targets of our frustration and political cannibalism.  Every two years, in almost every community across the country, that frustration is vented out by Band Council elections.  We see Chiefs and Councillors turfed and turned over almost every week.

But to take these frustrations with the AFN out in the press, microphones and bright lights of the TV cameras, to the unknowing public, this looks like a prelude to some Indian civil war.

Day 9: An Election Platform That First Nations Can Be Proud Of

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I had to pull of the road to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  I had to make sure what I was reading was real.  The Liberal platform outperformed every expectation I had.

Ask yourself:  what are First Nation’s priorities this election?  Addressing poverty would be number one. Followed by housing.  Addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women would be high on that list.  But most of all, investing in First Nations education and addressing education funding shortfalls are essential parts of building the First Nations economy and improving social conditions.

Well guess what?  Every single one of these priorities is in the Liberal platform!!

I attribute this directly to the creation of the Liberal Party’s Aboriginal Peoples Commission (APC).  Not many people know that we have First Nations, Métis and Inuit people represented within the party through a grass-roots commission. They make policy recommendations, address priorities within the party and have every opportunity to set election campaign policy.  Of course they may not have the final say in what goes in the platform document, but this time around, it seems that those recommendations are being heard.  Thanks to Tanya Kappo and the executive of the APC for their leadership and amazing work.

For First Nations people, the Liberal platform delivers.  I would go once step further and say that the Liberal platform is something that First Nations can be proud of.

Now, the only way we can see these things happen is to elect a Liberal government.  For all my friends in the Twitter universe, on Facebook and who are reading my Blog – this should be incredible motivation to get involved.  We have a party who cares for you.  We have an amazing family-oriented plan.  We need you to vote Liberal.  We also need you to find out who your Liberal candidate, put on your jacket, visit their office and volunteer.  Encourage all your friends to pass this message along.

Opportunities like this don’t happen every day.  Let’s make this happen.  Today, I’m so proud to be Liberal.

 


 

From the Liberal Platform

Here are a few excerpts that may be of interest to First Nations people.  This is in addition to the previous announcements of a Canada Learning Passport and the Liberal Family Care Plan.

ABORIGINAL LEARNING

na Accord broke new ground in building relationships among federal, provincial and Aboriginal leadership based on respect and shared commitment to fairness and results. Much has changed since 2005, but much can be gained by retaining the lessons and spirit of the Kelowna process.

Aboriginal people are taking action with hope and ambition for the future. The federal government must stand with them as partners to accelerate progress in several major areas. Education is the most fundamental, and should be the top priority. A Liberal government will commit to working with Aboriginal leaders toward the goal of ensuring Aboriginal people have the same quality of opportunities to learn as other Canadians.

With a population that’s growing at six times the national average, and a median age of only 27, the success of Canada’s Aboriginal people is critical to our country’s economic well being. For them, as for most Canadians, learning is the key to success.

Yet, the dropout rate among Aboriginal students is twice the national average. And those who do reach post-secondary education face long odds against finishing.

One of the drivers of these tragic statistics is the underfunding of aboriginal education in Canada. Most on-reserve schools, funded by the federal government, receive significantly less per pupil than schools in the provincial systems. And while federal funding for Aboriginal post-secondary education has been capped at 2 percent per year, tuition is rising at twice that rate.

A Liberal Government will invest an additional $200 million in its first two years to lift the cap on post-secondary education funding. Consistent with the approach of the Learning Passport, we will explore with Aboriginal leaders ways to deliver resources more directly to students and their families. A key objective will be to increase the retention of Aboriginal students in Canada’s post secondary institutions.

Addressing the challenges in K-12 education is even more fundamental. A Liberal government will work with Aboriginal leadership to address inadequate funding over the medium term, starting with $300 million in new investment in its second year. We will support efforts to improve administration.

First Nations University in Saskatchewan, an important institution, will be re-financed under a Liberal government. We will create a Canada Métis Scholarship program, with a $5 million annual investment in Métis students.

A Liberal government will also create an Office of the First Nations Auditor General to monitor progress, identify best practices, and ensure accountability for public funds.

DEALING WITH MISSING AND MURDERED ABORIGINAL WOMEN

Violence against women persists in all Canadian communities. Aboriginal women are particularly affected. The Native Women’s Association of Canada estimates the number of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada is more than 580. These cases amount to nearly ten per cent of female homicides in Canada, even though only three per cent of the female population is Aboriginal. There has been little action from the federal government to address this tragedy.

A Liberal government will mandate a national task force to examine the systemic causes of this problem, with an emphasis on preventing its continuation in the future. It will build on the work of provinces and Aboriginal women, and report to the Minister of Justice with an analysis and recommendations.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), one-quarter of households face affordability problems, meaning that more than 30 percent of their income is spent on housing. Thirteen percent of homes are in need of major repairs, or are unsuitable for the number of people living in them. The figures are even worse for seniors and new Canadians and, of course, they don’t even address the homeless. At the same time, the shortage of affordable housing in large cities presents a growing barrier to young families of modest incomes looking for their first home.

While modest public investments are resulting in new affordable housing coming on the market, other affordable units have been disappearing at double the rate, due to gentrification, low interest rates and growing demand. The federal government has been an unreliable presence in affordable housing in recent years. A long-term commitment to partnership with other levels of government is needed.A Liberal government will work with provincial, territorial and municipal partners to put in place a renewed Affordable Housing Framework (AHF). The previous Framework was established a decade ago, and several programs are temporarily extended, but under review by the Harper government. The main objectives of the new Framework will be to:

  • Reduce homelessness;
  • Maintain and renew existing affordable housing stock; and
  • Stimulate new construction of affordable housing.

The new Framework will feature a long-term commitment by the federal government, replacing the collection of temporary programs that currently exist. The magnitude of that long-term commitment will necessarily depend on consultations with municipalities and the government’s overall financial situation in the coming years. However, in its first two years, a Liberal government will increase federal investment in affordable housing by $550 million.

Housing challenges and opportunities vary from one region to another. Therefore, the new Affordable Housing Framework will emphasize flexibility and openness to innovative approaches such as tax incentives and loan guarantees. It will offer a platform for more effective collaboration among all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors. The new Framework will promote progress on the particular needs of people with disabilities, as well as Northern and Aboriginal communities. It will also recognize that affordable housing is one major piece of the larger puzzle for reducing poverty.

FIGHTING POVERTY

More than 3.5 million Canadians live in poverty, including more than one in ten children. Canada ranks near the bottom of the list of major developed countries for poverty rates.

Leaders at all levels must come to grips with rising inequality. The persistence of poverty across the country remains an unmet challenge, robbing individuals of fair and equal opportunity, sapping productivity from the economy, and even undermining confidence in our democracy. Canada cannot afford not to fight poverty. It will require the engagement of all Canadians, including businesses, individuals, experts and civil society.

Most provincial governments have demonstrated leadership by launching poverty reduction strategies. Building on those efforts, a Liberal government will work with partners at all levels to develop a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada. It will set goals, indentify practical measures for achieving them and set out who can do what among all the partners. The outlook will be long-term.

Several major commitments of this platform will be the foundation of a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada: the Canadian Learning Strategy, particularly Early Childhood Learning and Care, the Learning Passport for post-secondary education access, and Aboriginal learning; Family Care; a renewed focus on volunteerism through the Canada Service Corps; the National Food Policy’s nutrition measures; and a new Affordable Housing Framework. These practical measures to support Canadian families, worth more than $5 billion over two years, will help reduce poverty and inequality, especially as part of a whole-of-Canada effort to strengthen our communities. They will also contribute to a stronger economy over the long-term.

MORE SUPPORT FOR CANADA’S ARTISTS

The Canada Council for the Arts is a major force in supporting working artists. A Liberal government will significantly increase support for Canadian artists and creators by doubling the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, from $180 million to $360 million over the next four years.

COURT CHALLENGES

Canadians take pride in their Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and see it as both an expression of our values, and a tool for building a more equal society. Access to justice is essential for a meaningful commitment to equality in our democracy, but the high costs of litigation can sometimes silence those whose rights are already most vulnerable. The Court Challenges Program provided financial assistance for pursuing language and equality rights under Canada’s Constitution, but the Harper government cancelled the program. A Liberal government will reinstate the Court Challenges Program in order to maintain effective access to justice, and to prevent financial barriers from blocking the pursuit of equality for all Canadians.