First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC)

April 20, 2011 14:40 ET

Federal Government Reneges on Funding Negotiations With FNESC

Future of widely praised BC First Nations education jurisdiction initiative in jeopardy

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - April 15, 2011) - The federal government has reneged on six years of funding negotiations with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and introduced totally unexpected and irresponsible new options that threaten the very survival of one of the most highly praised initiatives for First Nations education.

"The first option on the table is now to reduce funding by millions of dollars and take away our control of our schools – which in no way can be considered a good faith action," said Tyrone McNeil, President of FNESC.

"Option 2 calls for us to give control of our schools back to Indian and Northern Affairs in return for an inadequate and previously rejected level of funding, while Option 3 offers the same inadequate funding but would let us keep control and implement jurisdiction – provided we allow ourselves to be used to impose government ideology on First Nations in BC," said Christa Williams, Jurisdiction Negotiator.

Weeks after being told that a deal close to FNESC's position might be forthcoming, FNESC was blindsided on the day before last Christmas Eve with a letter from Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan announcing these three alarming new options.

"We have spent the last few months trying to determine exactly what these options mean and to get the negotiations back on the track they were on for the past six years, but with no success," said Williams.

"We are left with no choice but to wonder if once again are we facing more broken promises and lost potential?" said Nathan Matthew, Jurisdiction Negotiator. "Are our children once again going to fall victim to a combination of a determination by Indian and Northern Affairs in Ottawa to keep full control over us, and a political decision to use our schools and students as a political policy football?"

Funding negotiations began six years ago after enabling legislation was fast-tracked though Parliament with rare all-party support.

During this time FNESC has worked, and continues to work, closely with BC to establish school certification, curricula, graduation requirements and teacher accreditation standards that meet all provincial standards and go beyond to reflect the additional needs of First Nations students. It also has fully audited records and strict funding and accountability controls.

It has shown increasing success with students at First Nation controlled schools that are participating in the jurisdiction initiative – despite the fact that they are still operating with per-capita dollars that are far below the BC public school level and receive no funding for cultural and language training, technology or transportation.

FNESC has an excellent relationship with the BC government, which supports our work, and FNESC has been praised by all political parties, the federal auditor general and a wide range of education commentators of all stripes.

"We have established and demonstrated the value of our jurisdiction system and we simply cannot understand why INAC and the federal government would suddenly decide after all these years to ignore all of this and invent new options that jeopardise the future of our schools and children," said Greg Louie, President of the First Nations Schools Association.

FNESC (www.fnesc.ca) is an independent society committed to improving education for all First Nations learners in BC. It is directed by representatives of First Nations communities.

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