December 09, 2009 11:00 ET

First Nations education: The Governor General called upon by a First Nations Delegation of Chief, Educators, Parents and Children

OTTAWA, Dec. 9 - A delegation made up of Quebec Chiefs, joined by allied Chiefs such as Chiefs from Ontario and British Colombia, educators, parents and children from the First Nations of this country gathered this morning, at 11 a.m., in front of the official residence of the General Governor, at Rideau Hall. This gathering aimed to deliver a message to Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean and provide her with documentation on the situation of First Nations education in view of requesting her intervention with the federal government which is seriously compromising the future of First Nations children.

The delegation took the opportunity to bring to mind the important gaps between the education of First Nations and that of other citizens: "The 2004 report of the Auditor General observes a 28 -year gap in education between First Nations and other Canadians."

Several Chiefs read out a message in which they insisted on the role played by the under-funding of First Nations education in portraying the current deplorable situation. They drew attention to the fact that the federal funding formula for First Nations schools has not been revised since the last twenty years while provincial funding formulae are reviewed on an annual basis. "We cannot accept this appalling incoherence," declared Lise Bastien, Director of the First Nations Education Council.

The delegation also claimed their legitimate right in transmitting First Nations languages and cultures to their future generations. "Which people would accept an education system imposed by another people?" asked Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. Even though the methods of assimilation used by the government nowadays are, due to the pressure of human rights, less brutal than as compared to the last century, they remain present under more pernicious forms such as deprivation of resources. In 2005, INAC's internal report of the Evaluation of the Band-Operated and Federal Schools stated in the following terms: "The current funding formula is an archaic instrument for achieving public policy ends and meeting the needs of First Nations people."

Paradoxically, the inaction and silence of the government as regards First Nations education speaks volumes. Will the Governor General, as the representative of the fiduciary obligations of the Crown, accept to intervene with the government so that the latter puts an end to its detrimental policy concerning First Nations education?

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