BC First Nations Education System at Risk from Bill C-33

“We are deeply disappointed that Bill C-33 is simply an updated version of the October 2013 Proposal for legislation that was resoundingly rejected by First Nations,” stated Tyrone McNeil, President of the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). “Bill C-33 will effectively displace our BC First Nations Education System that First Nations have spent the past two decades building. Our System is comprehensive, accountable and includes standards designed by First Nations for our 130 schools.”

The Bill does not sufficiently accommodate regional diversity or protect the System. BC Chiefs, through resolutions, formally called for the October Proposal to be set aside and for a new one be co-developed with First Nations, on a government-to-government basis consistent with our inherent rights.

“The Government has not responded to concerns and recommendations put forward by BC First Nations through many submissions over the past several months,” McNeil further stated. “Not once did the Government come to First Nations in BC to meaningfully discuss how to address our needs. Instead, the process was closed and lacked transparency.”

Contrary to First Nations control over the education of their children, the Bill would create a new Joint Council of Education Professionals to be appointed by Ottawa to advise the Minister. There are many serious questions and concerns about the role of this body and how it would be accountable to First Nations communities.

Bill C-33 outlines an extensive list of regulations to be developed that will prescribe in detail how First Nations schools can operate, according to minimum standards set by Canada. “Canada committed to a robust engagement process to co-develop regulations,” said McNeil. “However, regulations will be approved by the Minister, with advice from his Joint Council. This Council will provide opportunities for First Nations to ‘make representations’ to it on regulations. This is not co-development of the regulations.”

“The Bill raises serious challenges,” said Greg Louie, President of the BC First Nations Schools Association. “It mandates costly administrative procedures and will detract from focusing resources on classrooms. We are not prepared to sacrifice our hard work and achievements in BC in First Nations education.”

“We understand the Government intends to pass the Bill before House breaks for the summer,” stated McNeil. “We will examine Bill C-33 in great detail and bring First Nations together to determine next steps.”